Immigration and Population Growth

The current immigration discussion often focuses on whether immigration is good or bad. But the real issue is how many immigrants can the U.S. absorb and who should be allowed in. Since the 1960's, annual immigration has increased from about 400,000 annually to about 2,000,000, an increase of 500 percent! Estimates of the cost to taxpayers of today's immigration level range from $30 to $60 billion annually, and increasing every year. At a time when Congress is wrestling with ways to reduce the deficit, the historically high level of immigration and the associated costs means that more dollars will have to be cut from benefits for the elderly, veterans, schools, the environment, etc.

Recent polls indicate that 70 percent to 80 percent of Americans want to reduce immigration, but our voices are not being heard. Powerful, well-financed, special interest groups have so far been successful in killing every effort to reduce immigration to sustainable levels. The Midwest Coalition to Reduce Immigration (MCRI) is an all-volunteer, not-for-profit non-partisan group dedicated to making the voices of Midwest citizens heard in this debate. But to be effective, we need thousands of additional members demanding meaningful immigration reform. Allow me to explain why your support is urgently needed.

Chart 1: US Census Population ForecastAs Chart 1 and Chart 2 dramatically demonstrate, unless the present immigration trends are significantly reduced, America will add more people in the next 60 to 70 years than in the almost 400 years since the founding of Jamestown in 1607. Immigration accounted for a population increase of more than 30 million people in just the last two decades. Immigrants tend to have much larger families than the average American. When we add in their children and their children's children, it quickly accumulates to 12 to 15 people for every immigrant allowed in. As a result the U.S. will add more than the entire population of Russia in only 30 years.

Chart 2: US Immigration HistoryImmigration was not a problem during the last century when there were open frontiers and we needed many strong backs to farm our lands, build our railroads, and work our mills. And even today there are examples of immigrants who are making a major contribution to our society. However, the majority of immigrants are uneducated and unskilled. Today, we are in the post- Industrial, Information Age when there is a surplus of unskilled labor. We have 20 million persons either unemployed or involuntarily working at part time or temporary jobs. We have another 20 million persons working at pay levels below the poverty level.

The result of today's immigration will be to swell the ranks of the poor in this country by the tens of millions. In the last great wave of immigration early in this century there wasn't any welfare and 40 percent of the aliens returned to their homelands when they could not find jobs. No one is going back now. The U.S. General Accounting Office study shows that immigrants are twice as likely to use welfare as the average American.

A recent analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies indicates that the population of Illinois is expected to increase by almost 3 million because of immigrants and their families during the next 25 years. The consequences are totally predictable:

  • Illinois will need to build an additional school every month for the next 25 years to handle the increased school enrollment due to children of the new immigrants. The city of Chicago already spends about $450 million to educate immigrant children; the fastest growing component of its budget is for bilingual education. Bilingual education increases the cost of education per student by about 50 percent.
  • Although most immigrants are law abiding, we can expect crime to increase. It costs Illinois $44 million a year to imprison illegal aliens. No estimates of the cost of jailed legal aliens are available, but since 1980 California has incurred a 600 percent increase in alien inmates. Nationally, 29 percent of federal prisoners are foreign-born.
  • Illinois is now spending more than $170 million on welfare for illegal immigrants. That is a mere drop in the bucket to what California has experienced. Illinois can expect its welfare cost to soar in the coming years. As a taxpayer it will come out of your pocket.
  • As rival ethnic groups vie for a dwindling number of good paying jobs we can expect inter-racial strife increasing and a general breakdown of the social cohesion that has held our country together for the past 200 years.

Most Members of Congress believe that the problem of immigration will be solved by simply strengthening our border patrol. This is mistaken on two counts. First, the borders of the US run for about 6000 miles, not even including the 4000 miles along the East and West Coasts. It is impossible to add enough Border Patrol agents to prevent determined aliens from sneaking in, especially when there is virtually no penalty for being caught.

Chart 2: US Immigration History
Second, illegal immigrants account for only about 50 percent of annual immigration. As Chart 2 shows, the vast majority of immigrants are legal. The problem is that ill-conceived legislation over the past two decades has dramatically increased immigration which is now running at eight times the historic level.

Immigration control can only be achieved by:

  • Removing the incentive to illegally enter the US by ending the demand for illegals. This requires a return to workplace enforcement that has all but been abandoned by the federal government. If employers knew they ran a high risk of major fines for hiring illegals, the practice would soon stop.
  • Protect honest employers who want to hire only legal immigrants by instituting a mandatory workplace verification program using the Social Security Administration's database. The current program now in place nationally is strictly voluntary.
  • End the present practice of “chain migration” whereby an immigrant who attains citizenship can petition to bring in all the members of his extended family, including parents and siblings (who can then petition for their relatives). The law should allow reunification for an immigrants wife and children only. Any other relatives should be treated as any other applicant wishing to migrate to the US.
  • End automatic citizenship for children of non-citizens born in the US.
  • Limit total immigration from all sources to 300,000 annually. This is about the long term average and would allow the US to maintain its tradition of being the most generous nation in the world in terms of immigration while stabilizing US population growth.