Summer 2013

Immigration & the Future of America

Despite America’s history and reputation as a “melting pot,” immigration continues to polarize policy-makers and is at the top of the agenda as Congress returns to Washington following the July 4 recess. The Summer 2013 issue of Dædalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, examines the origins and characteristics of new immigrants and considers their reception in the United States, with regard to both public policies and private behavior. The issue, “Immigration and the Future of America,” is guest edited by Douglas S. Massey, a leading expert in the sociology of immigration.

Whereas immigration to the United States during the half-century from 1915 to 1965 was small by historical standards, the four decades from 1970 to 2010 witnessed a remarkable revival of population flows from abroad. By 2010, the percentage of foreigners in the United States had rebounded to nearly 13%, much closer to its historical peak of 14.7% in 1910. Most of the new entrants hailed from Asia and Latin America.

Unlike past immigrants, many foreigners living in the United States today are present without authorization. According to estimates, roughly one-third of these individuals are undocumented, and although Hispanics and Asians now account for around 20% of the total population, they make up nearly a third of all births. Thus, the future of the United States is very much tied to the status and welfare of immigrants and their children.

Image:
A naturalization ceremony at Fenway Park in Boston, September 17, 2008. More than 3,000 people took the oath of citizenship during the ceremony. © by AP Photo/Steven Senne/Corbis Images.
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Immigrants cheer during naturalization ceremony at Fenway Park
Image:
A naturalization ceremony at Fenway Park in Boston, September 17, 2008. More than 3,000 people took the oath of citizenship during the ceremony. © by AP Photo/Steven Senne/Corbis Images.
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America’s Immigration Policy Fiasco

In this essay I discuss how and why U.S. policies intended to stop Latin American immigration to the United States not only failed, but proved counterproductive by ultimately accelerating the rate of both documented and undocumented migration from Mexico and Central America to the United States. As a result, the Latino population grew much faster than demographers had originally projected and the undocumented population grew to an unprecedented size. Mass illegality is now the greatest barrier to the successful integration of Latinos, and a pathway to legalization represents a critical policy challenge. If U.S. policy-makers wish to avoid the failures of the past, they must shift from a goal of immigration suppression to one of immigration management within an increasingly integrated North American market.

Determinants & Consequences of the Brain Drain

This essay reviews existing theories of professional emigration as background to examine the present situation. Classical theories of the brain drain neglected the possibility that immigrant professionals would return to their home countries and make significant investments and economic contributions there. They do, in fact, with beneficial consequences for the development of these countries. The advent of the transnational perspective in the field of immigration has helped clarify these dynamics, while identifying the conditions under which professional cyclical returns and knowledge transfers can take place. Implications for the future attraction of foreign professionals by the United States and other advanced countries are discussed.

Authors Alejandro Portes and Adrienne Celaya