The Explosion of Immigrants in the United States

Immigration has become a significant topic in the United States and Europe due to comments made by US presidential hopefuls about illegal immigrants and the flight of people from the Middle East due to turmoil in that region. Here is a review of some statistics from past decades and the recent unusual dramatic increase in immigrants while the general population has slowed down.

United States 1880-1930s

The population of the United States grew dramatically over a 50 year-period from 1880 to about 1924 (a period of mass migration, “MM”), at which time the US passed the Immigration Act capping the number of people from any country. From 1880 until 1930, the population of the country grew from 50 million to over 123 million. In each decade over that time, the population grew between 15% and 26%.

Immigrants accounted for a large percentage of the growth. Over that MM time period, foreign born-residents accounted for anywhere from 12% to 15% of the US population. Almost all of these immigrants came from Europe (over 83% in each decade) and a smaller portion from Latin America (from 1 to 6%) and Asia (1 to 2%). While the 1880s had immigrants principally from Germany, United Kingdom, Scandinavia and Ireland, the following decades had immigrants principally from Italy, Russia and the Austria-Hungarian Empire.

Security: The 1880s and the 1900-1909 decade witnessed particularly large number of immigrants. In those decades, immigrants accounted for 20% of the growth in the country’s population (with natural growth accounting for 80%). However, with the outbreak of World War I and enactment of the Immigration Act, the number of immigrants was curtailed, with only 3% and 2% of the population growth stemming from immigrants in the 1910s and 1920s, respectively. Interestingly, while the war raged in Europe, the percentage of immigrants from Europe declined over this period by 4% while the percentage from Latin America grew by 4%.

One would imagine that the number of people trying to emigrate from Europe to the US would have increased during WWI, and the percentage of immigrants would have spiked above the historic 87% European figure. Instead, there was a drop-off. Were Americans concerned about the safety and security of the US? Was it fearful of importing a conflict to its shores? The severe drop-off in immigration and coinciding change of place of origin suggest that may be a factor. Another was the economy.

Economy: The decades of the 1910s and 1920s saw relatively weak average GDP per capita growth rates compared to prior decades: 1.28% and 1.27% for 1910s and 1920s, respectively. These anemic figures compared to prior decades of 1.65%, 2.04% and 2.13% in the 1880s, 1890s and 1900s, respectively. The subsequent stock market crash of 1929 and depression of the 1930s severely hurt the economy. This was probably the principle factor in the US population only growing at 7% compared to prior decades of 15% to 26% growth. Fewer jobs and a weaker economy led to fewer births and a stricter immigration policy set in place in 1924.

Decade Total Population Growth Immigrants % of Growth % Foreign-Born Americans
1880s 26% 20% 15%
1890s 21 8 14
1900s 21 20 15
1910s 15 3 13
1920s 16 2 12
1930s 7%


 United States 1960 – 2010

The 50 years from 1960 to 2010 saw an inversion of some of the immigration and population trends from the 1880-1930 period.

With the exception of the 1950s, every decade had a population growth that was less than from the MM period (10%-14% growth versus 15-26% in MM). Foreign-born people in the US became a rarity from the 1950s through the 1970s when they accounted for only 5-6% of the population (compared to 12-15% during the MM period).

The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 removed the former quota system that capped immigration from each country.  As such the 1970s and 1980s started to see a dramatic change in the make-up of the US population. While very few immigrants came to the US in the 1960s, the 1970s and 1980s had 17% and 26% of the total population growth come from immigrants, respectively.  The 1965 Act also resulted in a dramatic change in the ethnic origins of new immigrants: they were no longer coming from Europe, but from Latin America and Asia.

Source of US Immigrants (from US Census Bureau)

Decade Europe Asia Latin America
1950s 75% 5% 9%
1960s 62 9 19
1970s 39 19 33
1980s 23 26 44

Economy: The economy in the 1960s and 1980s were the best in US history. The average per capita GDP grew 2.88% and 2.26% each year, on average, during the 1960s and 1980s, respectively. As such, the growth in the immigrant population and the changing origin of those people did not generate considerable debate or concern from Americans or politicians.

That situation changed dramatically in the 2000-2009 decade.

Security and Economy: The US population growth in the 2000-2009 decade was the slowest in American history, growing by only 6% (even lower than the 1930s). That decade witnessed the attacks of September 11, 2001, stock market internet bubble collapse of 2000, and a large scale economic meltdown and financial crisis in 2008.

Decade Total Population Growth Immigrants % of Growth % Foreign-Born Americans
1950s 19% 5%
1960s 13 5
1970s 11 17% 6
1980s 10 26 8
1990s 13 37 11
2000s 6 41 13

Yet, against this backdrop, the foreign-born population in the United States in 2010 grew to 13% – the same percentage as existed during the peaceful growth mode of the mass migration.  This percentage is over twice the level that existed in the country just 30 years earlier, in 1980. Astonishingly, almost half of the growth in the US is now from immigrants – a rate not realized since the founding of the country hundreds of years ago.

Consider further, that most of the new immigrants are coming from Latin America that principally speaks a single language (Spanish) in comparison to immigration from Europe or Asia that brought a diverse number of languages. Such an enormous influx of a single language could create a bilingual country.


In the 50 years of the mass migration 1880-1930, the country took steps to curtail immigration as the economy slowed and from World War I. Today, the US has an aggressive immigration policy during a weak economy and has significant security concerns.

It is natural for a country that focuses on its quality-of-life and feels insecure about its safety and economy to see the population have fewer children and urge for curtailing immigration.

While the US economy improved from the 2008 financial meltdown to 2015, consumer sentiment remained weak, as many Americans remained unemployed and under-employed. In addition to the weak economy, Americans watched the collapse of the Middle East through videos of the horror on their smartphones. The fear of terror coming back to the US is real.

One could argue that America had the “benefit” of slowing GDP growth in the 1910s and 1920s which pushed the country to accept many fewer immigrants. By the time the depression of the 1930s hit, there was already a 1924 immigration law in place and the reality of a slowdown in accepting new “foreigners” for a couple of decades. However, in the US today, the number of foreigners are growing at an accelerated rate for the last few decades, just as the country experienced incredible turmoil.

When a person sees the plight of refugees in the Middle East, the human and moral reaction is to extend a hand. Indeed, President Obama decided to increase the quota of Syrian immigrants from that region to 10,000 in 2016. On top of humanitarian concerns, the Democratic president scored big with Hispanics (71% to 27% in the 2012 presidential election). These facts make Obama look very in favor of accelerating immigration.

However, it is unfair to paint all people who argue for a limit on refugees and immigrants at this time as xenophobic and racist. There is a natural ebb-and-flow to immigration, which often follows the status of the economy and perceived safety concerns. Considering the current double-impact of the economy and security, and the dramatic increase in immigration over the past three decades, a review of immigration policy would appear warranted.

International-Domestic Abuse: Obama and Netanyahu

Summary: The relationship between Israel and the United States is not one between peers. While the United States is a super-power that protects Israel in many ways, Obama’s use of its dominant position has led to an abusive relationship based on control.


In an ideal relationship, parties treat each other with mutual respect and care. Close and special relationships, such as marriage, are especially intimate due to their exclusive nature. When such a relationship turns, and one party chooses to assert control over the other, that physical or psychological trauma is referred to as “domestic abuse.”


Domestic abuse is a phenomenon that has a long sad history. It typically happens when a husband/boyfriend uses his power (money or physical size) to intimidate and harm his partner. As described in a blog:

Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her thumb. Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you.”

The aspect of control through intimidation is a key component of domestic abuse. One party is effectively threatened to comply with the wishes of the dominant party. The independent will is crushed with the threats of or actual violence (active or passive) or from withholding a needed or cherished item. The abused partner has nowhere to turn, as it is reliant on the abuser.

The dynamic can be seen between countries as well. The historic special relationship between the United States and Israel, has devolved into such an abusive relationship.


The bond between the US and Israel is unique in many respects.

The relationship is not just one of shared values, but Israel relies on the US in several key areas:

  • Trade: The US is Israel’s largest export partner (over 2.5x number two UK)
  • Military edge: The US gives Israel $3 billion of military aid each year
  • Protection at the UN: The US protects Israel at the United Nations Security Council, often as the sole vote to protect the country from condemnation

The three aspects of Israel’s heavy reliance on the United States have come under pressure over the last few years: the BDS movement (boycott, divestment and sanctions) has attempted to hurt trade; a nuclear Iran would create an imbalance for Israel’s security; and the protective US shield at the United Nations is being threatened.

obama scorn bibi


A natural relationship built on shared values, now more closely resembles an abuser-victim dynamic, as Obama increasingly asserted his powerful influence over Israel:

  • In 2010, Obama gave Netanyahu a series of demands to get the Israel-Palestinian talks moving including freezing settlements. Obama walked out of the meeting and left Netanyahu to stew. Israeli newspapers described the shame and weakness of Netanyahu. Netanyahu complied with Obama’s demand.
  • In 2011, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Obama had an exchange where they called Netanyahu “a liar” and terrible person with whom to deal.
  • In 2012, the Obama administration removed all of the supporting clauses for Israeli positions from the Democratic platform that had been there for years (Hamas is a terrorist state; Palestinian “refugees” would be relocated to Palestine, not Israel; future borders would not follow the 1949 Armistice Lines; Jerusalem is the united capital of Israel).
  • In 2013, while Iran threatened to destroy Israel, Obama entered into negotiations with the Iranians, preventing Israel from taking any actions against Iran’s nuclear program.
  • In 2013, Obama declined the invitation to address the Israeli Knesset. Instead he addressed a group of students at the same time stating his desire to speak to the Israeli people, as if the democratically elected parliament was not representative of Israelis. Consider the depth of the insult to Israel, as Obama spoke to the Egyptian parliament (in 2009) as representatives of Egypt.
  • In 2013 the Obama administration demanded Israel release Palestinian terrorists convicted of murder. Nothing was asked from the Palestinians. Netanyahu complied.
  • In 2014, when Israeli three teenagers were killed, Obama asked Israel to act with “restraint.” However, when two American journalists were killed by ISIS, Obama went to war.
  • In 2014, members of the Obama administration chose to disparage Netanyahu, calling him a “chickensh*t
  • In 2015, Obama snubbed Netanyahu at his address to a joint session of Congress, and got 58 Democratic members of Congress to walk out as well.
  • In 2015, Obama is enabling Iran to become a nuclear state. Iran has repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel, and Obama has refused to sell Israel the required defensive weaponry such as bunker busters.
  • Most recently, Obama has threatened to withhold his United Nations vote to protect Israel.

The last two actions taken by Obama are particularly frightening to Israel’s Netanyahu.

Nuclear Iran: Enabling Iran to obtain nuclear weapons is a direct existential threat to Israel. Iran has threatened to destroy Israel and has a long history of supporting terrorist groups that attack Israel (Hezbollah and Hamas) with weapons and financing. With the government of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, the country becomes an existential threat, its proxy armies become an enormous threat, and the ability for Israel to attack Iran is significantly weakened.

Further, Iran becoming a nuclear state would create an arms race in the region, as other enemies of Israel like Saudi Arabia will also seek to obtain nuclear weapons.

Withholding UN vote: The United States has used its vote on the United Nations Security Council to protect Israel from a wide range of actions including premature Palestinian statehood and harsh economic sanctions.  If Obama follows through with this threat to move away from Israel, Israel would come under tremendous financial and security pressure.


Congress has taken note of the terrible trend in Obama’s actions and has taken steps to protect Israel.

Senator Lindsay Graham with Israeli PM Netanyahu

In April 2015, the Senate passed a bill making it difficult for any company to do business with a company or country that supported BDS of Israel.

Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner invited Netanyahu to address Congress about the Iran nuclear negotiations. That speech launched the momentum for a role for Congress in the Iranian nuclear program negotiations.

It is difficult for Congress to take direct actions against the president’s policies at the United Nations, as he controls the vote. However, Congress controls funding of the United Nations as well as the Palestinian Authority. Senator Lindsay Graham has stated his intention to use the power of the purse to prevent unilateral UN actions against Israel. “Any effort by the French, the Jordanians or anyone to avoid direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians over the peace process, anyone who tries to take this [resolution] to the U.N. Security Council, there will be a violent backlash by the Congress that could include suspending funding to the United Nations,” Graham said.

All three issues on which Israel relies on the United States are under threat by Obama, and only the US Congress is attempting to ameliorate the situation.

If Israel’s neighbors did not threaten to destroy the country both directly and indirectly, perhaps Israel would not feel alarmed.

If Israel were not surrounded by an Arab winter inferno, perhaps its fears would not be so immediate.

If Israel had many allies in the world, perhaps the abusive relationship between Obama and Netanyahu would not be as upsetting and painful.

However, the realities are different.  As such, Netanyahu has turned to Congress to become Israel’s domestic violence hotline .  What a sad state of affairs.

Related First One Through articles:

Israel is a Small Country

Israel cannot afford to be smug about its security

Obama not concerned about timeliness of Israel’s security

Israel: Security in a Small Country

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Israel as “a small country, one of the smallest”. That is true, but only part of the story. As Bibi added “Israel is strong, but it’s much more vulnerable [than the US].

Bibi Boehner
Netanyahu addressing US Congress,
March 2015

Size: Israel is about 20,000 square kilometers, using the 1949 Armistice Lines, or 22,000 including the eastern part of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. It puts it on par with El Salvador, ranking 153rd in terms of land size.

Shape: Israel is very narrow along a significant stretch of its commercial center – only 15km across. Indeed, the slender, jagged shape of the country yields over 1,000km of borders. The ratio of land size to borders ranks Israel as the 15th smallest country in the world.

Neighbors: Most of the very small countries have very few neighbors. The smallest countries and territories, the Vatican, Monaco, San Marino, Liechtenstein, St. Martin, Andorra, Gibraltar and St. Maarten only border one or two countries. However, Israel has SIX neighbors: Lebanon; Syria; Jordan; “West Bank”; Egypt; and Gaza. By way of comparison, most countries with six neighbors are much larger (such as Argentina, which is over 130 times as large). Just beyond Israel’s borders, Turkey and Qatar openly support the Jihadist Hamas party in Gaza.

Status: Israel is unique in having a hostile relationship with most of its neighbors. All six of the surrounding countries are part of the Arab world and have launched wars against Israel at various times since the founding of Israel in 1948. Gaza (run by Hamas) openly calls for Israel’s destruction. Syria (and its puppet state Lebanon) have been in an ongoing state of war with Israel for years. Both countries are supported by Iran which has also called for Israel’s destruction and is on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons. Syria itself was also building a nuclear facility before being stopped by Israel.

Other small countries with six bordering countries, like Oman, have not been repeatedly attacked by its neighbors.

Capital city: Israel is unique in having its capital questioned by the global community. While much of the world recognizes the western part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, countries have not moved their embassies to the city. No countries recognize Israel’s annexation of the eastern part of Jerusalem.

Israel is also unique (except Nicosia, Cyprus which is also a contested capital city), in having its capital sit on the border of another territory. Compare the small countries of Belize and El Salvador, whose capital cities are 50km and 80km, respectively, from the closest neighboring countries. By way of comparison, the entire width of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is only 75km.

Israel is small and narrow, surrounded by countries that have repeatedly gone to war against the country and have threatened its existence. Its capital city is besieged by the global community that doesn’t recognize it, wants to divide it and place it on an international border, which all countries in the world avoid for security reasons.  Such a vulnerable country needs particular protections.

Security in a Vulnerable Landscape

For a country like Israel to have security and remain a viable country, a number of items would need to be established, if a Palestinian state were to be created:

  • No military for such Palestinian state, only local police
  • Israel would maintain full control of air space for its air force
  • Israel controls the borders
  • No division of the capital Jerusalem, and Israel further annexes land to the east of the city through to Ma’ale Adumim
  • Israel annexes land to the security barrier, which has helped maintain security over the past decade
  • Very limited land given from Israel to Palestine (the 1949 armistice Lines were arbitrary so there is no reason to maintain a quid pro quo in swapping land) as the Israeli landscape and topography are already too vulnerable
  • Hamas must be expelled from the Palestinian government and banned as a political party
  • Palestinian Authority must assume control of Gaza and EGL (East of the Green Line)
  • No negotiations with Syria on the Golan Heights for at least a decade after a Palestinian state is created. No negotiations if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon and/or continues to threaten Israel

While Israel has built an incredible democracy and thriving economy in the midst of a turbulent region, the size, shape and neighborhood require ongoing safeguards.

Related First One Through articles:

A Viable Palestinian State

Israel cannot solely rely on treaties – witness Ukraine in 2015

Obama’s cavalier approach to Israel’s security 

Obama does not consider Israel’s security to be time sensitive

Liberals and conservatives on Iran’s WMDs