Israel’s Fertility Policy Bears Fruit

January 30, 2013

Multiple Pages
Israel’s Fertility Policy Bears Fruit

With the Washington establishment agreeing that what America needs right now is to double down on guest workers and amnesty for illegal aliens, it’s worthwhile to notice how a serious country such as Israel deals with past mistakes in immigration policy.

In America, we try not to learn from the past. For example, in all the talk this year about a new amnesty, how often have you heard mention of one of the 1986 amnesty’s chief unanticipated consequences: the subsequent Hispanic baby bubble?

This drove up the total fertility rate among foreign-born Latinas from 3.2 in 1987 to 4.4 in 1991 before finally subsiding back to the baseline in 2000. (The replacement rate is 2.06.)

The demographic bulge proved hugely expensive to California taxpayers. In the later 1990s, this pig-in-the-python cohort started to overcrowd California schools, leading to construction of new ones. Since it takes forever to get anything built in California—the $578,000,000 Robert F. Kennedy facility on Wilshire Boulevard didn’t open until 2010 after a 21-year ordeal—by the time the new schools were finally finished, many of these Amnesty Bubble kids had already dropped out.

The Public Policy Institute of California asked in 2002:

Why did total fertility rates increase so dramatically for Hispanic immigrants?…In California alone, 1.6 million unauthorized immigrants applied for amnesty (legal immigrant status) under this act. The vast majority were young men, and many were agricultural workers who settled permanently in the United States.

Illegal aliens who get amnestied get lonely and send for ladies back home. When they aren’t illegal anymore, it’s time to have babies. The PPIC continues:

Previous research indicates that many of those granted amnesty were joined later by spouses and relatives in the United States….As a result, many young adult Hispanic women came to California during the late 1980s.

In contrast, Israel is not the kind of country to follow up a failed immigration experiment with more of the same.

“Israel’s government and society have done an impressive job showing that a determined polity can alter fertility rates in its own favor.”

Between 1984 and 1991, Israel achieved a public-relations coup by importing tens of thousands of Ethiopians who claimed to be Jews. Over the last decade, however, Israel has been taking direct action to limit its black citizens’ fertility.

Originally, Israel had banned immigration by the various sub-Saharan African tribes that claim some kind of hazy Jewish heritage, arguing that they aren’t real Jews. (Recent DNA studies suggest that Ethiopian Jews are only tenuously related to other Jews. These communities probably had a limited number of Jewish ancestors, travelers who married into the much larger local populations.)

In the fevered post-1967 ideological climate, however, Zionism was denounced around the world as racism, as the latest manifestation of white colonialism. The Jewish state hit upon the PR masterstroke of embracing its Ethiopian aspirants.

This didn’t mollify the Arabs, but the symbolism pleased a more important audience: American Jews concerned about Israel appearing racist. Unsurprisingly, this living proof that you could be Israeli and black proved immensely popular with American Jews, who showered Israel’s small community of Ethiopians with $600 million in donations.

Also unsurprisingly, the Ethiopians have proved increasingly less popular with their Israeli neighbors, who have come to view them and their children as backward and crime-prone. Whether that is due to white Israelis’ racism or to the blacks’ shortcomings is a matter of dispute.

What is clear is that Israelis have lost their naïveté about African immigrants.

Israel’s government has allowed most of the remaining Ethiopian Jews to immigrate, but it has not leapt at any of the new opportunities facilitated by DNA testing to declare additional East African tribes eligible. For example, since Robert Mugabe began destroying Zimbabwe’s economy, some of the Lemba people of that unfortunate land have been agitating for the right to move to Israel based on their vaguely Jewish customs and DNA. But Israel has not been forthcoming.

The booming Israeli economy naturally attracts black illegal immigrants. The Israeli government long relied on Egypt’s Mubarak regime to keep blacks from approaching its border, but the Arab Spring sprung a leak in that system.

So Israel has been hustling to finish its border fences to keep out black undocumented workers (or, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls them, “illegal infiltrators”). Contrary to American conventional wisdom, fences seem to work just fine in Israel. The Interior Ministry recently announced that African intruders dropped from 2,295 in January of 2012 to only 54 in October.

Most interestingly, since 2008 there has been evidence of a widespread resolve within Israeli society to drive down the fertility of its Ethiopian minority through forcefully persuading poorly educated black women into accepting injections of the Depo-Provera contraceptive.

Depo-Provera has long figured prominently among the bugaboos of leftist and black conspiracy theorists. They see it as part of the White Man’s Plot to reduce black fertility.

They may be right.

First tested on black welfare mothers in Georgia in 1967, Depo-Provera injections are publicly said to work for three months, although I’ve been told that they are effective for longer. (Note: Do not take medical advice from me.) The three-month label is supposed to be a cover story to get the more scatterbrained patients back in for another shot before the old one wears off.

Depo-Provera has long been most widely used in Third World countries but wasn’t approved for American use until the peak of the crack crisis in 1992. As hoped and/or feared, it has been more often prescribed to African Americans. It appears to have helped drive down their birthrate from the peak in 1991.

In Israel, Ethiopian women have said on camera that Israeli immigration officials told them that they wouldn’t be allowed into the country without taking Depo-Provera shots. They claim to have been subsequently browbeaten into staying on the contraceptive. One study found that Ethiopian women account for 57 percent of all Israel’s Depo-Provera prescriptions.

In December, an Israeli news show recorded an Israeli nurse telling an Ethiopian immigrant that the injections are given

primarily to Ethiopian women because they forget, they don’t understand, and it’s hard to explain to them, so it’s best that they receive a shot once every three months…basically they don’t understand anything.

Whether the Israeli approach to reducing black fertility is written or unwritten, it seems to be working. The Ethiopian-Israeli fertility rate is said to have dropped by nearly 50 percent in the last decade.

In contrast to Israelis, who obsess over demographics, Americans are never allowed to think about how proposed policies such as amnesty and guest workers will impact fertility, even though the current interpretation of the 14th Amendment grants instant citizenship to any child born in the US.

Overall, Israel’s government and society have done an impressive job showing that a determined polity can alter fertility rates in its own favor. It was long said that the Jewish state was doomed by the much higher total fertility of Israeli Muslims, who as recently as 2000 were having babies at a rate of 4.57 per lifetime compared to only 2.67 for Israeli Jews. How could anyone possibly close that gap?

Yet by 2011, the Muslim TFR had fallen to 3.51, while the Jewish TFR grew to 2.98.

Israel deserves careful study by Americans. It demonstrates what an intelligent, self-governing people can accomplish.

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