Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Natural History

New York Times:

While it is too early to know for certain, a consensus is developing among economists, business people and immigration groups that the weakening economy coupled with recent curbs on illegal immigration are steering Hispanic immigrants out of the state.

"The state" is Arizona, and, while the newspaper doesn't have enough data to say where the missing immigrants have gone, it's not a bad guess to say many likely have gone to Mexico, rather than other U.S. states.

Like most journalism, it has no historical perspective, but if it did, it might note this is nothing new. Americans are so absorbed in our "immigrant nation" identity and so fond of the image of the anxious dirty faces looking up in hope as the Statue of Liberty congeals out of the harbor mist, we forget that in times of bad business or national stress -- such as 1837 and 1861-- the New York docks were crowded with Europeans trying to get passage back across the Atlantic. Or that some 4 million European immigrants to the U.S. between 1880 and 1930 eventually went home again.