Noah Smith at Bloomberg View (reprinted in the Daily Star) has three facts that should inform, or even squelch, debate over illegal immigration.
Facts and public perceptions aren’t always in alignment. Eventually, facts do percolate into the public consciousness, but it always seems to take some time. The process is slowed dramatically by ideology, which makes people believe what they want to believe instead of looking at the bald facts.
For example, take the rhetoric of U.S. politicians about immigration. There are three basic facts that don’t seem to have entered the public debate.
In the recent televised Republican primary debate, Donald Trump said that Mexico is sending "the bad ones" to the U.S. This wasn’t the first time he has claimed that Mexican immigrants are likely to be criminals. Now, Trump’s assertion is clearly xenophobic and inflammatory, and will appeal to racist sentiments. But it also happens to be false.
The first big fact about immigration is that immigrants, including Hispanic immigrants, don’t commit much crime. In 2007, the Immigration Policy Center found that Hispanic immigrants are incarcerated at lower rates than native-born Americans. ...
The second big fact about immigration is that there isn’t a substantial inflow of undocumented immigrants into the U.S. at this time. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. in 2014 was 11.3 million (out of a total U.S. population of 318.9 million), or about 3.5 percent of the total. In 2011, it was 11.5 million. In 2007, at its peak, it was 12.2 million.
In other words, illegal immigration isn’t just decreasing. It’s less than zero. Obviously some immigrants still come here illegally, but their numbers are not to large enough to make up for those who leave every year. Another fact: unauthorized immigration has been negative since 2007.
The third big fact about immigration is that the sources of immigration have shifted a great deal in the last few years. As recently as 2008, immigration from Mexico dominated. Now, immigration from Asia has passed it in dramatic fashion. The country that sends the U.S. the most immigrants each year now is China. The No. 2 source is India. Mexico is No. 3. And the trend lines look clear. The great Latin American immigration boom is ending, and the great Asian immigration boom is just beginning.
So the take-away message (that will explode the heads of your Republican neighbors) is this:
... next time you see politicians debating immigration, remember these three facts: Immigrants are quite law-abiding; essentially all of them are now coming to the U.S. legally; and they are now coming mostly from Asia.