This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Court Blocks Citizenship Question on 2020 Census

Today a federal judge in the Southern District of New York ruled against placing a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. The NYTimes reports that:
The ruling marks the opening round in a legal battle with potentially profound ramifications for federal policy and for politics at all levels, one that seems certain to reach the Supreme Court before the printing of census forms begins this summer.
In a lengthy and stinging ruling, Judge Jesse M. Furman of the United States District Court in Manhattan said that Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the commerce secretary, committed “a veritable smorgasbord” of violations of federal procedural law when he ordered the citizenship question added.
Mr. Ross “failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices,” Judge Furman wrote.
You will recall that this matters because the Census Bureau's own analysis suggests that immigrants would be less likely to respond to the census questionnaire with such a question included in it. That would lower the number of people counted in the census, which could affect Congressional redistricting. Since immigrants disproportionately live in districts with a Democratic representative, this could skew redistricting, and thus Congress, more toward Republicans. The Washington Post has a nice graphic showing how this might work.

This case will almost certainly be appealed to the Supreme Court, and it could also influence decisions in similar cases in California (where a trial is currently underway) and Maryland (where the trial starts next week).

These are among the many issues facing the new Director of the Census Bureau, Steven Dillingham, who was confirmed by the Senate earlier this month. He has prior experience managing government organizations, and does not appear to have specific political agendas to push, so the hope is that the Census will move forward smoothly. Of course, there is this partial government shutdown to worry about in terms of census funding...

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Crisis at the Border is Different Than Trump Claims

Yes, there is a crisis at the border, and it is almost entirely created by the Trump Administration, as the Washington Post recently noted. As a result of insufficient funding even in good times--made massively worse by the current government shutdown affecting agencies like Homeland Security--there are too few resources to process asylum seekers, so they sit in camps and get sick (and some die). All of the other stuff that Donald Trump likes to talk about is mostly false, as pointed out by Op-Ed pieces published the past few days by highly acclaimed demographers who actually do know what they are talking about.

The first of these was written by Dr. Rogelio Saenz, Professor of Demography at the University of Texas, San Antonio, and was published in the San Diego Union-Tribune. His main point is that we are trying to curtail migration from Latin America at precisely the same time that is had already reached a nearly historic low. What does that mean for the average American? Well, who's going to pick your crops, who's going to work in your restaurants, who's going to do your yard work? We have, in truth, exploited undocumented immigrants for our mutual benefit for a long time, and we will pay the price for their absence. You could call that a crisis...

The second piece was was written by Dr. Dudley Poston, Professor of Sociology at Texas A&M University and was published in the San Antonio Express-News. He focuses especially on the wall:
Trump’s wall won’t work. It won’t reduce the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and could well have the opposite effect. Plus, it won’t stop drugs and contraband from entering the U.S.

Let me tell you why.

Almost one-quarter of the 44 million people living in the U.S. who were born in another country, or about 10.7 million people, are undocumented immigrants. These are the immigrants Trump wants deported. But he apparently doesn’t know that more than two-fifths of these undocumented immigrants, or almost 4.5 million, are visa overstayers. They entered the U.S. with legal passports and legal visas but either stayed past their visa expiration dates or otherwise violated the terms of their admission into the U.S., perhaps by accepting employment. Most flew in legally from Asia, Europe and other continents, and entered at major airports in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Houston and elsewhere. Trump’s wall won’t be high enough to keep them out. There is no plan to address the issue of visa overstayers. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security does not match entry and exit records of people coming into and leaving the U.S. The 5 million to 6 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who are not visa overstayers are formally referred to by demographers and immigration officials as EWIs, persons who “entered without inspection.” They entered the U.S. without detection or used fraudulent documents when crossing the border. Almost all of them entered at the U.S.-Mexico border, and until recently most of them were from Mexico. Now, most are from Central America.

Demographers have conducted extensive research about EWIs. They are not criminals, and they don’t take jobs from U.S.-born Americans. Almost all EWIs end up doing work Americans don’t want to do. Demographers have found little, if any, evidence that EWIs harm or suppress the employment or wages of local people.
A wall will not work any better than the existing security arrangements along the border to stop EWIs or to stop the flow of drugs from South America into the U.S. Most of those drugs come through the regular ports of entry in cars and trucks--no matter what Trump may say.