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Chicago, Illinois, US April 23-25, 1996
Report of the seminar on
Integration Issues and Immigration Policy:
This report was prepared after the seminar, and is being distributed to participants in the Chicago seminar and to other interested parties. Since it has not been seen or approved by participants, it should not be construed as a consensus document discussed and debated by participants. An agenda and list of participants are attached.
Second, why, by most criteria, do Hispanic immigrants seem to fare worse than Asian immigrants arriving in the US today, but better than US-citizen African Americans and Puerto Ricans? Are there similar country-of-origin and ethnic differences in the economic integration patterns of newcomers in Europe?
Third, what mechanisms brought about the integration of third-wave European immigrants to the United States early in the 20th century? Why do the integrating institutions--schools, unions, military, churches etc.--seem to be less successful in integrating newcomers today? Should they be revived and reformed, or do new immigrants and new circumstances call for different integrating institutions and policies? Given shrinking central government revenues, where can the funds for efforts to integrate 21st century immigrants be found?
Fourth, about one in eight Americans is African American, including about 40 percent of Chicago's 2.7 million residents. African-Americans, especially those in the central cities, have high rates of joblessness and poverty. Some argue that African-Americans have been the US residents most negatively affected by immigration, while others believe that there is little relationship between the socio-economic problems of African-Americans and recent immigration patterns.
Integration or immigrant policies refer to public efforts to deal with immigrants after their arrival, and they are set by a mix of federal, state, and local policies. In the US, most immigrants are "sponsored" by their US relatives or US employers, and families and employers are expected to accommodate them without public intervention or assistance.
Sponsorship is so powerful an integrating mechanism that the Commission on Immigration Reform recommended that the US maintain the sponsorship system rather than switching to a point system for admitting immigrants.
Federal immigrant policies (1) are targeted on certain limited groups, especially refugees, (2) regulate the access of newcomers to general services provided by federal and state governments, and (3) are determined in part by courts interpreting the rights of immigrants based on their physical presence in the US. The US has a relatively limited welfare state, and provides few targeted services for immigrants who are not refugees. Most recent reform efforts would further restrict the access of immigrants to government services.
European countries offer more government services, and often provide special services for immigrants, including, in some cases, public support for maintaining the languages and cultures of newcomers. However, it appears that, regardless of the policy mix adopted in Europe, foreigners have unemployment rates about twice native rates--similar to the 2 to 1 ratio of Black to white unemployment in the US--and there have been clashes in many European countries in which natives have attacked foreigners.
Immigrants in the US are concentrated in certain neighborhoods of six cities in six states. This concentration magnifies the effects of immigration in those locations, with the consequence that scholarly and popular attention is directed there. About eight percent of the US population is foreign-born, but 95 percent of all US residents live in places that have less than eight percent foreign-born residents --Dade County, Florida has the highest percentage of foreign-born residents--45 percent in 1990.
Studies of the economic effects of immigrants on US workers were optimistic in the 1980s, in the sense that they found few negative effects of immigrants on the wages or unemployment rates of similar US workers, including African Americans. Studies in the 1990s reach the opposite conclusion--immigration has a significant negative effect on unskilled US workers, depressing their wages, and causing US workers who compete with immigrants to leave areas with concentrations of immigrants, or to seek jobs where there is little immigrant competition, as in the public sector.
Until the 1980s, immigrants roughly replicated the US-born population in the single-best predictor of earnings--years of education. Immigrants arriving since the 1980s, however, have a different distribution of years of schooling. When arrayed by years of education, they are concentrated at the extremes of the distribution, so that immigration joins globalization and technological change as a factor that is squeezing people out of the middle class--pushing them up or down the job ladder--and increasing competition at the bottom of the labor market.
Since definitions of social issues usually contain at least the seeds of proposed solutions, the definition of integration is crucial for understanding the degree of integration of particular immigrant groups. It was noted that Germany tends to define integration in terms of lineage--persons descended from ethnic Germans in the ex-USSR are more "integrated" in the sense that they are automatically made citizens while Turks are by definition less "integrated," since they must acquire qualifications in order to attain citizenship.
France, on the other hand, measures integration chiefly as an ability to speak French. Foreigners who speak French will have overcome a major hurdle to be considered French nationals.
The criterion of full integration in the US is citizenship, and the US has the easiest path to citizenship of the major countries of immigration--birth in the country, or five years of legal residence and rudimentary knowledge of the English language and American history and government.
One of the major questions in integration policy is whether there is a trade-off between the number and the characteristics of immigrants and the ease of integrating them. Thus, do countries tend to take more immigrants if the immigrants are mostly professionals who tend to earn high incomes and contribute tax dollars immediately? Do efforts that make integration more difficult--such as Proposition 187's bar to services for unauthorized immigrants--help to control the influx of such immigrants?
Because America has been in constant flux throughout its history, it was suggested that the kaleidoscope, the metaphor first used by the historian John Higham to describe the reconfiguration of American society as it added new elements, was more descriptive than the more static metaphors of the melting pot or the salad bowl.
Americans tend to think of the immigrants of long ago as good, and the immigrants of the present day as bad, leading to the aphorism that one can tell that newcomers are integrated into the US when they want to stop immigration. Immigrants have long been associated with good things--new blood and entrepreneurial dynamism, revitalization of neighborhoods, and scientific breakthroughs--as well as with disagreeable developments such as crime and disease, unemployment and welfare usage, and fears of disloyalty and cultural change.
American history suggests that the crucial variables affecting immigrant integration are the number of immigrants, their characteristics--including whether they concentrate in particular cities/areas--and socio-economic "receptivity"--the state of the economy and the degree of political confidence felt by residents. Government policies aimed particularly at immigrants have had little to do with it. In the history of the United States, integration, it was noted, has been the result of unique constellations of historical circumstance that cannot be made to repeat themselves. The past does not offer models that can be adopted for use at a later time.
US integration policy has been described as a system in which individuals are assigned to groups, representatives of each group negotiate with government for rights and privileges, and the resulting social change facilitates the integration of diverse groups.
Many Migration Dialogue participants were of the view that there is a contradiction between the US policy of admitting increased numbers of poor and minority immigrants and the simultaneous attempt to balance the budget by scaling back the welfare state and reducing the access of immigrants to social services. This libertarian thrust of US immigration policy would permit numbers to remain high, and make naturalization the gateway to the reduced level of benefits available.
The contrast with Germany is striking. Legal immigrants in Germany have relatively full access to the more generous German welfare state, and Germans discuss whether additional targeted programs should be available to foreigners.
Governments on both sides of the Atlantic, however, are scaling back public benefits, and deregulating their economies. Increasingly, therefore, immigrants will have to fend for themselves in restructuring economies and societies.
Early this century, immigrants finding their way in industrializing America achieved substantial social and economic upward mobility. Some achieved positions of power in unions and in politics that they used to combat unemployment and monopoly business power. Integration or Americanization was promoted by social workers, settlement houses, and schools. For the largest immigrant group, Germans, the pace of integration was forced by two world wars, and the public use of the German language was stopped as a token of loyalty to America.
None of the European countries has multicultural immigrant integration policies designed specifically for "different" immigrants, as in Australia and Canada.
American data tends to compare the progress of groups with reference to indicators of integration. The groups are defined by race and ethnicity. Europeans tend to look to compare foreigners and citizens.
In the US, the major gaps are between races, including the 2 to 1 ratio of African Americans to white unemployment rates. In Europe, there is about a 2 to 1 ratio of foreigner to citizen unemployment rate, and it does not vary significantly from country to country.
The US has often associated high rates of crime with immigrants. In California, about 40,000 of the 140,000 persons in prison were born abroad, including 20,000 who were believed to be illegal aliens when they committed felonies. In Europe, by contrast, successful integration was defined in terms of the absence, or infrequency, of attacks by nationals on foreigners.
Germany has a famed school-to-work transition program that provides two-thirds of the non-college bound high school graduates with a certificated skill. This apprenticeship certificate normally leads to a good job that can last a lifetime. However, foreign youth, including those born in Germany, often do not participate in the apprenticeship system, consigning themselves to lower wages and more uncertainty.
Germany and the Scandinavian countries believe that they can prevent illegal immigration, so they make sharp distinctions between legal and illegal migrants, with the result that some public employees other than those directly concerned with immigration are involved in immigration regulations. France and the US, on the other hand, are more likely to accept their inability to eliminate illegal immigration, leading to incomplete amnesties and the development of schemes through which some rights are granted to illegal aliens
The state's population has been in the 11 to 12 million range since 1970, a period during which the US population rose by 60 million, and the population of California increased by 12 million.
Illinois has been losing US-born residents, and receiving about 45,000 legal immigrants each year, plus an estimated 15,000 unauthorized immigrants.
There are about one million foreign-born persons in the state. Eighty percent are in the Chicago area, making immigrants about nine percent of Illinois' 12 million residents-- almost 20 percent of Chicago's 2.7 million residents were born abroad.
Of the almost one million foreign-born persons in Illinois enumerated in the 1990 Census, about 40 percent were from Mexico and Latin America. One-third of the immigrants in Illinois were from Europe; the largest single group was from Poland. One-fourth of the foreign-born were from Asia, with the largest single group from Philippines.
Seven of the top 15 immigrant countries of origin are European, and 40 percent of Illinois's immigrants arrived since 1980. About 107,000 of Illinois's K-12 students are in some type of bilingual program.
About two-thirds of the "old" European immigrants have become naturalized US citizens, almost half of the Asian immigrants are US citizens, and less than one-third of the Hispanic immigrants are US citizens.
Chicago was for many years the second largest city in the US, after New York City. Its growth was due to its role as the transportation hub for the US, and a meat packing and manufacturing center--its stockyards slaughtered one billion head of cattle and hogs, and its factories included a Western Electric plant with 48,000 employees.
Immigrants from Germany and Ireland, as well as southern and Eastern Europe, who found manual jobs in factories and railyards, gave Chicago a reputation as a city with "broad shoulders" that "worked"--often under very hard conditions at low wages. Each of these immigrant groups founded its own neighborhood church, giving Chicago separate Catholic churches and schools for e.g., Irish, Italian, German, Bohemian, and Croatian groups.
Like other midwestern cities such as Cleveland and Detroit, Chicago attracted African Americans--southern Blacks saw Chicago and other midwestern cities as "the promised land," and 50,000 migrated to Chicago between 1915 and 1920, and another 100,000 in the 1920s. Hundreds of thousands of small farmers and sharecroppers migrated into Chicago, especially after 1945.
African Americans initially remained in the southern parts of Chicago, near the terminus of the railroad that brought them to Chicago. During the 1960s, there were numerous clashes between Blacks and ethnic white immigrants as Blacks attempted to desegregate housing by moving into ethnic Polish or Italian neighborhoods--repeating what has been termed "the chasing across the prairie" of various racial and ethnic groups.
Automobiles and freeways changed Chicago after World War II, as the better off groups moved to the suburbs. The 1970s and 1980s were marked by the economic decline of Chicago, white flight to the suburbs, the entrance of Blacks into local city politics, and the loss of factory jobs that paid high wages and could be filled easily by newcomer immigrants.
Many of the settled Mexicans have begun small businesses to serve the immigrants who continue to arrive--the 26th street shopping district reportedly was second only to Michigan Avenue in shopping dollars. However, there was some uncertainty about whether the second generation schooled in the US would commit themselves to taking over family businesses that often require very long hours of work.
The factories employing mostly Mexican immigrants tend to recruit workers by asking their current workers to refer family and friends to fill vacant jobs. One factory processed the workers referred by such family networks through a temporary employment agency, so that all new workers were in effect probationary hires for several weeks to several months. Once they were selected as permanent employees, the employer offered them with pay at their regular hourly rate for the time spent completing a GED high-school education.
Another factory employed over 2,000 workers in a sprawling facility. A condition of employment was that they work five or six 12-hour days. At entry level, the first eight hours were compensated at the minimum wage, with time and a half for the remaining four hours. The long hours of work seemed to serve as an effective screening device that favored newly-arrived Mexicans--many Americans expect a 40-hour work week.
The schools in the 22nd ward of Chicago where Little Village is located tend to be older two story structures jammed with students born in Mexico. Many of the teachers do not live in the neighborhood. Chicago has elected school boards, and school board elections, in which unauthorized residents can run for office and vote, has helped to launch several political careers.
There were about 17,600 Polish applications for legalization in 1987-88, including 5,300 Polish SAW applications. Some 8,000 Poles were legalized in the Chicago area in 1986-87. About 160,000 or five percent of the three million applications for legalization in 1987-88 were filed in Illinois.
There are several Polish language newspapers and radio stations, reflecting both rising immigration and the fact that many immigrants in the 1980s were dissident intellectuals.
Sentiments of African Americans are divided on immigration. Some see minority immigrants as potential allies in the struggle to obtain more benefits for minorities in the US; others see immigrants as competitors for low-wage jobs that who retard African American progress. Some whites argue that, if Asians and Caribbean Black immigrants can fulfill the American dream, this demonstrates lingering poverty is the fault of the individual, and not the US economic system.
It was explained that comparisons of various immigrant groups with US born Blacks are often misleading, because the Blacks in the data include all American Blacks, whereas the immigrants are often selected, or self-selected, from their home population because they are likely to succeed in the US. Korean or Caribbean Black immigrants, for example, are often drawn from the middle and upper ends of the education and motivation spectrums of their societies, and can be expected to do better in the US than the average Black.
Similarly, most US-born Blacks were educated in urban areas of the US and are thus familiar with the history of discrimination against generations of US African Americans. They are far more skeptical about the value of hard work for low wages than recent immigrants from rural Mexico.
The indicators of integration for US-born Blacks put them near the bottom of the US job ladder. But the same is also true for many immigrant groups are also near the bottom, including Hmong refugees and Dominican immigrants. If these groups fail to succeed in the next generation or two, then the notion that the American dream still works may be called into question by middle-class Hispanics and Asians.
As immigration has increased in the 1980s and 1990s, evidence has mounted that, as economic theory and common sense would suggest, immigrants depress the wages and increase Black joblessness. In 1980 in Chicago, for example, there were two Blacks for every Hispanic employed in construction. By 1990, Hispanics outnumbered Blacks in the Chicago construction industry.
There are tensions between minority immigrants in Chicago. For example, the public housing system is primarily Black--Hispanics are about 20 percent of Chicago's population, but they are only two percent of the tenants in the city's public housing units. Even Lawndale Gardens, public housing in the heart of Little Village, has only five percent Hispanic tenants.
Despite severe problems in the public housing system, there is a long waiting list of persons wanting to get into public housing, and the Chicago Housing Authority stopped taking applications in 1985--persons moving in to subsidized units in 1996 applied in 1981. Residents in public housing pay 30 percent of their income for rent, and the government makes up the difference.
Hispanics sued the CHA in 1994, arguing that many Hispanics were dropped off the waiting list because they did not respond to requests for updated information that was available only in English.
Second, the integration of European immigrants in Chicago served as the basis for the three-generation language-shift integration theory--the first generation did not learn English, the second was bilingual, and the third was monolingual English. The University of Chicago was the base of the leading theorists of immigrant integration for much of the 20th century.
Third, as in other areas, immigration in Chicago brings promises and problems. One the one hand, immigrants are credited with filling vacant jobs, starting small businesses, and revitalizing neighborhoods. On the other hand, the roughly 45,000 immigrants arriving in the state each year, plus another 15,000 unauthorized immigrants, are blamed for overburdening especially overcrowded school systems, contributing to crime, and adding directly and indirectly to welfare costs.
Chicago and Illinois are also different from other places in their immigration and integration patterns. First, Chicago has a history of successfully integrating diverse immigrants, and unlike other cities, Chicago still has a relatively large number of manufacturing jobs open to unskilled and semi-skilled immigrants. The political climate in Chicago and Illinois seems to deter extremist reactions to immigrants.
Second, Chicago's immigrants are more diverse than is common elsewhere. The three leading countries of origin for immigrants in Chicago are Mexico, Poland, and the Philippines, making Chicago the only major US city in which the three leading countries of origin are on three different continents. There are also relatively few refugees in Chicago, so that few newcomers go directly into the welfare system.
Third, Chicago has long been associated with distinct immigrant neighborhoods, the Irish in one neighborhood, the Polish in another, and the Germans in a third, Lithuanians in a fourth, etc. Today's immigrants are also concentrated in particular neighborhoods, and they can utilize Chicago's peculiar brand of politics to achieve some degree of political integration. Since the city has over 50 aldermen for just over 2.5 million residents, each local politician represents just 50,000 residents, and residents turn to their alder person to participate in social events such as weddings, and to deal with city hall.