An Immigration Tipping Point

Wednesday, 31 December 2014 18:15

President Obama's courageous executive action for the undocumented could signal the tipping point on American's attitude about immigration.


A tipping point as explained by Malcolm Gladwell in the eponymous book The Tipping Point is the spot in the evolution of an idea where it suddenly becomes acceptable. Almost nobody thought slavery should be illegal in 1775, by 1850 a plurality of Americans did. The movement to outlawing alcohol and then the movement to re-legalize it both happened successfully within a forty year span. Women suffrage, ending Jim Crow discrimination and gay rights have all followed roughly the same curve. From being openly opposed, to being clearly acceptable to the majority.

In each case the tipping point was reached because ordinary people started to raise their voices. First it was only a few and the numbers grew slowly. They protested, petitioned Congress and made the case to their friends. Opinion leaders from churches, synagogues and other civic organizations joined the fray. The government tried to respond by taking half measures and by testing the new idea at the state and local level. When none of the dire predictions of the opponents came true the tipping point was reached and we passed votes for women, the equal rights amendment and are in the process of allowing gay marriage.

Is immigration reaching the tipping point? People have protested, half measures like DACA (deferred action for childhood arrivals) have been taken, nothing bad has happened, religious organizations are rallying to the cause. It seems like we are close to the tipping point.

2015 could be a good year for immigrants to the United States.