Congressman Tom Kean Jr. inciting fear of immigrants to raise money

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (front right) speaks to Rep. Kevin McCarthy (front left) in the House Chamber as Rep. Tom Kean Jr sits in the row behind them

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (front right) speaks to Rep. Kevin McCarthy (front left) in the House Chamber as Rep. Tom Kean Jr sits in the center of the row behind them

There are about 45 million immigrants living in the U.S., making up 14% of the nation’s population, but Republican Congressman Tom Kean Jr. is sounding an alarm to incite a panicked fear and raise money for his next election campaign.

“As of last week, Title 42 EXPIRED opening the floodgates for tens of thousands of illegal immigrants to pour across our southern border,” said an email from Kean’s campaign. “House Republicans passed the strongest Border Security bill our country has ever seen but Biden and the Democrats let time lapse and are refusing to act.”

The actual post-Title 42 display of a relatively calm and orderly process at our southern border has confounded predictions and disappointed right-wing observers rooting for chaos, but it is consistent with America’s history as a nation of immigrants.

Although he has been a quiet part of the political establishment for decades, the once-liberal Republican Kean’s appeal for money is typical of the disinformation stoked by relentless right wing media lies and shouts of “open borders” to fuel immigration fears.

As Cecilia Muñoz, a former White House Domestic Policy Council Director said: “It’s not about politics. It’s not about ideology. It’s about helping people in need at a time of crisis. It’s really what we do when we’re at our best in this country.”

Instead of joining the national effort to welcome Afghans, Ukrainians, and others fleeing their homelands as they begin the journey to build new lives in the United States, Kean wants to make Americans fear the people of the world who hope to become part of this nation’s future despite the extraordinarily positive impact of immigrants.

The number of immigrants in the country today represents a more than fourfold increase since 1960, when 9.7 million immigrants lived in the U.S., accounting for 5.4% of the total U.S. population.

Immigration advocates have been seeking a deal to protect Dreamers — undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as minors — while Republicans have been stirring up unfounded fear of outsiders in order to maintain a political advantage.

Immigrants and their children have made up 70% of US labor force growth since 1995.

Thanks to lower childbirth rates among the U.S. population, fewer workers are starting their careers each year than during the period following World War II. This phenomenon has made immigration much more important in counteracting workforce decline in the United States. In fact, from 1995 to 2022, immigrants and their children accounted for 70% of all civilian labor force growth.

From 1995 to 2022, the U.S. labor force increased from nearly 131.6 million workers to over 164.3 million—an increase of nearly 32.8 million workers: 16.1 million of that increase came from immigrant workers (49%) and 6.7 million were children of immigrants (21%), according to data from the Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement.

Just 9.9 million were U.S.-born citizens without a foreign‐born parent. The actual effect of cutting off all immigration would have been even greater since the working immigrant population would have declined without more immigration by about 4.5 million.

Immigrants have increased from about 10% of the U.S. labor force in 1995 to 18% in 2022, and immigrants and their children have gone from 18% to 29%. The total population of immigrant workers or workers with immigrant parents increased from about 23 million to nearly 46 million, making this population a massive contributor to U.S. economic growth.

Despite the increased importance of immigration, however, the U.S. labor force growth has declined. It is just not true that immigration has meant that U.S. workers are facing more competition from new workers. In fact, immigrants are only partially offsetting the significant decline in new U.S. workers entering the workforce. The labor force growth rate fell from 1.7% in the 1960s to 0.6% in the 2010s—a decline of more than 60%.

As a national AP wire story  “US-Mexico border sees orderly crossings as new migration rules take effect,” captures the point: “new asylum rules and legal pathways meant to discourage illegal crossings” are playing a role in the relative calm.

The reality is that immigrants and asylum seekers want a line to get into and want to follow the law but the byzantine and shifting set of policies affecting them makes that a challenge. 

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