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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Immigration Breakdown, A Fareed Zakaria Special. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired July 16, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ACOSTA: Zakaria GPS takes an in-depth look at immigration, the border, the politics, the economy, and the fascinating history of immigration, a story that has intertwined with America's most contentious issue of race.
"IMMIGRATION BREAKDOWN: A FAREED ZAKARIA SPECIAL" starts in just a few moments. You're not going to want to miss it. Fareed is a good friend of the program, always has great insights. It's going to be a terrific program to watch. It starts right now.
Have a good night. Have a good week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Massive influx of migrants.
SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: People who are scared, who are desperate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reality is, there's just too many people.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My message is this, do not just show up at the border.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are the United States of America. None of us would have our children in that position. They are human beings.
RANDALL KENNEDY, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Who gets to be part of the American political family? Who can become an American?
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our country is full.
TOM GJELTEN, AUTHOR, "A NATION OF NATIONS": How can anyone be anti- immigrant? We are all immigrants.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The glory of America is the melting pot.
RONALD REAGAN, 40TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The dreams that unfold here, it forebodes of what make America soar.
GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People are willing to risk everything for the dream of freedom.
BARACK OBAMA, 44TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are and always will be a nation of immigrants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: I'm Fareed Zakaria. Welcome to a special hour on immigration.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A major surge of border crossings --
ACOSTA: That number could double in the coming days.
LAVANDERA: Reaching emergency levels.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): It's no longer just a partisan talking point or a hyperbolic claim on FOX News.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The number of people arriving from other parts of the world have been staggering.
ZAKARIA: The country has been facing a surge of migration, the likes of which has never been seen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Streams of people every day, every hour.
ZAKARIA: A record 2.4 million migrants were apprehended at the border last fiscal year. That shattered the record set the previous year and nearly equaled the total population of Chicago.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the clock is ticking.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Officials on the border are sounding the alarm.
ZAKARIA: Hundreds have been arriving every day to some border cities.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now what?
ZAKARIA: Sometimes tens of thousands of migrants in a single month.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of our shelters are already at capacity.
ZAKARIA: Homeless shelters have been overwhelmed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not even about politics. It's about humanity.
ZAKARIA: Families have been sleeping on the streets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have hundreds and hundreds and that's not the way we want to treat people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on in, guys.
ZAKARIA: These border towns are no strangers to big migrations. But they have never gone through anything like this.
The numbers at the border went down in recent weeks after more restrictive measures were introduced, but the future is still very uncertain.
RACHEL SELF, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: It's a perfect storm of a system that just is ultimately breaking.
ZAKARIA: Why is this happening now? It's a unique moment in the history of the hemisphere.
The pandemic and climate change with its brutal storms, droughts and disease led to economic meltdowns, political unrest, and a perfect storm of migration.
DAVID FRUM, THE ATLANTIC: We have a planet of people on the move. More people moving to more places than ever before in the history of the world.
ZAKARIA: Cuban migration to the United States rose nearly 500 percent in a single year. Colombian migration rose over 1100 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Major political upheaval continues to roil the nation.
ZAKARIA: Over seven million people have fled Venezuela to the U.S. and other countries. That is close to the exodus from war-torn Ukraine.
SELF: These are people who all had families, had lives, had jobs, and their country fell apart. Then they take the journey and the journey in itself is a life-or-death experience.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One-year-old Brenda has no shoes.
ZAKARIA: They've come to El Paso, a city with a proud history of welcoming immigrants overwhelmed by a global crisis.
J. DAVID GOODMAN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The leadership in El Paso, the mayor, was forced to declare a state of emergency there.
ZAKARIA: They've come to small towns like Eagle Pass, Texas, which saw more migrants in one month than it had total residents.
GOODMAN: Even several hundred coming into a town can really have an impact on sort of the psyche of the people that were there.
ZAKARIA: The border turmoil has had a big impact on border politics.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The shocking twist came out of the border region.
ZAKARIA: Zapata County in Texas had not voted Republican for president since the 1920s. Mitt Romney lost there by 43 percentage points.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the first time in a hundred years --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some blue went red.
ZAKARIA: But Donald Trump won in 2020.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump cared about the border.
ZAKARIA: By five.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: County after county, voters have moved 40 points away from the Democrats.
ZAKARIA: Republicans have made big gains all along the Texas border.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flipped from blue to red.
GOODMAN: The fact that we're even talking about South Texas as a competitive area of the state of Texas is a real shift.
ZAKARIA (on-camera): It's a trend we've seen repeatedly all over the world, anger over immigration leads to hard-right populist power.
(Voice-over): Back in 2015, Europe witnessed its largest refugee crisis since the end of World War II, triggered by the brutal civil war in Syria. European nations took in millions. It was a courageous humanitarian action. But it sparked a major political backlash.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The British people have spoken and the answer is we're out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The U.K. officially leaves the European Union.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Decided to leave the European Union, to go it alone.
NIGEL FARAGE, FORMER MEMBER OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: We've got our country back.
ZAKARIA: There was Brexit in Great Britain.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is anti-immigration and has been an admirer of Vladimir Putin's.
ZAKARIA: And Marine Le Pen with growing tallies in France.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meloni started her political -- in real fascist part.
ZAKARIA: Just last year in Italy, a party descended from Benito Mussolini.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Her platform is restrictions on migration.
ZAKARIA: Formed the most far-right government there since World War II.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A turning point in Swedish politics.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was formed by the Nazi movement.
ROSEMARIE CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Blamed liberal immigration policies for the country's problems.
ZAKARIA: In Sweden, a party with Neo-Nazi roots --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Issues like crime, immigration front and center.
ZAKARIA: -- won the second most seats in the country's parliament.
TRUMP: I just received a call from Secretary Clinton.
FRUM: In the United States we saw Donald Trump use the issue to get himself to the presidency.
TRUMP: Stop the steal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: America showed up.
FRUM: And then began busting up all kinds of institutions that affected the lives of Americans.
You never know until it's too late. If liberals won't defend the borders, fascists will.
ZAKARIA: Disturbingly America seems very open these days to an anti- immigrant message. More than half of Americans believe there is an invasion at the border including 40 percent of Democrats. And while three in four once believed that immigrants were important for America's identity, just over half now think that is true. And with 2024 fast approaching, two of the most politically savvy governors have honed in on this issue.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: We're dealing with smugglers, cartels. The Biden administration is doing nothing. It is unprecedented and it's dangerous.
ZAKARIA: In Texas Governor Greg Abbott launched Operation Lone Star.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's arrested thousands of migrants for criminal trespassing.
ZAKARIA: As if to gird his state for a war. He's being a wall just like Trump did.
ABBOTT: We are building the border wall in the state of Texas.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor Greg Abbott has been sending migrants in bus loads.
ZAKARIA: Then there was the bussing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where will these migrants be spending the night?
ZAKARIA: Thousands were dropped off with little warning, even on the coldest Christmas Eve ever recorded in the nation's capital.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: If you look at what's going on at the southern border, it is a total disaster.
ZAKARIA: But the governor who outperformed everyone with his political theater --
DESANTIS: The cartels are just eating our lunch.
ZAKARIA: -- was Ron DeSantis of Florida.
DESANTIS: Aren't you glad to live in the free state of Florida?
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: The nation's migrant crisis landing at an unfamiliar doorstep tonight.
ZAKARIA: He hatched a secret plan to fly migrants to the liberal island of Martha's Vineyard. A former counterintelligence agent was used to target migrants in San Antonio with promises of housing and jobs. But when the migrants got off their plane, absolutely no one was expecting them. They had been duped.
SELF: There were just people wandering around on the island knocking on doors who didn't understand why they were there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through text translation): To sum up the story, the trip was literally a trick.
SELF: What became very clear very quickly was that these people had been victims of a crime.
ZAKARIA: Without naming suspects, a Texas sheriff has recommended criminal charges alleging unlawful restraint. Governor DeSantis has denied any wrongdoing and has since orchestrated more flights of migrants to California.
DESANTIS: We are not a sanctuary state and, yes, we will help facilitate that transport for you to be able to go to greener pastures.
ZAKARIA: He also passed one of the harshest laws punishing undocumented immigrants ever seen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Laws that were created in the name of xenophobia.
DESANTIS: More racial profiling, frivolous stops.
ZAKARIA: Which could punish his state's economy to the tune of billions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These immigrant workers are the drivers of Florida's economy.
ZAKARIA: If he becomes president, DeSantis promises mass deportations, ending birthright citizenship, and using deadly force against migrants at the border.
(On-camera): How did we get here? America has long prided itself as the happy, vibrant melting pot, a nation that lives in harmony with its newcomers. But if we look back at our history honestly, more often than not, the story is filled with resentments, restrictions, and backlash.
(Voice-over): In the mid-1800s, fleeing a terrible famine at home, the Irish flocked to America. They found a new home and jobs, but their arrival also sparked the rise of the xenophobic Know Nothing party. It called for restrictions on immigration and even violence, electing 100 congressmen, eight governors and a presidential candidate.
KENNEDY: The fact of the matter is, what is happening now has a long lineage.
ZAKARIA: America accepted Chinese workers so that it could build out the west. That led to another violent backlash and the Chinese Exclusion Act which restricted a nation from America's shore.
But the ugliest crusade against immigrants happened in the 1920s. A huge wave of immigrants was landing in America, the largest this country has ever seen. 100,000 people a month arriving at Ellis Island. Italians, Hungarians, Russians.
KENNEDY: You have the so-called good white Europeans, Great Britain, France, Scandinavian countries, those are the, you know, the real whites, the good whites. But then you have these Jews from Eastern Europe and you have the Italians from Italy, southern Europe.
ZAKARIA: They were actually viewed as different races.
KENNEDY: In the 19th century, Hungarians are race, Czechoslovakians are race, Jews are race, Irish are race. They were whitish. There's a certain skepticism about them. They're viewed as lesser.
ZAKARIA: The new immigrants crowded into the tenements of New York's Lower East Side. Exotic food carts lined the sidewalks. Throngs of barefoot children played in the streets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many of the nationalities gather together in settlements of their own.
JIA LYNN YANG, AUTHOR, "ONE MIGHTY AND IRRESISTIBLE TIDE: They worshiped differently. They have different religions, they dress differently. They're speaking Yiddish. They have Italian foods. These are all things that are completely new to America.
ZAKARIA: All of it horrified America's wealthy elite. The blue bloods of Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue.
YANG: They begin to freak out. They freak out and say we can't allow all these hordes of new immigrants to come who are so different from us. They're going to change our country. These immigrants threaten everything they hold dear about America.
ZAKARIA: So some of the nation's most prominent men got together and hatched a plan.
THOMAS C. LEONARD, AUTHOR, "ILLIBERAL REFORMERS": These are men who saw themselves as the best and the brightest, for sure. And these are respected people.
ZAKARIA: They put their money and prestige behind scientists who were studying so-called inferior races. A pseudoscience call eugenics.
GJELTEN: Whether you would be a good immigrant or not depended on your race and national origin.
ZAKARIA: The goal, use science to weed out those deemed unfit.
KENNEDY: They weren't beating around the bush. They weren't speaking in code. They said it very straightforwardly. We want to basically freeze the racial-slash-ethnic composition of the United States.
ZAKARIA: Eugenicists believed that the new immigrants were physically and mentally defective.
YANG: The more Jews you let in, the more Italians, they have all of these negative qualities that we don't want in the American population. They're more likely to commit crimes, they're more likely to be mentally insane or ill.
ZAKARIA: If it sounds like Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler embraced American eugenics.
KENNEDY: Adolf Hitler had some real praise for the United States. Adolf Hitler says the United States is really on the money and we can learn from them.
ZAKARIA: Eugenicists decided it was time to go to Washington. They presented evidence to write a new immigration bill, the harshest the country had ever seen.
YANG: They have expert testimony. They have studies to show. And they basically say to Congress, it's not just you being prejudiced or racist, not wanting these immigrants. There's science to back this up.
KENNEDY: We don't want these people from other places coming. Come on.
ZAKARIA: The law passed. The Immigration Act of 1924 sharply cut immigration from across the world putting rigid quotas on so-called undesirables.
LEONARD: They shut the door and reduced immigration to the United States by 97 percent.
ZAKARIA: The Immigration Act of 1924 made America a different country. It would get whiter and more monocultural.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JUNIOR, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.
ZAKARIA: Until a new revolution that changed everything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we want now?
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Freedom --
ZAKARIA: That story next.
ZAKARIA: The year was 1965. Freedom and racial equality were on the march. From Selma to Montgomery.
KING: We are standing before the forces of power in the state of Alabama saying we ain't going to let nobody turn us around.
ZAKARIA: And yet, America's immigrants were still effectively chosen based on the color of their skin. Asians, Africans and other groups were severely restricted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ellis Island will be their first taste of the promised land.
ZAKARIA: The race-based immigration system that began in the 1920s, which Adolf Hitler had admired, was still going strong.
LYNDON B. JOHNSON, 36TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those who do come will come because of what they are and not because of the land from which they sprung.
ZAKARIA: But in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, everything would change.
JOHNSON: With my signature this system is abolished.
ZAKARIA: President Lyndon Johnson signed a sweeping new measure declaring that America would be color blind when choosing its immigrants.
JOHNSON: Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.
ZAKARIA: The law was a little known chapter of the Civil Rights Movement, and it would change the face of America. Setting it on a path to become a much more diverse country. This demographic revolution happened largely by accident thanks in part to a congressman who wanted to keep America white.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are a prospering people. Wherever we live or earn our livelihood.
ZAKARIA: By the 1960s, the authors of the racist immigration laws of the 1920s had gotten exactly what they wanted. America was overwhelmingly white.
YANG: They wrote laws to ensure that that would happen. And it worked.
ZAKARIA: Immigration had plummeted. The percentage of foreign-born Americans dropped by nearly two-thirds. As a "New York Times" headline had predicted, America's melting pot had effectively come to an end. But since the war against Nazi Germany, there had been a growing consensus that a race-based approach to immigration was wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Nazis devised their own quota system.
KENNEDY: Because of the awfulness of Hitlerism, the awfulness of the Nazis, they say, this is terrible. We need to rethink this. We need to redo this.
HARRY TRUMAN, 33RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I shall ask for adequate and decent law for displaced persons.
ZAKARIA: President Harry Truman despised the country's immigration laws.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of them have been behind barbed wire for years.
ZAKARIA: They discriminated against post-war refugees, shutting many of them out. Even holocaust survivors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Truman signs a new bill.
ZAKARIA: He signed a landmark law letting in more refugees.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arriving in the USA is the first batch of displaced persons.
ZAKARIA: But he could not get rid of the race-based immigration system. President Eisenhower was also not a fan of the old laws.
DWIGHT EISENHOWER, 34TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES The calculated pressures of aggressive communism.
ZAKARIA: Because for him they damaged America's image as it fought the Cold War.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Soviet Russia parades its military strength.
GJELTEN: You had communist governments that were saying to their peoples, look, the United States is a racist country and we were very concerned about sort of losing a propaganda advantage.
ZAKARIA: What's more, earlier immigrant group like Italian Americans, once said to be racially inferior, were becoming part of the American family.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We in America are immigrants.
ZAKARIA: A new idea was born.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A people welded from many nations and races.
ZAKARIA: America, the land of immigrants.
YANG: We take it for granted that that's how we've always imagined ourselves. That's new at this time.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, 35TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My country welcomed so many sons and daughters of so many countries, and gave them a fair chance and a fair opportunity.
ZAKARIA: One of the early champions of that new idea was John F. Kennedy.
KENNEDY: He was part of the immigration story. The Kennedys, Irish immigrants.
ZAKARIA: As a senator, he wrote a classic essay on the topic.
J. KENNEDY: No distinction is made between the native born and the naturalized citizen.
ZAKARIA: And he called for an overhaul of the discriminatory immigration laws.
J. KENNEDY: We want to go forward.
ZAKARIA: Pushing for fair immigration was not only right in Kennedy's view, it was good politics.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 14 weeks of campaigning, he attracts enormous crowds.
ZAKARIA: Since recent arrivals were gaining political clout. Kennedy's support for immigration --
J. KENNEDY: Ask not what --
ZAKARIA: -- helped vault him to the presidency.
J. KENNEDY: So help me God.
ZAKARIA: In July of '63, he submitted an immigration bill to Congress.
J. KENNEDY: All people can make equally good citizens.
ZAKARIA: Promising equal treatment of all peoples.
Just a few weeks later, thousands marched on Washington.
KING: Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.
YANG: A time when there's protests saying we've got to have a country founded on equality of all people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we want now?
YANG: We said that in our documents before but now it's time to really live it out.
ZAKARIA: But Kennedy's immigration bill stalled in Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president's car is now turning on to Elm's Street.
ZAKARIA: And then that November --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It appears as though something has happened in the motorcade group.
ZAKARIA: Tragedy struck.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States is dead.
ZAKARIA: Vice President Johnson was suddenly thrust into power.
JOHNSON: I need your help. I cannot bear this burden alone.
ZAKARIA: He urged Congress to honor the fallen president.
JOHNSON: No memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest possible passage of the Civil Rights Bill for which he fought so long.
I urge every American to join in this effort.
ZAKARIA: Congress responded.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All men are created equal --
ZAKARIA: -- passing the Civil Rights Act.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most sweeping civil rights bill ever to be written into the law.
ZAKARIA: The Voting Rights Act.
JOHNSON: Today is a triumph for freedom.
ZAKARIA: Medicare and Medicaid.
JOHNSON: A nation that was built by the immigrants of all lands.
ZAKARIA: Immigration was next on the agenda.
JOHNSON: We should not be asking in what country were you born.
ZAKARIA: But the president faced a big obstacle. Congressman Michael Fein of Ohio.
MICHAEL FEIN, THEN OHIO CONGRESSMAN: Our subcommittee held executive hearings this morning.
ZAKARIA: Fein a conservative Democrat who led the House's main immigration committee.
JOHNSON: Where's my immigration bill, God damn it? When are we going to get a bill out?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our friend Fein is still sitting on it.
ZAKARIA: He was a staunch defender of the old quotas, determined to preserve America's whiteness. Southern segregationists like Strom Thurmond joined him and other opponents of the bill warned of impending doom. There would be, quote, "unlimited Orientals and Negroes," they feared. Quote, "Hordes of Congolese cannibals. A Trojan horse at our gate."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The voice of the people was heard in the land.
ZAKARIA: But thanks to Johnson's legendary political skills --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An overwhelming mandate is headed to Lyndon Baines Johnson.
ZAKARIA: And the landslide election of 1964 --
JOHNSON: Ours is a time of change.
ZAKARIA: -- the president had the votes in Congress.
JOHNSON: Now under the monument which has welcomed so many to our shores.
ZAKARIA: On October 3rd, 1965.
JOHNSON: Those who seek refuge here in America will find it.
ZAKARIA: The president signed the Immigration and Nationality Act. Every nation now had an equal shot at sending its best. The president and his allies did not expect the law to actually bring in a lot more immigrants.
JOHNSON: This bill that we will sign today is not a revolutionary bill.
ZAKARIA: Congressman Fein actually believed that America would stay white. He had negotiated a big concession in the bill to give family ties more weight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People pledge proud dedication to their chosen land.
ZAKARIA: He assumed that that would benefit white Europeans since they already had relatives in America.
FEIN: Congratulations. Nice to have you.
ZAKARIA: But he would be proven very wrong. Immigrants arriving after 1965 were over 75 percent non-European. Coming from places like Asia and Latin America. They relied heavily on the family unification measures to bring in their clan. The very measures that the congressman had pushed for.
Thanks to the 1965 act, America today is on its way to becoming a majority nonwhite country by 2045.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lock them all up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shut your mouth. Go back.
ZAKARIA: That colossal demographic shift --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you don't like it, leave.
ZAKARIA: -- met a wave of resentment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president wondered aloud, "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?"
ZAKARIA: And migration under Trump plummeted by roughly two-thirds.
TRUMP: We take anybody. Come on in, anybody. Not anymore.
ZAKARIA: And those policies have led America into a new immigration crisis.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seven million workers banished.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Desperate for people willing to go to work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've never had this many job openings ever in history.
ZAKARIA: One hardly anyone is talking about.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two job openings for every job seeker.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's a big problem all over the country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's actually been fueling inflation.
ZAKARIA: Which could take money out of your wallet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The big question now, when will prices start dropping?
ZAKARIA: That's coming up next.
ZAKARIA: Populist conservatives are right. America is facing an immigration crisis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to build a wall.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Build that wall! Build that wall! Build that wall!
TRUMP: Our country is full.
ZAKARIA: But they're hung up on the wrong crisis. The real disaster isn't that too many immigrants have made it to the U.S.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are now U.S. citizens. Congratulations.
ZAKARIA: It's that we aren't letting in nearly enough.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The fertility rate in the United States fell to yet an all-time low.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More and more American women are deciding not to have kids at all.
ZAKARIA: America is in the middle of a baby bust.
ROBERT GUEST, DEPUTY EDITOR, THE ECONOMIST: The birthrate has fallen dramatically. It's below replacement level.
ZAKARIA: Not enough Americans are being born to replace those who have died.
LEONARD: Historically, the safety valve for the U.S. has been immigrants.
ZAKARIA: But starting under President Trump, immigration to the U.S. plummeted. Cutting us off from the workers we desperately need.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Growing fears of a recession.
ZAKARIA: And fanning the flames of economic decline.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A massive labor shortage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The highest inflation in 40 years.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The clock is ticking on Social Security.
ZAKARIA: America has three options.
GUEST: You can either have more babies.
ZAKARIA: Which many experts say just won't happen.
GUEST: Or you can welcome more immigrants, or you can dwindle and fade into stagnation and irrelevance. I would favor the second option, welcoming more immigrants.
ZAKARIA: Instead, we've chosen the third, stagnation. Refusing to let in more foreign workers, according to one estimate, could cost the U.S. economy $9 trillion by 2030. On the other hand --
GUEST: If everybody in the world who wanted to move could move, by one estimate, the total income of humanity would double.
ZAKARIA: You heard that right. Global wealth would roughly double. As workers from less affluent countries move to join bustling economies. Other nations are looking to cash in on that gold mine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Immigrants flock in, one million a year.
ZAKARIA: Taking a page from America's old playbook.
GUEST: A number of countries noticed what it was that made America the richest, most powerful, most dynamic country in the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have come with little but their clothes on their backs.
GUEST: By welcoming people from all sorts of places, and allowing them to become citizens.
ZAKARIA: Take Canada, for example. While America's population is 14 percent foreign born, Canada's population is 23 percent immigrant. And that number is about to rise even higher.
Late last year, Canada announced a bold initiative.
SEAN FRASER, CANADA'S MINISTER OF IMMIGRATION: Look, folks. It's simple to me. Canada needs more people.
ZAKARIA: To bring in nearly 1.5 million foreigners in three years. Immigration isn't a threat to our northern neighbor. It's an opportunity.
JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: We need people to arrive with their talents, with their hopes, with their dreams to build our communities, to build our future.
ZAKARIA: Study after study has shown that immigrants are world-class entrepreneurs. Over 40 percent of Fortune 500 countries were founded by immigrants or their children.
GJELTEN: Immigrants are the people who are most enterprising, the most courageous, the most creative. And these are precisely the people that can build an economy.
ZAKARIA: Immigrants in America are three times more likely to start a business than the native born by one count.
SELF: The American dream is alive and well in every single immigrant that I've ever worked with.
ZAKARIA: Canada expects a similar return on investment. And it carefully chooses who gets to be part of the Canadian dream.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They came from many lands.
ZAKARIA: Since the 1960s, Canada has forged a unique world-renowned approach to immigration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Each has given something of his strength and skill.
ZAKARIA: Favoring immigrants with the skills that their country needs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone has played his part.
GUEST: They decided to cherry-pick and they're making sure that they're getting the people who are going to really help them.
ZAKARIA: Canada's merit-based system has become the gold standard, copied by Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and now Germany, mired in its own labor shortage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Around two million workers are needed across multiple industries.
ZAKARIA: Even a butcher shortage which threatens the nation's bratwurst supply. Berlin last month created its own merit-based immigration system to fill crucial jobs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Germany really is in urgent need of more foreign workers.
ZAKARIA: While other nations opened their doors, America is falling behind.
SELF: Other countries are going to be better than us some day because we aren't allowing the best to come here anymore.
ZAKARIA: Canada admitted over a quarter million skilled migrants and their families in 2021. The U.S. lets in only 85,000 highly skilled workers per year despite having eight times the population of Canada. The lucky few coming to America are just that, lucky and few. Skilled worker visas are so rare these days, they're awarded by a lottery.
FRUM: How can we drive home the point that this system is completely bonkers? What if we add a lottery on top of it? That just makes everyone understand this is capricious, arbitrary. The lottery is a symbol, but it's not a symbol of opportunity. It's a symbol of whimsicality.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tech giants shed jobs at a rapid clip.
ZAKARIA: What's more, even winning the immigration lottery --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Historic layoffs at Twitter, Meta, Lyft, and Amazon.
ZAKARIA: -- is no guarantee that someone will stay in America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More than 200,000 tech jobs have been lost since the start of last year.
ZAKARIA: When massive layoffs hit Silicon Valley in recent months, they likely included thousands of talented immigrants on temporary work visas. They were forced to find a new job in just 60 days or leave the country.
GUEST: What is it? That America has too many software engineers? It really doesn't. Nowhere has too many software engineers. These are absolutely essential people.
ZAKARIA: Some of the world's most promising talent kicked out the door. Other countries will be happy to have them.
Up next, I'll give you my thoughts on our broken immigration system.
ZAKARIA (on-camera): And now some concluding thoughts on immigration. Ten years ago, the last serious effort to fix America's broken immigration system collapsed.
(Voice-over): In April 2013, a bipartisan group of senators, the so- called Gang of Eight, tried to push forward a package that included the usual sensible reforms that have been talked about for years.
(On-camera): It included more border protections and sanctions against employing undocumented workers in the future, combined with a path to citizenship for currently undocumented workers.
EDWARD KENNEDY (D), THEN MASSACHUSETTS SENATOR: This debate goes to the heart of who we are as Americans.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Six years earlier, an even more ambitious and sensible reform effort, spearheaded by Senators Orrin Hatch and Edward Kennedy and endorsed by President George W. Bush, also collapsed.
(On-camera): The log jam on immigration is one of the most tangible results of our current polarized political climate. Even those who supported these efforts in the past, like Senator Marco Rubio, today distance themselves from any such policy proposals.
None of this will change until one central reality changes. America's current immigration system is broken. The border is in turmoil. Millions of people are gaming the system. Unless this stops and a system of laws and rules is established and followed, Americans will not support immigration reform.
The uncontrolled waves of migration hitting the southern border are making a mockery of the idea behind political asylum.
(Voice-over): In the wake of the holocaust, after 1945, several countries around the world announced that if people had legitimate fears that they would be killed because of their ethnicity, religion, or other such factors, they could apply for asylum status. It was clearly meant for extreme circumstances of persecution of individuals.
(On-camera): Now, however, millions of people come to the border of the United States -- and by the way, the same is happening in Europe -- and they all claim asylum. Although some of them might genuinely be victims of targeted persecution, many appear to be economic migrants, fleeing poverty and disease, who are understandably searching for a better life.
Some are victims of violence and gang warfare, but that is not what asylum status was meant to cover. After all, the same was surely true, earlier waves of migrants from, say, southern Italy or Ireland. Today there seems to be no real difference between most asylum seekers and simple economic migrants.
I don't blame the would-be immigrants for people seeking to come to the United States or France or Italy. They are making a rational decision, that claiming asylum gives them the strongest possible chance to stay. And while their cases are being adjudicated, they can often slip into the country and begin working anyway.
(Voice-over): This is not the only part of the immigration system that is failing. The bureaucracy devoted to it is understaffed and overworked. President Donald Trump deliberately jammed it up even more to the point that routine business visa applications from countries such as India can take months and months. Some students cannot enter the United States even after getting admission and full scholarships.
(On-camera): President Biden deserves credit. He's trying to fix things. He's expanded an existing parole program to include Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua, in addition to Venezuela. He's been criticized from both the left and the right. And in this particular case at least, it's a sign that he's doing something right. But he needs to do more.
(Voice-over): In December, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the son of immigrants, announced a new policy for Britain that more directly acknowledges that the asylum system is broken. And he's followed up by putting forth legislation to bar asylum seekers who arrive illegally in small boats. President Emmanuel Macron has also proposed measures to try to manage migration into France along similar lines.
(On-camera): As an immigrant myself, I am convinced that Americans are not hostile to the idea of immigration. But they are hostile to lawlessness, to people getting in not through following rules and laws, but rather because they slip in due to chaos and crises.
The tragedy of the current situation is that America needs more immigrants. And at its best, it has a proud tradition of welcoming and assimilating them, us. But as long as lawlessness rules, it keeps immigration alive as a political issue, makes sensible reform impossible. It creates resentment in the population, including among legal immigrants.
Now, with climate change, political instability, and economic crisis, the factors pushing more people towards the United States and Europe will only increase. Now is the time to devise an entirely new process, one that is not tethered to categories like asylum seekers and normal migrants, that recognizes the realities of today and addresses them. Otherwise, the politics of immigration will only get worse, which will be a tragic loss for America.
That is our report. Thanks for watching this special hour on immigration.