Patrick L. Sullivan
The Lakeville Journal
FALLS VILLAGE — Journalist and author Ray Suarez said that the demographic change in the United States to “majority-minority” is imminent and inevitable.
“It’s too late to change that shift,” he said. “We have no control over it.”
But, he added, “We can control what the years of transition will be like.”
Suarez was the guest speaker at The Salisbury Forum on Friday, April 27, at Housatonic Valley Regional High School.
He said the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act (aka the Hart-Celler Act, after sponsors Congressman Emanuel Celler, D-N.Y., and U.S. Sen. Philip Hart, D-Mich.) created the America of today and the near future.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) was a prominent advocate for the bill.
“The demographic cake is baked,” said Suarez. To those who wish to take action to reverse the trend, “It’s too late.”
“It’s not a good thing. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just a thing.
“It’s what you make of it that will tell the tale.”
He cautioned against obsessing over the demographic shift, from descendants of European immigrants to those from Africa, Asia and Latin America.
“Spending too much time and psychic energy is not going to help.”
He pointed out that previous waves of immigrants were not always welcomed with open arms, and the major overhaul of immigration policy prior to Hart-Celler, the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, used immigration data from 1890 to set quotas.
Those quotas favored European immigrants, since that was who was coming to the country at the end of the 19th century. With the passage of Hart-Celler in 1965, “America was now, in a real way, open to the world.”
“We are living in Teddy Kennedy’s America,” said Suarez.
“And in case you haven’t noticed, not everybody’s happy.”
Suarez was critical of statements by President Donald Trump and Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) about immigration, and said of the newcomers, “they will pick your crops, wait on your tables, take your vital signs, lay your sod.
“They, at least, still have babies. And they’ll be paying into FICA, to top off your Social Security.”
He said he didn’t believe that Americans skeptical of or opposed to the immigration status quo are motivated by fear of lost jobs.
“It’s not about economic anxiety. It’s a status threat: Who will be top dog?”
White Americans “will no longer be the sole and undisputed agenda-setters.”
Suarez said the pace of change is much faster than even 20 years ago. He pointed to advertisements using a same-sex couple to sell cars as something completely unthinkable within recent memory.
“The cat is out of the bag.”
He said that people who dislike this and other social changes are a small but steady percentage of the electorate.
“To the eye of the public, this is no big deal.”
Suarez reiterated that the change to a majority-minority population could be relatively smooth, or it could be difficult.
“We have choices about what kind of country we’re going to be. I hope we hold fast to our values.”