- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 22, 2020

For many immigrants, it turns out there’s no place like home — and home is no longer the U.S.

The rate of growth of the immigrant population in the U.S. has slowed under President Trump to an average of 200,000 a year, down from more than 600,000 a year under President Barack Obama, according to a report being released Thursday by the Center for Immigration studies.

Rough calculations suggest it’s not just that fewer people are coming. Nearly 1 million immigrants appear to have left the country each year, in what is known as outmigration, said Steven A. Camarota, the CIS demographer who wrote the report.

“A whole lot of people seem to be going home,” he said.

He said the most likely conclusion is a “Trump effect” — the president’s policies have blocked some migrants from arriving and convinced others to depart.

Even with the slower rate of net migration, the immigrant population was almost 45 million on July 1, 2019, or nearly 14% of the total of 328 million. That is the highest rate of immigrants since the 1910 census.

Mr. Camarota used data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to figure out who’s in the country and then extrapolate who’s left. He found about 3 million migrants who said they arrived during the period of July 2017 to July 2019, which is the most recent ACS data.

But over that time the immigrant population rose by only about 400,000.

Roughly 600,000 among the whole immigrant populace will have died during the two years, but that still leaves 2 million migrants unaccounted for. Mr. Camarota said those are the ones who seem to have departed the country.

They left even though the U.S. economy was humming and immigrant unemployment rates were stunningly slow, suggesting economics weren’t pushing people to leave.

“The notion that immigration simply rises and falls with the economy and is outside the control of government action, the new data indicates that perspective is wrong,” Mr. Camarota told The Washington Times.

Why, exactly, they left is tougher to determine.

The Center for Immigration Studies pointed to Trump policies that attempted to revoke the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, required immigrants to prove self-sufficiency in order to obtain a green card and stepped up immigration enforcement at worksites.

Immigrant rights groups say it’s more than that. They accuse Mr. Trump of spreading terror within immigrant communities, pointing to his travel ban, stiffer enforcement, crackdowns on asylum, policies that led to the separation of children from illegal immigrant parents at the border, and other moves.

Census data shows that immigrants are still winning citizenship.

Indeed, there are more citizens than noncitizens among the foreign-born population for the first time in decades.

That would indicate that the migrants who are leaving did not have citizenship — though whether they were here legally is unclear.

“It looks like it’s not established immigrants deciding to leave. It’s recent arrivals,” Mr. Camarota said.

The report was released hours before Mr. Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden are slated to face off in their second, and final, debate of the campaign.

Immigration didn’t come up in their first face-off, nor was it an issue in the vice presidential debate. It’s also not one of the topics announced by the moderator for this week’s debate.

That’s striking, given how much of a role immigration played in Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, how much time his administration has devoted to the issue, and the colossal differences between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump.

Mr. Camarota said Mr. Biden’s policies would likely send the level of net immigration soaring back to the level of the Obama years.

Americans in the past have been opposed to increasing immigration, according to the Gallup Poll, which found more support for either keeping levels the same or cutting them.

But this year’s poll, taken in late May and early June, found a surprising surge in support for increased immigration, rising to 34%. That is the highest ever for Gallup data, which dates back to 1965.

By contrast, 36% want immigration kept at its present level and 28% want it cut.

A large majority — 77% of Americans — said immigration overall is good for the country, Gallup says. That, too, is a record high.

There are caveats to the findings, such as the integrity of the data and sampling variability.

It’s possible, for example, that the American Community Survey, the census survey that Mr. Camarota used for most of his calculations, have missed more migrants in recent years. But there are reasons to doubt that explanation.

The data shows a rise in the number of Central Americans, at a time when the country was facing a border surge of Central American families coming illegally but many of whom were admitted into the country to await deportation proceedings.

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