See the hidden history of immigration into America (it ruins the narrative)

Summary: Trump proposed a drastic reduction in immigration, one of his most important and populist policy proposals. But open borders is a core policy of the 1% and hence supported by both parties and the news media. Here is a look at the lost history of immigration in the US, information they diligently work to conceal from you. Because the myths are more politically useful. America’s borders were opened once before – and were closed after 50 years of pressure from the public. They can be closed again, to whatever degree we choose. This is a slight revision of a post from a year ago, because the lies it refutes continue to be told.

“{excess workers form} a disposable industrial reserve army …a mass of human material always ready for exploitation.”
— Marx’s Das Capital, expanding upon Friedrich Engels’ insight. They got some things right. It’s Economics 101.


The lost history about immigration into the US

America absorbed high rates of immigration during the rapid growth of the 19th Century, with growth fueled by expansion on the frontier (mostly conquests from Mexico and Native Americans). Growth slowed for many reasons after the “closing of the frontier” around 1890. Per capita real US GDP has grown at roughly 2%/year since 1870. But in the 17 years before the 1924 growth was only 1.2%/yr.

The American people understood this, with US elites using immigration to depress wages — and using immigrants as strike-breakers. Irresistible pressure grew to restrict immigration. As a result we got the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, the Gentlemen’s Agreement in 1907 to limit immigration from Japan, the Immigration Act of 1917, the Emergency Quota Act in 1921, and the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924. The Great Depression brought even sterner measures by administrative decree: FDR closed the door to immigrants and forced the repatriation of Mexican workers.

After WWII, the shelter on wages produced by low rates of immigration helped created the middle class in America (or re-created it, after the deflation and frequent depressions of the late 19th century crushed America’s craftsman and small farmers). Unions grew and wages began the long rise. But the 1% worked to reverse these gains. By 1970 their efforts began to bear fruit as we forgot that the middle class existed behind the shelter of a wall around America, and we allowed our elites to slowly open the borders.

Now that some people see the threat, the news media floods America with pro-immigrant propaganda (e.g., adopting the term “dreamers” for illegal immigrants).

Obama on Immigration

The results of open borders

Now we live with the result. By 1990 unions were crushed, immigrants flooded in with few limitations, and real wages for the unskilled plummeted. Even wages of high-tech workers are affected (see this and this about H1b visas). This is Economics 101: supply rising faster than demand, with the wages (the price of labor) adjusting.

Since 1999 per capita real GDP growth slowed to roughly 1%/year. Real per capita personal income has fallen every decade since the 1960s (see the sad story here). Much of the southwest is regressing back to a client-patron political system).

There is another dimension, untouchable in the news media, of little concern to the 1% (and hence to our leaders), but instinctively understood by most Americans: immigration is one of the great forces reshaping nations. People bring their culture with them. In small amounts this stimulates and strengthens societies able to absorb them — as the US has done better than almost anybody since Rome. At some point, however, our ability to cope becomes overwhelmed. Social cohesion diminishes; social conflict often rises.

Just as we’re repeating the Gilded Age (wealth and power concentrating in the 1%), we’re repeating the slow growth in social tensions that massive immigration produced in the early 20th C.

Lessons learned

Lessons learned: we see how America works

Immigration (like war) shows the bipartisan nature of US politics, the pride and joy of centrist political gurus. Republicans love immigrants as cheap labor (social conservatives stay at the back of the policy bus). Democrats love immigrants as potential voters (those concerned about wages of the working poor stay at the back of the bus). Both respond to America’s real stakeholders, the 1%, for whom open borders are a core policy priority.

When it comes to the interests of the 1%, American politics often becomes an echo, not a choice.

A look at our future if we keep the borders open

Immigrants as fraction of US population

Using data from US Census reports, the Center for Immigration Studies reveals some powerful trends . See their report for sources and methodology. Also see the Census graphs here.

  • Total net immigration (the difference between the number coming and going) will increase steadily over the next 45 years, totaling 64 million.
  • Absent a change in current policy, the Census Bureau projects that in 2023 the nation’s immigrant population (legal and illegal) will reach 14.8% (51 million) of the total U.S. population — the highest share ever recorded in American history. 
  • The bureau also projects that the immigrant population will grow nearly four times faster than the native-born population, reaching 15.8% (57 million) of the nation’s population in 2030, 17.1% (65 million) in 2040, and 18.8% (78 million) in 2060.
  • To place these numbers into historical context, as recently as 1990, immigrants were 7.9% (20 million) of the total U.S. population.
  • The nation’s total population will grow to 417 million by 2060 — 108 million more than in 2010This increase is roughly equivalent to adding the combined populations of California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Massachusetts to the country.
  • The new projections indicate that, absent a change in immigration policy, immigrants who will arrive in the future plus their descendants will account for roughly three-fourths of future U.S. population increase.

A four-fold increase in immigrants as a fraction of the total population would create a severe shock to America, even when occurring over 90 years. That would take us beyond the point at which popular opposition forced “closing the door” in the early 20th century.

As the recovery accelerated, immigration to the US surged in 2016. I have not seen updated numbers, but the number of migrants probably has continued to increase in 2017 and 2018.

The revolt against immigration begins again

From Donald Trump’s campaign platform.

Trump platform: immigrationUntil the 2008 crash and the great recession, the bipartisan consensus on open borders pushed debate about this out to the political fringes. Economic stress brought it to the mainstream. In the election Trump has brought it into the center ring of public debate. Now Trump begins to implement his promises: “Trump Supports Plan to Cut Legal Immigration by Half“. The widespread response of journalists is automatic: they lie. The long struggle of America to manage immigration must be hidden and replaced with myths. This is why the public’s confidence in newspapers and the news media has been dropping since the 1970s (see Gallup).

During the election I asked how much support will immigration restrictions get from other politicians and the public? And how strongly will our elites resist? Now we know. Restricting immigration got almost no support from our ruling elites (even Republicans, and then only under severe pressure from their constituents) – as our elites put massive resources into their resistance.

It is essential that our Army fight to defend the borders and integrity of Afghanistan. But it is inappropriate that they fight to defend the borders of America. That’s logic!

Immigration is the key political battle of our time. The Democrats will open the borders & make a New America. Much depends on how we choose in November.

Which of the world’s large nations have the most immigrants?

From the UN database of information about international migration.  Saudi Arabia is a special case, with its “guest” workers. Canada and Australia encourage immigration. Germany and America are the the next tier, with levels of immigrants quickly dropping among the other large nations. Click to enlarge the graph.

Immigration by nation

For More Information

This excellent Pew report says that roughly 11 million of the 40 million immigrants are illegals (also see this larger report). For a detailed analysis of these matters see this excellent (as usual) report by the Congressional Research Service: “U.S. Immigration Policy: Chart Book of Key Trends” by William A. Kandel (December 2014). Here are links to government studies about immigration and its effects.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about immigration, especially these…

  1. Migration from the south into America: new people, new foods, new political systems.
  2. Immigration as a reverse election: our leaders get a new people.
  3. Look at immigration policy to see our government respond to its masters.
  4. Trump wants to defend our borders. Democrats protest.
  5. The lies about immigration keeping the borders open.
  6. Debunking the hysteria about kids in concentration camps.
  7. Important: Diversity is a grand experiment. We’re the lab rats.
  8. Prepare for mass migrants, the greatest challenge to America.

Look to Europe to better understand immigration

As so often the case, we can see these political dynamics more clear in other societies. We can learn much from the immigration crisis in Europe. It is our future.

Reflections on the Revolution In Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West by Christopher Caldwell (2009). See this post about it: About Europe’s historic experiment with open borders.

The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam by Douglass Murray (2017). See these posts with excerpts from the book: Martin van Creveld’s reaction to Europe’s rape epidemic. Warning of the “Strange Death of Europe”, and Strange perspectives on the challenges facing Europe.

Reflections on the Revolution In Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West
Available at Amazon.
Strange Death of Europe
Available at Amazon.

15 thoughts on “See the hidden history of immigration into America (it ruins the narrative)”

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      I agree. Combine with multiculturalism (ie, no forced assimilation) = a hat trick of doom.

  1. Hi Larry,

    LK: Much of the southwest is regressing back to a client-patron political system.

    Interesting observation! You don’t have to get very far off the main roads in rural New Mexico to see a world very different from what most folks would be familiar with. The “feel” is very different from, say poorer neighborhoods in Florida where lots of Mexican folks live, which aren’t much different from where poorer neighborhoods where white or black folks live. It’s hard to describe, but you know it when you see it and it’s like being in parts of Mexico.



    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      I wrote that ten years ago. If I could document it, I’d put it on my page of successful predictions.

      I have heard anecdotal reports of middle class flight from southern Texas – like the well-documented flight from California (of which I am a new member)

  2. Mr Kummer,

    What would you suggest for reading about the ideal forms of citizenship, (theoretically and put into action) as opposed to a client-patron system. Obviously you and I have a visceral negative feeling about the way things are going, but where should I look to for ideas about what we as Americans should aim for instead. I remember my civics class from high school but I haven’t done much reading on the topic since.


    1. I’ve read plenty of heavy lifters like the wealth of nations and the rise and fall of the 3rd reich, feel free to throw dense tomes at me if you think they’re what’s best.

    2. Larry Kummer, Editor

      The American Muse,

      I’d start with the source material: the Federalist Papers. Easy to read, written for farmers, merchants, and craftsmen.

      But I would skip that step. I’d bet big you don’t need it, and know all you need to know. Instead decide what to do next to make America better. Here’s my list – Reforming America: steps to new politics. Anything will work! Find what works best for you. Note that these are actions, and not partisan.

      I have confidence that if you and I and ten thousand others take a first step – the collective result will be the right step.

  3. Christopher Ecclestone

    Good piece.. Same thing as the Freedom of Movement issue in Europe. The Cosmopolitan Elites love it because it means that they and their children can flit around between high paid and sexy jobs while there is a vast lumpen provided to wash windows, serve coffee and dust things in the Elites houses, hotels and restaurants. The result is static wages, increased rents in FoM hotspots and a crushing pressure on social services. It has also resulted in a decline in vocational training (due to the flood of Polish plumbers) and other professions (like nursing).

    Unfortunately the UK has born the brunt of this because the second language of most FoMmers is English and thus its the “easy” option.

    The end result was the Brexit vote… which the Elites still cannot wrap their minds around

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      That’s an important point: mass immigration is in large part an issue of class. Those on the bottom are hurt, those on the top benefit.

  4. Looks like we need an agreed or at least clearly stated definition of an immigrant. If I read the end notes at the linked report, descendants of immigrants are included in the projected figures. Is that right? When is someone no longer an immigrant? After all, we are all descended from immigrants.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      The common definitions are from foreign born to foreign born plus two generations born here.

      The CIS report uses the a Census definition of immigrant: foreign born.

  5. “The American people understood this, with US elites using immigration to depress wages — and using immigrants as strike-breakers. Irresistible pressure grew to restrict immigration.” is a self-serving distortion of the history, especially when you include the Chinese and Japanese exclusion acts.

    Working backwards, the KKK hit it’s zenith in the USA in 1924. They had an incredible influence on immigration legislation in the 10s and early 20s. Next, the Eugenics Movement, mostly Left but most certainly including Right, had another influence on immigration. You may have read the “Mismeasure of Man” but you ignored it’s points.

    The Chinese and Japanese exclusion acts were nativist and xenophobic acts over a fear, among others, that never eventuated: that they depressed wages for natives. Natives had stronger political power to bargain for wages, and did so for jobs that weren’t being done by the Chinese or the Irish. Placing those acts as only about American fear over wages isn’t historical. Placing it as one factor among many others would be but that’s not what you are doing.

    From your cite: “According to the U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian the purpose of the act was “to preserve the ideal of American homogeneity”. But though the Act aimed at preserving American racial homogeneity, it set no limits on immigration from other countries of the Americas, including Latin America. Congressional opposition was minimal. According to Columbia University historian Mae Ngai, the 1924 Act put an end to a period where the United States essentially had open borders.” This is described as “The Immigration Act of 1924, or Johnson–Reed Act, including the National Origins Act, and Asian Exclusion Act…The law was primarily aimed at further decreasing immigration of specific groups of Europeans, including Italians, Greeks, Poles, Slavs, and Eastern European Jews.” That is the KKK and the Eugenics Movement writ large. Neither viewed those groups as worthwhile citizens. Further, you’ve never addressed the impact of Social Darwinism on these immigration laws. Instead, you made it what would play today.

    ” FDR closed the door to immigrants and forced the repatriation of Mexican workers.” From your cite, approximately 60% “repatriated” were birthright citizens. Damn good work that. You approve of it?

    As for immigrants as strike-breakers, there’s no denying that immigrants and native-born Americans were strike-breakers. What you left out was that at that time Americans blamed immigrants for these foreign ideas of Labor and that most Americans thought strike-breakers were doing righteous work. The 888 movement was never an American concept until American capitalism co-opted it.

    Again, if I missed it, what is your definition of “open borders”?

    1. “Per capita real US GDP has grown at roughly 2%/year since 1870. But in the 17 years before the 1924 growth was only 1.2%/yr.”

      As an addendum, mainly because my preferred period of history is from Reconstruction into the late 30s and early 40s, here’s a cite from Wiki that better explains those 17 years before 1924 than any argument about immigration. Me, I knew that that the US has had many cycles of recession and depression that don’t correlate to any wave of immigration.

  6. “When it comes to the interests of the 1%, American politics often becomes an echo, not a choice.”
    Is that a clever choice of words on Phyllis Schlafly’s A Choice Not an Echo?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: