“An Overview of U.S. Immigration” at Wilkes University

On Oct. 4, Wilkes University students had the opportunity to attend the lecture “An Overview of U.S. Immigration,” hosted by Dr. Steven Camarota.

Camarota is the director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C. He does analysis involving both legal and illegal immigration data, and thus came to present fully equipped with many statistics, charts and the like.

As one of the key issues in the presidential election, Camarota tried to shed some light on immigration by providing statistics regarding different areas that have been the topic of conversation.

One such topic is where illegal immigrants are coming from. One of the most infamous policy stances by presidential candidate Donald Trump is his plan to build a wall between U.S. and Mexico, with the hope of decreasing the flow of illegal immigrants into the country.

However, the statistics provided by Camarota show that Mexican immigrants are not the majority. In fact, they are one of the smallest groups of immigrants, being largely overshadowed by those from both East and South Asia, as well as Latin America, according to 2014-2015 statistics. Moreover, the majority of the immigrants entering the country are doing so legally.

Camarota also highlighted that the highest levels of immigration occurred in 1890 and 1910. However, he said that projections predict a record-breaking high will occur in eight years if there is no policy change.

Almost one out of every five people in the U.S. is an immigrant or the child of an immigrant, Camarota pointed out, and one of the biggest sources for controversy is the effect it has on the economy.

Moreover, the overall percentage of the United States population is expected to shrink as Baby Boomers retire and immigrants can help make up a small portion of that gap.

This is a two-part problem, as over half of immigrant households get some form of welfare, while they usually pay slightly less in taxes than U.S. citizens, thus causing an imbalance that has the potential to cause a deficit.

Camarota emphasized that, although 51 percent of immigrant households get some form of welfare, these programs go to people that work but still fall under the poverty line. In other words, they are not simply getting handouts or cheating the system. The only way that someone who doesn’t work can obtain welfare is if it is on behalf of their U.S. born children.

Again addressing the controversy of an overload of illegal immigrants, Camarota provided a statistic that said only one-fourth of immigrants are illegal. Immigrants that come into the country legally are in much higher numbers and thus have a bigger impact on the country. He also pointed out that if the government wanted to go after illegal immigrants, their best bet would be to do so internally, by looking at U.S. employers turning a blind eye to hire them.

This may be the case for employers because there is currently a shortage of workers, according to the statistics, and immigrants are needed to fill that gap.

Camarota concluded by pointing out that although many people favor the Republican candidate’s policy on immigration in this election, both parties are known to avoid the issue and slack when enforcing the laws.

However, projections do show that if the country stays on the track it is now, there will be a record number of immigrants in 2008 and there is a high likelihood that the imbalance of the welfare they obtain and the taxes they pay can create a deficit.