ICYMI: Rural Immigrants, Border Security, and Polls

Wall mural Nogales McIntosh

Border wall mural, photo by Jonathan McIntosh, used under Creative Commons license

In the flood of news from Washington, important stories sometimes get overlooked. Here are three: immigration in rural America, security on the southern border, and deciphering polling questions.

Rural Immigration

Immigrants live in rural America, as well as in urban areas. A recent report from the Center for American Progress describes this immigration and details immigrants’ essential roles in rural communities.

More than 1 million immigrants moved to rural counties since 1990, and the foreign-born population has a much higher rate of growth than the native-born population in these rural counties—146 percent compared with only 9 percent, respectively. Rural counties also saw a higher foreign-born growth rate than their metropolitan counterparts during that time period. In particular, the growth of the Hispanic population in rural places has been well-documented: A study found that between 2000 and 2005, more than 200 nonmetropolitan counties would have lost overall population if new Hispanic residents had not moved to or started families in those counties.

Immigrants contribute to economic vitality in rural America, owning businesses and working in agriculture, food processing, manufacturing, and tourism. Many immigrants who began as seasonal workers now work full-time and year-around and have put down roots in rural communities.  

Immigrant doctors often provide the only available medical care in rural communities. In rural and urban communities, immigrants work as nursing assistants, technicians, and personal care attendants. An aging rural population requires more supportive health care.

The report includes sections on Worthington and St. James, Minnesota, where influxes of immigrants in the 1970s and 1980s reversed population decline and bolstered sagging economies.

Southwest Border Security

Contrary to the fear-mongering and border-wall-boosting rhetoric emanating from Trump and his minions, undocumented border crossings have declined “to near-record low levels in recent years.”

“The most recent data available shows each Border Patrol agent along the Southwest border apprehended on average about 2.4 migrants in July 2018, a small increase above FY 2017, but far below FY 2000 levels (approximately 16 migrants per month), when a much smaller Border Patrol faced a much larger number of border crossers.”

While the overall number of border crossings is down, the number of Central American families and children has risen. Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador continue to be among the most violent countries in the world, with law enforcement often unresponsive to victims of gangs and domestic violence or even actively colluding in such violence.

A border wall would not stop migrants who are fleeing for their lives and the lives of their children. A border wall would have zero impact on people who enter the United States on valid visas, and then overstay their visas. Visa overstays make up more than half of the migrants staying in the United States without permission each year.

Polls and Questions

Be careful of polls—there’s a lot more to these polls than headline-grabbing numbers. NPR debunks one recent headline:

“That Harvard Harris poll didn’t find that 8 in 10 Americans want to “close down the borders.” “Rather, it asked Americans, “Do you think we should have basically open borders or do you think we need secure borders?”

“Given the choice between “open borders” — a position that no mainstream political leaders are proposing — and a “secure border,” which is current U.S. policy, 79 percent of Americans agreed that the U.S. needs “secure borders.”

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About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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