Minnesotans For Sustainability©

 

Sustainable:  A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.

 

 

 

U.S. Population Growth and Mass Immigration

Joseph L. Daleiden*
1999

 

U.S. Population Growth is the Highest Among Developed Nations
    Figure 4.1: U.S. Bureau of Census Projections
    Figure 4.2: Comparison of Population Growth in the U.S. and Mexico,1930 to 2000
    Figure 4.3: Legal and Illegal Immigrants, 1950‑1997
Congress Makes a Bad Situation Worse
    Figure 4.4: Our Immigration Tradition
    Table: U.S. Births Per 1,000 Women, 1996
The Economic and Social Consequences of Current Immigration Policies
    Reduced Job Opportunities and Depressed Wage Rates
        Table: Percentage Change in Population for Selected Age
    Immigration Hits Blacks the Hardest
    Recent Immigrants are also Hurt by the Excessive Rate of Present Immigration
    Tight Labor Markets are Key to Reducing Poverty and Increasing Income Equality
    Higher Health and Education Costs
    Increased Crime and Racial Backlash
    Accelerating Environmental Destruction
    The Balkanization of America



As pointed out in the last chapter, demographic trends are of little interest to politicians or the general public. Politicians rarely look beyond the next election, which in the case of the House of Representatives is never more than two years away. The public is generally concerned with the crisis du jour and seeks to blame the nation's problems on corrupt and inept politicians. My experience in Washington indicates that most politicians are not corrupt or even inept (although, oftentimes, neither they nor their staffs know much about demography or economics). In our democracy most politicians merely reflect what the majority of their constituents want. Regrettably, their constituents are not only driven by self‑interest, but are too often uninformed regarding the impact of demographic trends to seek an appropriate policy for America.

Consequently, although changes in the number and composition of the population is one of the most important factors regarding the ultimate success or failure of a society, it is the factor most often ignored. As the population of the United States continues its rapid growth and changes its demographic mix, many social problems have been exacerbated. But on a day‑to‑day basis the process has been so slow that it has avoided detection. (Remember the boiling‑frog syndrome referred to in our imaginary State of the Union address in the year 2050.) Americans should know that:

·        despite a slight increase in wages since 1995, after adjusting for inflation average hourly wage rates in 1997 were still below the level of twenty‑five years earlier;

·        income distribution has become far more unequal;

·        the environment continues to deteriorate in many parts of our nation;

·        urban sprawl is destroying the best farmland in the world;

·        open space is dwindling;

·        public education is failing our children;

·        we have made very little progress in reducing poverty; and

·        crime continues at unacceptably high rates compared to the 1950s.*

* Each of these trends will be documented in this or subsequent chapters.


Although increased population is not solely responsible for these problems, it strongly contributes to all of them. This is especially so when the growth in population is comprised of an increasing number of underskilled and poorly educated people. In the 1970s environmental organizations expressed a concern over population growth, and Americans generally scaled back the size of their families, until we were below the replacement level of 2.1 chil­dren per woman. However, most environmentalists, and Americans in general, completely ignored the growing impact of immigration.


U.S. Population Growth is the Highest Among Developed Nations

The United States now has the highest population growth rate in the industrialized world. We are adding about 2.3 million people every year. We are adding more people every decade than the total population of Australia and New Zealand (over 25 million people in the 1990s). To put this astounding growth into perspective: The U.S. population has doubled sixty‑four times since the first census in 1790, which showed a population of 4 million people, until reaching our 1997 population of 269 million. If our population were to double only twice more, it would equal that of India. If current trends continue this will occur within the lifetimes of our grandchildren.

Impossible you say? Back in 1978 when I worked as a consultant to U.S. Office of Management and the Budget, the Bureau of the Census pro­jected that the U.S. population for the year 2050 would be less than 300 million. I had previously put together some projections of my own that reflected the increase in immigrants and their high birth rates and forecasted a population of over 400 million by 2050. When I shared these projections with the Census Bureau, they were met with derision. I was told that I was an alarmist. As late as 1989, the Census Bureau's Middle Series projection for the year 2050 was only 299 million.1

Figure 4.1: U.S. Bureau of Census Projections

Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports P-25-1104.


By 1998, the Census Bureau's Middle Series projections jumped by 100 million people and now forecasts the population to reach almost 400 million people by 2050 as shown in figure 4.1. This projection still assumes net immigration below the average of the last decade and relatively constant fer­tility rates.
2 If the annual number of legal and illegal immigrants remains the same as today, and the number of births reflect the higher fertility rates of immigrants the United States (it takes two to three generations before immigrant birth rates drop to the average for American women), population could reach the Census Bureau's High Series projection of 519 million people by 2050 a 92 percent increase in the population in only fifty years.3 Moreover, demographers Ahlburg and Vaupel sharply criticize the Census Bureau for its low fertility and immigration assumptions and conclude that under more realistic assumptions the United States will have a population of 811 million by 2080.4 In short, only a major shift in U.S. immigration policies can prevent a population catastrophe in this country.

The extraordinary population growth in the United States is due in part to the uncontrolled population in the Less Developed Countries. figure 4.2 shows how Mexico's population problem has become America's population problem.

Figure 4.2: Comparison of Population Growth in the U.S. and Mexico,
1930 to 2000

Nevertheless, it is not true that slowing population growth in the less developed countries will slow population growth in the United States. The reason is that there are about four billion people in the world who presently earn less than the average Mexican. Hence, even if the world could magically halt population growth tomorrow, there would be hundreds of millions of people still wanting to migrate to the United States and other industrialized countries (particularly Australia and Canada, the only other countries accepting large numbers of immigrants). This pressure on immigration will last as long as there is a substantial difference in the standard of living between the United States and the less developed countries.

Moreover, it is foolish to think that the only way the problem will be resolved is to raise the standard of living in the LDCs. That will take a very long time, perhaps a century. It is more likely that during this time, while the standard of living of the LDCs rises, we will see the quality of life in the United States continue to decline (not GDP, but the more relevant measures discussed in the chapter 2).

As figure 4.3 demonstrates, even solving the problem of illegal immigration will be insufficient to stem the tide since illegals account for only about 25 percent of total immigration. We are presently being inundated with about 900,000 legal immigrants and refugees annually, and 300,000 to 500,000 illegals, for a total of 1.2 to 1.4 million immigrants per year. Unless the present immigration trends are significantly reduced, America could add more people in the next sixty years than in the preceding four centuries since the founding of Jamestown in 1607. Immigrants tend to have much larger families than the average American family, at least for the first two generations. When we factor in immigrant children and their children's children, it quickly accumulates to twelve to fifteen people for every immigrant allowed in. It is extremely important to realize that even if we were to stop all immigration tomorrow, the children and grandchildren of the immigrants of the last two decades will swell America's population by 75 to 100 million people during the next century.

Immigration 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 in our factories. Even today there are numerous examples of immigrants who are making a major contribution to our society. However, the majority of immigrants today, as in the past, are uneducated and unskilled. But now the American economy has entered the postindustrial, information age when there is a surplus of unskilled labor. We have sixteen million people either unemployed or involuntarily working at part‑time or temporary jobs. We have thirty‑six million Americans below the poverty level, most living in households where there is at least one working parent, but many of whom do not earn a living wage.

Figure 4.3: Legal and Illegal Immigrants, 1950‑1997*
 

* The 1990 average reflects the amnesty given to illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. prior to 1983.

As shown in figure 4.4, the present immigration level is the highest in U.S. history and completely out of line with traditional immigration levels.5 Except for the extraordinary periods between 1900 and 1915 and the ramp‑up since the ill‑conceived Immigration Act of 1965, during most of the twentieth century annual immigration ran in the two hundred and three hundred thousand range.
 

Congress Makes a Bad Situation Worse

Many liberals hate to say no to anyone who wants to immigrate to the United States; they believe that immigration helps the world's poor. And many conservatives like the idea of a continued supply of cheap labor. So what has Congress done to cope with this long simmering crisis? First, to cope with the problem of illegal immigration in 1986 Congress granted amnesty to illegal immigrants who entered the United States prior to 1983. Now there was a brilliant idea: solving the problem of illegal immigration by rewarding law breakers. Not surprising, the amnesty merely encouraged more people to enter illegally. After granting legal status to over three million illegals by 1990, several million new illegals flooded into the United States by 1996.6 Having worsened the problem of illegals, the best Congress that special interest money could buy turned its attention to the problem of legal immigration. In 1990, legislation that started out to slow excessive legal immigration ended up being rewritten and actually increased the number of annual legal immigrants by 40 percent.7 By 1997, U.S. legal immigration had soared to almost 1.0 million annually. Add to this upwards of half a million illegals, and that equates to approximately 1.5 million immigrants entering the nation every year, the largest number at any time in our nation's history!* Add the natural increase in population (births minus deaths) of 1.4 million to the flood of immigrants and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see why U.S. population growth is soaring.

* In fact the number may be even greater. A study by Lindsey Grant indicated that there were well over one million more airline passenger arrivals than departures each year in the United States. What happens to these surplus arrivals? There is no follow‑up by immigration authorities. The suspicion is that many of these just blend in with other illegals.

Figure 4.4: Our Immigration Tradition

 

Black: Actual (Source: Statistical Yearbook of the Immigration and Naturalization Service)
Stippled: Projected
Clear boxs: Illegals based on Census Bureau estimate of illegals in country assuming they arrived after 1988‑1991 amnesty

 

The United States is now the only country in the world that has yet to make a serious attempt to control its borders. The other two countries that accept any appreciable number of immigrants are Canada and Australia, and both of these nations have reduced immigration to protect jobs and the quality of life for their own citizens. Canada reduced its quota from 250,000 annually to about 200,0008 and Australia cut its quota from 160,000 to 90,000.9

America's increase in immigration has also contributed to rising birth rates. Census data show that after bottoming out in 1976 at 1.7 children per woman, it has been slowly, but steadily rising, reaching 2.06 in 1996, and is projected to continue increasing.10 The most significant factor affecting the birth rate in recent years is the higher fertility rates of immigrants, especially Hispanics. Foreign‑born women have fertility rates 20 to 30 percent higher than native‑born women.11 In viewing the table below, bear in mind that replacement‑level fertility (which would eventually stabilize population growth if there was no net immigration) is 2100 births per thousand women.

U.S. Births Per 1,000 Women, 199612

 

All Women

Teenagers

White

1988

51

Black

2428

110

Hispanic

2977

104

Ages 15 to 19

 

 


Note also the relatively high fertility rate of Black and Hispanic teenagers. Exacerbating the problem is the cutback in all forms of family planning services under Reagan and Bush, which, although reversed under Clinton, is still not getting the attention and funding that the problem warrants.

Despite the grave consequences of this runaway population growth, the general public and its elected representatives have yet to recognize the ramifications of adding anywhere from 120 to 250 million people in only fifty years the equivalent of thirty to seventy‑seven cities the size of Los Angeles, all with the problems associated with a mostly uneducated and underskilled populace.

The pressure on our borders will not end anytime soon. As mentioned in the last chapter, although Mexico is making strides to control its bur­geoning population, they have a long way to go. Mexico's population is growing at more than double the U.S. rate and will have tripled in only forty years from 31 million in 1960 to 110 million by 2000, a rate far in excess of Mexico's ability to create jobs. In arguing for reductions in U.S. import restrictions, Mexico's president has said that either the United States exports jobs to Mexico or Mexico will continue to export people to the United States. Actually, unless we reform our immigration policies, both trends will accelerate. For instance, the removal of tariffs on exports to Mexico will result in an increase in American grain exports to its southern neighbor unless Mexican farms make substantial productivity gains. Unfortunately, achieving such gains in productivity would result in displacing tens of thousands of workers more potential migrants moving north.

The situation is worse in Central America, whose population has grown 60 percent just in the decade between 1980 and 1990, from 22 million to more than 38 million. Unless there is a dramatic reduction in fertility rates, the population will almost double between 1990 and 2025.13 The growth rate in Central America will guarantee be continued high unemployment and increased civil unrest. The result will be protracted pressure for migration to the United States, often as political refugees. The best national defense policy America could enact with respect to Central America is to convert our millions of dollars of military aid into family planning assistance and agricultural technology. Unless Mexico and Central America quickly reduce their respective birth rates, there will be continued political turmoil in the region and a flood of illegals into the U.S.

Furthermore, it is not only Mexico and Central America that will be generating increasing number of migrants. In 1994 there were 23 million political refugees worldwide14 and over 100 million people seeking to migrate as a result of poverty, discrimination, violence, draught, and environmental destruction.15 The number will grow dramatically in the next few decades. One estimate is that 1.25 billion of the 3 billion people living in LDCs will seek to improve their conditions by migrating to areas with more economic opportunity.16

While we might sympathize with the plight of the world's poor, migration is not the answer. It will just result in swamping the industrialized nations to such an extent that they would all be impoverished. For example, other things being equal, if over the next twenty years the U.S. did take in 100 million new migrants, a 40 percent increase in population could reduce the potential United States per capita income by an equal amount.

Now some might argue that I am ignoring the additional stim­ulus to economic growth caused by the immigration. But as we will see below, the cost of immigration will more than offset any benefits. Moreover, the relationship is not a linear one. In other words, an increase in immigrants will result in a greater than proportional increase in social costs. Finally, the incidence of the costs will not affect all segments of society equally. Those with the capital resources will benefit from cheap labor, while those who will face increased competition for jobs will lose out. The result will be increased income disparity between the haves and have‑nots, and all the social unrest that will accompany such an outcome. In short, the United States will look more and more like a South American country in terms of the distribution of wealth. 
 

The Economic and Social Consequences of Current Immigration Policies

It is more than mere hyperbole to characterize the present wave of immigration as an “invasion,” as Wayne Lutton and John Tanton do, the "path to national suicide" as Lawrence Auster contends,17 or as a “colonization of the United States” as Eugene McCarthy argues." These are all apt descriptions of the current trend of mass immigration. Let's examine the probable consequences. 

Reduced Job Opportunities and Depressed Wage Rates

To explain the overall impact of immigration on unemployment and wage rates, we need to review a little of the history leading up to the present employment situation. Those of us who were fortunate enough to enter the labor market in the early 1960s with a college degree had little trouble finding a well‑paying job. Having selected a job, hard work was rewarded by relatively rapid advancement and a constant increase in salary even after adjusting for inflation. By the early 1970s all that had changed; unemployment rose sharply and average real weekly earnings steadily declined from 1973 through 1994. What happened?

Several adverse trends occurred simultaneously. Other countries became more competitive as the United States slowed growth in produc­tivity by diverting investment and brain power to the defense industry. A decline in world trade barriers encouraged American businesses to invest in manufacturing abroad to take advantage of the lower wage rates in emerging nations, particularly Southeast Asia. U.S. businesses also went on an acquisition binge that enriched the deal makers while most often failing to achieve the promised economic benefits for the shareowners. Litigation became a more common road to enrichment than innovation. Several of these themes will be examined in the following chapters.

But in addition to all the foregoing problems there was a major shift in the demographics affecting job opportunities. The post World War II baby boom entered the labor force beginning in the mid‑Sixties and carrying through the Seventies. As shown below, the twenty to twenty‑four year‑old age group would increase 55 percent between 1960 and 1970 and another 22 percent in the succeeding decade.

  Percentage Change in Population for Selected Age Groups
 

Age Group

1960‑70

1970‑80

1980‑90

1990‑2000

 

 

 

 

 

15‑19

43%

 6.7%

‑18.6%

17.6%

20‑24

55%

21.8%

‑14.2%

‑ 5.9%

25‑34

10%

39.5%

13.6%

‑16.2%


At the same time, civil rights created opportunities in the work force for minorities, but had an even more profound impact for white women. Their labor force participation rate jumped from 37.7 percent in 1960 to 51.5 percent by 1980.
19 Just the increase in white women in the labor force between 1960 and 1980 (14.7 million) was considerably more than the total number of blacks in the labor force by 1980 (9.3 million).20 So we had the huge increase in baby boomers, women and minorities all trying to squeeze through the employment office doors at the same time. They couldn't all succeed in getting good paying jobs, because the supply of labor greatly exceeded the demand; unemployment jumped and wage rates began a twenty‑year decline. After adjusting for inflation, and despite a slight increase in 1996 and 1997, average weekly earnings of workers in private nonagricultural jobs in 1997 were 21 percent below 1973.21*

* There was an increase in nonwage benefits during this period, but even accounting for benefits, average weekly compensation adjusted for inflation was essentially flat. In constant dollars, total compensation increased only 3.5 percent from 1979 (the earliest date this data is available) to 1997. If labor had received its share of total productivity growth over the 1979‑1997 period, we would have expected compensation to increase about 25 percent.

Another factor exacerbating the rise in unemployment was the growing competitiveness of the rest of the world. The United States was virtually the only developed nation not devastated by World War II. As such, we completely dominated the world economy. By the mid‑Sixties, Europe had been rebuilt and became a serious international competitor. By 1970, Japan and Taiwan had modernized and were coming on strong. During the 1980s the United States was flooded by imports from Korea and Taiwan, and then Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and China. Increased imports of manufactured goods began flowing in from Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latin and South American countries as well. All of these countries had far lower wage rates and so could more than compete in pro­duction of labor‑intensive manufacturing products.

By 1980, U.S. competitiveness had also been weakened by a decade of high inflation that resulted in higher nominal wage rates (wages not adjusted for inflation). The higher nominal wages provided further incentive for companies to move their manufacturing operations to lower wage countries. Many of the jobs that remained in the United States continued to migrate from northern cities to the South, and from inner cities to the suburban and rural areas, effectively stranding inner city blacks.

In the mid‑1980s, it appeared that the problem of excess labor supply, particularly in manufacturing, was going to improve. Inflation was brought under control and the number of new entrants to the labor force slowed as the "Baby Boomers" and the record number of women looking for work began to find jobs. However, the American worker now faced new threats: corporate mergers and acquisitions a restructuring that resulted in a massive number of layoffs, and a sudden increase in immigration bringing in millions of foreign workers to compete with Americans for jobs at the same time that American job opportunities were moving elsewhere.

The cross‑directional movement of job opportunities and people in the1980s and 1990s is analogous to what happened within the United States in the late the 1950s and throughout the 1960s. Blacks seeking a better life were migrating North for jobs, while employers seeking cheaper labor were moving South.22 The result was rapid population growth in the northern ghettos and a jump in the unemployment rates in Northern States. At least the migration of jobs stayed within the country, which allowed some of the benefits from increased Southern employment to be collected in the form of additional income taxes and redirected to aid Northern cities. In contrast, when jobs move out of the United States, there is no added revenue to be redistributed.*

* It is often argued that the U.S. benefits from the availability of cheaper foreign made products, but it is questionable whether it is enough to offset the extra costs that result from the huge influx of foreign workers. It certainly does not benefit the displaced American workers who will not have the purchasing power to buy the cheaper foreign goods.

The addition of approximately 30 million immigrants and their descendants between 1970 and 199523 amplified the downward pressure on wages due to the other demographic and economic trends mentioned above. A study by Donald L. Huddle of Rice University concluded:

[E]mployers find it advantageous to hire illegal aliens in common and some semi‑skilled jobs. First, illegal aliens often work harder, under more difficult conditions than will U.S. workers. Second, entry‑level illegal workers are often paid less than the prevailing wage in an industry and always less than the union wage. Third, between one‑fourth and one-half of employers, contractors, and subcontractors do not deduct any taxes from [the] workers' gross pay.24

 

One of the strongest proponents of immigration, business economist Julian Simon, was forced to admit that even if unemployment is not negatively impacted by immigrants, the large number of immigrants have lessened the need for employers to raise wages in order to attract sufficient workers.25 George Borjas, an economist who specializes in immigration issues, esti­mates that immigration costs U.S. workers $133 billion a year due to depressed wages.26 Depressed wages, in turn, result in increased income inequality. Borjas estimates that recent immigration is responsible for one-third the growth in income inequality in the United States.

This is the flip side of what happened after immigration was cut in the 1920s. Studies by economists Peter Lindhert and Jeffrey Williamson indicate that decreased immigration and lower fertility rates accounted for one‑third of the decrease in income inequality during the period between 1929 and the Korean War.27

Some immigration proponents still refuse to accept the law of supply and demand, which tells us that, all other things being equal, an increase in the supply of labor will drive down wage rates. They cite studies conducted in the 1980s concluding that immigration does not have an impact on job opportunities or wage rates for native‑born Americans.28

However, these studies suffered from two serious shortcomings. First, they were often based upon data from the 1970 and 1980 censuses, which do not reflect the impact of the latest wave of immigration. Second, they generally employed a comparison of high‑immigration cities with low‑immigration cities. It has since been shown that the underlying assumption of such studies that metropolitan labor markets in the United States are unconnected is incorrect. Subsequent studies by demographers Randell Filer and William Frey have shown that natives who have been harmed by competition from immigrants and who are willing to work for less migrate to other cities.29 Hence, a more comprehensive examination of the labor market impact is required to assess the impact of immigration.

More recent studies have shown that immigrants do indeed displace indigenous labor by both directly competing for jobs and by holding down the wage rate, thus making it more advantageous for people to remain on welfare. Examining the national impacts has caused Borjas to reverse his earlier opinion that immigrants do not have negative impacts on native wages and job opportunities.30 By examining the impacts across occupation groups Steven Camarota and Mark Krikorian of the Center of Immigration Studies concluded that “a one percent increase in the immigrant composition of one's occupation reduces wages at least .7 percent.”31 (Several other such studies are cited in the endnote.)32 According to economists Timothy Hatton and Jeffrey Williamson, all of the standard mainstream economic models now predict that migration will tend to lower wages in areas where large numbers of immigrants settle.33

There are several case studies that provide support for the predictions of economic models that real wages will decline if the supply of labor increases faster than the demand. A study by the United States General Accounting Office provided a dramatic example of how the process works. In 1977, approximately 2,500 black janitors in the Los Angeles area were unionized and earning a very respectable $12 an hour including benefits. However, a group of nonunion contractors began moving in to displace the blacks with Hispanic labor willing to work for $4.00 an hour. By 1985, the number of black janitors had declined to 600, of which only 100 were still protected by high wage contracts.34

Unskilled workers and African Americans are particularly hard hit by increased immigration. Labor economist Vernon Briggs Jr. of Cornell University has found that increased labor supply due to immigration prevents noncollege‑educated males from finding jobs that pay enough to support a family and make marriage a viable option. Hence, immigration becomes one more factor contributing to the increase in illegitimacy.35 Immigrants have displaced blacks in numerous unskilled jobs including farmworkers, garment workers, hotel maids, waiters, nursing assistants, orderlies, janitors, etc.36 Oftentimes this is the result of a deliberate strategy on the part of employers who know they can replace blacks with other minority workers with impunity.37 Studies by Joleen Kirschenman and Katherine Neckerman, among others, indicate that employers display a strong preference for immigrant workers over native workers in general and over black job seekers in particular.38

Based upon very conservative assumptions, the Center for Immigration Studies estimates about 2.1 million Americans were displaced by immi­grants in 1992.39 The cumulative impact would obviously be far higher. An estimated 55 percent of legal immigrants who enter the United States immediately enter the job market. 41 Since 1970, when the number of immigrants began increasing dramatically, many of the immigrant's children have entered the job market as well. Based upon labor force participation rates, the number of immigrants entering the labor force since 1970 would be well over 10 million. Some of these immigrants created new jobs, but a large number took existing jobs.


Immigration Hits Blacks the Hardest

Furthermore, the vast majority of jobs created by immigrants only go to other immigrants. For instance, according to Pyong Gap Min, a sociologist at New York Queens College, although the population in New York is 25 percent black, only 5 percent of the workers at Korean‑owned stores are black. More than one‑third of the employees are Mexican and Latin American immigrants.41 In Los Angeles, which is 17 percent black, only 2 per­cent are hired by Korean‑owned businesses. Some proponents of today's high levels of immigration claim that immigrants are only taking jobs that blacks won't do. This is simply not true. A 1995 study of fast food restaurants in Harlem revealed an average of fourteen job applicants for every minimum wage opening and most people had applied for four or five other jobs.42

One reason for the preference for Hispanics by immigrant store owners is that they are often able to pay Hispanics well below the minimum wage for six 12‑hour days.43 Another reason is that immigrant business owners are far more likely than white Americans to have a negative attitude toward blacks.44

Immigrant‑owned businesses are able to discriminate against blacks with impunity because state and federal civil rights agencies turn a blind eye to discrimination by minorities.45 According to Philip Kasinitz, professor of sociology at New York's Hunter College, “No one has tried to enforce civil rights laws on immigrant enclave‑business.”46 In fact, by giving job preferences to women and other minorities, affirmative action now works to the detriment of African Americans.

Immigrant businesspeople, especially Asians, have quickly learned to turn affirmative action to their advantage. Asian‑American‑owned businesses have more than doubled their share of contracts awarded under the Small Business Administration's so‑called 8a program, getting 23.7 percent of the contracts in 1996, compared to only 10.5 percent in 1986. Black contractors, by comparison, have watched their share of the total contracts drop by more than a quarter.47

The displacement of blacks by immigrants is nothing new. In his book The Case Against Immigration, Roy Beck documents the history of immigration and American blacks. Even before the Civil War, immigrants were used to displacing black workers in Northern States. After the Civil War, all the expected gains in employment and living standards that the newly emancipated slaves expected were soon wiped out by the importation of millions of immigrants. In 1870, 32 percent of black men in Cleveland had skilled jobs. Then, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, newly arriving immigrants formed unions that excluded blacks. By 1910 after several decades of increasing immigration, only 10 percent of the black men in Cleveland had skilled jobs.48

It is not just coincidental that the two periods that blacks made solid gains in both employment and wages were during the First World War when immigration was curtailed, and between 1940 and 1973 when immigration was also severely limited. During this latter period, tight immigration and low growth in the labor force enabled the black middle class to grow from 22 percent to 71 percent.49 However, the increased growth in the labor force since 1970, due in part to the baby boom, but greatly exacerbated by immigration, reversed that trend. Especially since 1990 blacks have once again been losing job opportunities to immigrants.

In Chicago, for example, black contractors and craftspeople have been quickly displaced by Hispanic, Polish, and Eastern European immigrants. An examination of employment trends in the Midwest over the period 1983 to 1995 shows that in virtually every major occupation group Hispanic employment was growing faster than black employment. In manufacturing and construction the trends were particularly noteworthy. During the 1990‑91 recession blacks were more likely to be laid off, and during the economic recovery blacks were less likely to be hired than Hispanics.50 Tragically, black leadership is so interested in gaining support from Hispanic and other immigrant voters, they have ignored the impact of immigration on their own people.*

* Blacks have been negatively affected by immigration not only through lost job opportunities, but by diversion of educational resources to immigrants. A particularly perverse example occurred in California when black children in school districts that were pri­marily Hispanic were forced to attend bilingual education classes. Labor economist Vernon Briggs points out that other educational costs are more subtle but equally significant. “Namely, the societal goal of desegregated urban schools has been greatly retarded by the arrival of immigrant children because they have increased the racial isolation of inner city black children.” Vernon M. Briggs Jr., “Income Disparity and Unionism: the Workplace Influences of Post 1965 Immigration Policy,” in The Inequality Paradox: Growth of Income Disparity, James A. Auerbach and Richard S. Belous, eds. (Washington, D.C.: National Policy Association Report, #288, 1998), p. 118. Briggs cites several other analyses that arrived at the same conclusion.

Many years ago, both Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington advocated the hiring of unemployed blacks rather than importing addi­tional white European workers. Washington argued that the South had two options: “We shall constitute one‑third and more of the ignorance and crime of the South, or one‑third its intelligence and progress, we shall contribute one‑third to the business and industrial prosperity of the South, or we shall prove a veritable body of death, stagnating and depressing, retarding every effort to advance the body politic.”51 Douglass wrote, “The old employment by which we have heretofore gained our livelihood are gradually, and it may be inevitably, passing into other hands. Every hour sees the black man elbowed out of employment by some newly arrived immigrant whose hunger and whose color are thought to give him a better title to the place.”52

Imagine what a different country the United States would be today had we heeded the prophetic words of these two visionaries! We didn't listen then and we are in danger of throwing away another historic opportunity. The same argument can be made today against accepting any more immigrants until we employ the current work force including those presently on welfare to its maximum capacity.

Of course, not only blacks are being unjustly discriminated against by the influx of minority immigrants, whites are as well. We have no valid reason for discriminating against whites in favor of migrants. Yet, a Hispanic or Asian migrant has an affirmative action advantage over a white person who is also trying to work his or her way out of poverty. Is it any wonder that many poor and middle‑class whites are becoming increasingly more frustrated and hateful of immigrants and minorities? Or that they believe the government no longer represents their interests? The consequence of using affirmative action policy to provide an advantage for immigrants (80 percent of whom are defined as minorities) over Amer­ican citizens will no doubt result in increased interethnic strife.

Over the last twenty years, the demand for better‑educated, higher­skilled workers has continued to increase. Has the education and skill level of immigrants kept pace? A master of statistical duplicity, immigration advocate Julian Simon argued that today's immigrants are on average better educated than those of years ago.* But using the averages disguises two very diverse trends among recent immigrants. On one hand, we have had an increase in the number of highly educated doctors, professors, and scientists migrating from India, the Philippines, Russia, and Southeast Asia.

* Simon's last analysis, Immigration: The Demographic and Economic Facts, suffers from the same kind of statistical chicanery and use of obsolete data as his earlier studies. For example, he uses 1980 Census data to bolster his claim that immigrants create more busi­nesses than native born Americans. More recent data refutes this claim. Economics professor Herman E. Daly sums up the view of many of Simon's critics. “Julian Simon fre­quently exaggerates and makes mistakes, and he is frequently caught at it . . . . {But} by making mistakes faster than critics can correct them, he also maintains a permanent debating advantage, at least in some media .... [C]ritics have no choice but to keep on exposing his errors and exaggerations” (Border Watch (March 1973}, p. 3).

On the other hand, the majority of immigrants today come from Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and have relatively low education and job skills. Aside from using averages that confuse the two distinct trends just mentioned, Simon failed to note that, not only has the average years of education for immigrants dropped relative to that of American workers (which has actually risen) but, more significantly, the educational level of immigrants has declined relative to that required by most jobs today. This is particularly true of illegals who were granted amnesty since 1986 and is reflected in the earnings of new immigrants. In 1970 recently arrived immigrants earned 17 percent less than the average American. Since then the gap has widened. The earnings of the most recent immigrants were 28 percent less than the U.S. average in 1980 and 32 percent less in 1990.53

A large portion of the immigrants compete for the lowest skilled jobs, and have effectively prevented the minimum wage from rising on an inflation adjusted basis. From 1974 to 1996 the minimum wage dropped 34 5ercent in constant dollars.* As a result, entry‑level pay for many jobs not only leaves a person well below the poverty line, but acts as a disincentive or a woman with children who tries to leave welfare to take a minimum wage job.54 In addition to the expense of child care and transportation, she nay lose her Medicaid insurance. As many women have learned to their chagrin, leaving welfare to take a job can result in greater poverty.

* In 1974 the minimum wage was $2.00 an hour. The 1997 minimum wage of $5.25 equals only $1.64 when adjusted for inflation. Therefore, minimum wage earners would still have lost 18 percent in purchasing power since 1974. In fact, at $5.25 an hour, on an inflation adjusted basis the minimum wage has risen only a nickel or 7 percent‑over most half a century! 

Recent Immigrants are also Hurt by the Excessive Rate of Present Immigration

Ironically, the present high levels of immigration have worked to the detriment of immigrants themselves. Since the 1930s, when novelist John Steinbeck exposed the problem in his classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath, the migrant farm workers have been trying desperately to improve their lot. For time in the early 1970s, it seemed as if they might succeed. By enduring zany personal hardships and an extraordinary effort against seemingly insurmountable odds, Cesar Chavez's United Farm Workers Union made significant gains to improve working conditions and the hourly wage rate of farm corkers, most of whom are immigrants.

The agribusiness lobbied hard to establish the bracero program that would allow temporary foreign workers pick crops at substantially reduced wages. Failing in that effort, the rowers persuaded the government to raise quotas for legal immigration and effectively turn a blind eye on the rising tide of illegals. The result was to effectively undermine the efforts of American farm workers who struck for higher wages. Real wages of citrus workers dropped by two‑thirds from 1967 to 1988 according to labor economist Marshall Barry.55

In 1996, the United Farm Workers finally settled their eighteen‑year effort to unionize Red Coach Lettuce. After adjusting for inflation, the UFW had to settle for a wage rate far less than they had asked for eighteen years earlier. According to a study by the California Institute for Rural Studies, based upon data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other government sources, the real wages of farmworkers in 1997 were about 25 percent lower than they were in 1976.56 For many the decline in wages was far worse. In Saunas, California, the piece rate for picking broccoli remains 20 percent below the rate a decade ago, even before adjusting for inflation.57 The reason for the decline in wages is no mystery: during the peak season, the United States has slightly more than 1 million farmworker jobs but 2.5 million farmworkers.58

A U.S. Accounting Office study found that the tomato and tortilla industry constantly replaced immigrant workers with more recent immigrants or used the presence of new immigrants to hold down the wages of those who had worked in the previous year.59 I find it frustrating that many of the same people who joined me in picketing stores carrying nonunion grapes and lettuce in the early 1970s are unable to see the linkage between the increased supply of labor and depressed wage rates. Today many of these same people are supporting the increased immigration that has undermined living standards of farmworkers and millions of other Americans.

Hispanic and black leaders are especially culpable in this regard. They appear far more interested in gaining more voters than improving the living standards of their exiting constituents. In the case of Hispanics, Bureau of Census data shows that household income for 1995 dropped 5.1 percent even though it was rising for every other American ethnic and racial group. Hispanics now constitute 24 percent of the nation's poor, up 8 percentage points from 1985.60 The New York Times acknowledges that “the influx of million of Latin Americans‑2 million between 1990 and 1994 alone, the Census reports have pulled income down because immigrants tend to be poor.”61 The United States has adopted a policy of importing poverty, as if we did not have enough poor of our own. The most salient point is that, unlike the experience of immigrants during most of the post‑World War Two period, the excessive supply of immi­grants in recent years has resulted in average wages of immigrants decreasing rather than increasing. Yet not a single Hispanic congressman has shown the political fortitude or economic common sense to call for a reduction in immigration.

Pete Wilson, the former governor of California supported his state's agribusinesses in their successful effort to flood the state with cheap labor and California is now being haunted by his error. The inundation of immigrants during the past two decades placed a huge burden on the state's edu­cation and welfare systems and led to a host of other social ills.

It is not only unskilled and skilled blue‑collar jobs that are threatened by immigration. An analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies in 1996 indicated that the influx of foreign‑born scientists, engineers, and mathematicians into the United States has resulted in a glut on the market, depressing job opportunities and wage rates.62 The Pew Health Professions Commission study warns of a surplus of 100,000 to 150,000 doctors, 200,000 to 300,000 nurses, and 40,000 pharmacists.63 This 20 percent surplus is about equal to the share of immigrants who have entered the medical profession in recent years.* In 1997 the federal government began paying medical schools to train fewer doctors while still permitting foreign physicians to emigrate to the United States.

* It is true that there is still a shortage of doctors in inner‑city and rural areas, but building a surplus won't help much. As wage rates fall, fewer students will enter the profes­sion. The answer is to provide incentives to work in these areas, such as permitting doctors to pay off their student loans by working in such areas, and a greater use of nurse practitioners.

Although businesses are crying that they need immigrant labor for computer programmers, here, too, there is actually a surplus. There are about 40,000 new positions opening up in the software industry every year, while 51,000 computer science majors are graduating each year.64 Yet the software industry has successfully lobbied for continual increases in temporary immigrant workers. The true motivation of the software industry is illustrated by American International Group, an insurance company that fired all 250 of its programmers and replaced them with programmers from India willing to work for about half the wage rate.65 In short, employers and investors benefit from excessive immigration and cheap labor; most wage earners eventually suffer.

It is true that with less cheap labor it is more difficult for entrepre­neurial types to start their own business. So be it. It is a far better social goal to pay Americans adequate wages than to allow a few to benefit at the expense of the many.

Many people believe we should stop illegal immigration but do not believe that legal immigration is a problem. Quite the contrary, even if we are able to reduce illegal immigration to zero, the excessive number of legal immigrants presents a serious problem. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that we will create 18 million new jobs in the 1990s. Based upon present demographic trends 28 million young people will enter the labor market during the decade and perhaps as many as 10 million will leave the labor market.66 Hence, the growth in the number of jobs will approximate the number of new job seekers, excluding any immigration. With 7 million Americans still out of work in 1997, several million additional people who have given up looking for work, and perhaps 8 to 9 million workers involuntarily working at temporary or part time jobs, does it make any sense to permit the entry of another 9 million immigrants this decade? (Not to mention the estimated 5 to 6 million illegals).

Through shortsightedness we are squandering a major opportunity to reduce poverty in America. If we do away with welfare, economic theory suggests that unemployment will decline, irrespective of the growth in the population. An increase in supply relative to demand will force wages down. But faced with no alternative, people are willing to work at any wage that prevents starvation. (Of course, some may turn to crime as a preferable alternative to wages just above starvation level.) This leads us to the question, is a nation of employed poor that much better than a nation of unemployed poor? Isn't our real goal a nation of employed, decently paid workers?

Many people who do not understand economics believe that we can solve the problem by simply legislating a higher minimum wage. This is true, to some extent, during periods of tight labor markets. However, arbitrarily raising the minimum wage in periods of labor surplus will only result in higher unemployment. Moreover, if everyone's wages go up, but businesses are able to pass on the increase by raising prices, the wage earner is no better off.


Tight Labor Markets are Key to Reducing Poverty and Increasing Income Equality

There is no getting around it, nothing helps improve the earnings of the American worker like tight labor markets. Let's take a concrete example. For several decades there was a shortage of nurses in this country. My wife was a nurse throughout this period and hardly a week went by when she did not get recruited by some hospital. To retain her services, her own employer was forced to provide generous wage increases. Collectively, hospitals bid up wages to the point where the nursing job became quite attractive to many women (and some men). As more entered the profession, the rapid increase in nurses' salaries declined. Today there is no major shortage of nurses, and wage rates are just about keeping pace with inflation. In a market economy, increased wages, or alternatively, increased productivity will solve a labor shortage whether it be for nurses or computer programmers. But employers would naturally take the easy way of importing a predictable supply of cheap labor.

As Roy Beck documents so cogently, the history of immigration is a continuous effort of employers to replace American workers with lower wage immigrant labor. During periods of tight labor, some small employers might be forced out of business. But the more innovative busi­nesses will spend additional money on recruiting and training employees from the inner city or elsewhere. This is exactly what occurred during World War II when businesses recruited labor from Appalachia and rural areas to work in their factories. Tight labor markets, such as existed during the period from 1940 to about 1968, could be a major factor in reducing poverty and enhancing equality of opportunity.

For as long as I can remember, economic discussions on what to do about joblessness and low wages have focused on how to create more jobs, i.e., to stimulate the demand for labor. The supply of labor was considered relatively constant. While this is true in the short run, over the longer term the supply of labor relative to demand can vary greatly. Tight labor markets are one of the most important prerequisites for increasing wage rates, reducing poverty, and increasing economic equality. This conclusion is supported by studies conducted by the Jerome Levy Economics Institute of Bard College and the Brookings Institute.67 Hence, the most significant policy required to increase job opportunities and improve wage rates for Americans is to constrain immigration (including refugees and asylum seekers) to about the average number of immigrants accepted annually prior to the surge in the 1970s, about 250,000 a year.

As soon as wages begin to rise, as is normal in the latter stages of an economic recovery, the most likely reaction of employers will be to argue for increased immigration. Another equally predictable response is for the Federal Reserve Bank to construe wage increases as inflationary and respond by raising interest rates. The result would be to slow economic growth, thus raising unemployment and depressing wage rates. Such a policy distorts the distribution of wages and profits in a market economy in favor of the suppliers of capital. In a market economy, the negotiations for distribution of the benefits of production should be resolved by man­agement and labor. If a shortage of labor improves labor's bargaining power and increases wages, so be it. It will only be inflationary to the point that a business can pass on the increased wages to its customers. However, in a competitive market, the smarter businesses will develop new techniques to improve productivity to offset wage increases. If the industry as a whole cannot offset wage increases, either profits will decline or the increased prices will reduce demand for that particular product. In any case, the market will self‑correct if the Federal Reserve Board holds a neutral monetary policy. Any effort to curb price increases through higher interest rates only serves to interfere in the markets by punishing labor.

Higher Health and Education Costs

In southern California illegal immigrants cost the public $400 million in healthcare costs alone.68 Prior to the passage of Proposition 187, any foreigner could come into the country, legally or illegally, and apply for the California program of Medicaid, receive treatment, and then return home leaving the U.S. taxpayers to foot the bill.69 This is still occurring in many states. It is far too common for pregnant women to cross the border close to their due date or even while in labor. The baby is delivered free of charge at a county hospital and is automatically an American citizen eventually entitled to the benefits of any other citizen. Nearly two‑thirds of the babies born in county‑operated California hospitals during 1990‑93 had parents who were illegal aliens.70

In 1982, the Supreme Court ruled in Phyler v. Doe that illegals were entitled to a free education.71 Consequently, the cost of educating immigrants soared. Net U.S. education costs (after subtracting the revenue generated by immigrants) was estimated at $16 billion in 1993 and continues to grow rapidly.72 California is a harbinger of what continued uncontrolled immigration will do to the country. In the last decade, its educational system has slid from the top in the United States to the bottom. In part this was due to the underfunding of the schools as a result of Proposition 13, which curbed property tax increases. But Proposition 13 was itself a reaction to the escalating educational expense caused in large part by being inundated with immigrants.73

A Rand Corporation study indicates that the growth in immigrant population is wreaking havoc in the America's school systems because immigrant children are overwhelming already financially strapped school districts.74 Illinois will have to build a new school every month for the next twenty‑five years to keep up with the rate of immigration.75 Texas needs to build two schools a week; California must build a school a day!76 More than one‑half of all the schools and public infrastructure constructed since 1970 has been built to accommodate immigrants.77 This proportion will increase even more dramatically in the years to come.

By 1990 the cost of bilingual education alone has soared to $7.5 billion over one thousand times the original estimates of $7.5 million when the program was introduced in 1968.78 Bilingual education will exceed $10 billion by 1997 and is now the fastest growing component of those cities which have large numbers of immigrants. The Chicago School system offers bilingual education in nineteen languages: Arabic, Assyrian, Cantonese, Greek, Gujarati, Haitian‑Creole, Hindi, Hmong, Khmer, Korean, Mandarin, Filipino, Polish, Russian, Serbian‑Croatian‑Bosnian, Spanish, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

The enormous increase in costs continues despite evidence that there are little or no benefits of bilingual education for primary school children. A study by the Office Of Planning, Budget, and Evaluation in 1975 sampled 286 bilingual education classrooms for at least four years. The study's conclusion was that most programs were planned to maintain minority language rather than transition to English, and students deficient in English did not gain proficiency.79 Studies in New York and California and, most recently, by the National Research Council, confirm that native ­language instruction offers no special benefits to non‑English speaking students. Christine Rossell of Boston University examined every study of bilingual education that meets minimum standards of validation and con­cluded that only 7 percent of them show bilingual education to be better than doing nothing at all for children who do not know English, while 64 percent show bilingual education to be worse than doing nothing. And none of the studies examined by Rossell shows bilingual education to be better than English as a second language or English immersion programs.80 Furthermore, programs that emphasize cultural and ethnic differences in the classroom appear to be counterproductive, reinforcing stereotypes.81 A far better and less costly solution is to offer additional training in English for elementary children the so‑called English as a Second Language (ESL). Secondary school children should be offered a six‑month to one‑year course in English before being admitted into mainstream classes. Of course, this would result in them falling a year behind their classmates, but that is part of the cost of immigrating to another country.

Projections are that by 2050 anywhere from 23 percent to 50 percent of the U.S. will be Spanish speaking.82 Los Angeles is already the second largest Spanish‑speaking city in the world with more Spanish speaking people than any city in Spain. In Dade County, Florida, the law establishing English as the official language has been repealed and every legal document must be printed in Spanish, Creole, and French at exorbitant public expense.83 One cannot help wondering whether by the year 2050 the English language might be excluded from the classroom in Florida and certain Southwestern states, just as English was eventually excluded from Quebec schools.

Increased Crime and Racial Backlash

Most immigrants come to this country to find jobs. They are honest and energetic, and sacrifice much in order to find a better life for themselves and their children. But it cannot be denied that the current wave of immigration also has contributed to the increase in crime in America during the last two decades.* The U.S. Bureau of Prisons reports that 25 percent of the inmates of federal prisons in 1994 were noncitizens.84 The incarceration rate among illegal aliens is three times the U.S. average.85 Since 1980 there has been a 600 percent increase in alien inmates, primarily due to drug related charges.86 A 1987 Government Accounting Office report found that illegals accounted for 50 percent of the arrests by the Los Angeles Police Department.87

* Ironically, an increase in crime can perversely increase GDP since policing costs are added to GDP as government purchases. This again demonstrates the deficiency of GDP as a measure of social welfare.

Another GAO report in 1989 found that 40 percent of the crack cocaine market is controlled by aliens.88 In 1980 Arizona prisons had 58 Mexican inmates; by 1997 the number had soared to 2,373.89 In recent years, different ethnic immigrant groups have formed gangs specializing in various forms of crime: Colombians in cocaine; Mexicans in marijuana, smuggling immigrants, and auto theft; Nigerians in heroin trafficking as well as student‑loan and credit card fraud; Chinese in heroin and smuggling immigrants; South Koreans in prostitution; Russians in drugs and insurance fraud; Jamaicans in cocaine.90

Despite the greater propensity for illegals to be involved in crime, some cities, such as Chicago, ordered their police departments not to coop­erate with the Immigration and Naturalization Service efforts to deport criminal aliens. This policy was harshly criticized by the Chicago Crime Commission as contributing to the rising crime rate by making Chicago a“safe haven” for foreign born gangs. In 1996, Congress passed legislation to nullify such local policies. Still, most major cities now have such a large base of voting immigrants that they will not take any action that will offend immigrants, such as helping the INS apprehend illegals. As a result, these cities have set the course for their own demise. But as their schools and neighborhoods fall further behind the rest of the nation, they urge the federal and state governments to increase funding of city programs. Not unreasonably, many state legislators are reluctant to help the cities that are refusing to take the actions necessary to help themselves.

The other contribution immigration makes to crime is the open warfare that results when different ethnic groups fight over shrinking shares of the economic pie. One only has to witness the gang warfare in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago where white, black, Hispanic, and Asian gangs are fighting turf wars. In Los Angeles alone there are an estimated 600 ethnic gangs with over 100,000 members.9

The huge number of legal and illegal immigrants even threaten the stability of ethnic neighborhoods once noted for their absence of crime. For example, Chinatowns in the nation's major cities are now suffering from the problems that plague inner city black neighborhoods, including unemployment, overcrowding, school dropouts, violent street crime, and gang warfare.92 Dr. Haing Ngor survived the rein of terror in Cambodia under the Pol Pot regime to make the film The Killing Fields and win an academy award. In 1996 he was gunned down in front of his Chinatown home in Los Angeles, a city that is also rapidly becoming a killing field for immigrants as well as native born Americans.

A 1995 study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) compared five cities known for high immigration with five cities showing low immigration. The high immigration cities had twice as much unemployment, 40 percent more people living in poverty, twice as much welfare dependency, 60 percent higher rate of high school drop outs, twice as much violent crime, seven times as much crowded housing, three times the population density, more urban sprawl, and 30 percent longer commuting times.93 In short, high immigration cities reflect a serious decline in the quality of life.

It is not only the big cities that have experienced the rise of gangs and crime. Small towns throughout the country places that never had a problem are now exposed to rising crime rates, particularly among immigrant youth. Storm Lake, Iowa; El Paso, Texas; Garden City, Kansas; Wausau, Wisconsin; and Worthington, Minnesota, all share common characteristics with Los Angeles, California: after a huge increase in immigration they had higher unemployment, depressed wages, greater need for public services, lower per capita taxes to pay for those services, and especially, higher drug usage, crime, and gang activity. In a public radio broadcast discussing the rise in crime in small towns, I was amazed that their analysis overlooked the obvious: every one of the cities they examined had been inundated by immigrants.

The PBS commentators did not go to Spencer, Iowa, which is the sister city of Storm Lake. If they had, they would have learned that Spencer turned down the meatpacking industry that would have brought in the low‑cost immigrant labor. As a consequence, Spencer avoided the problems of Storm Lake. Sure, Spencer hasn't grown like Storm Lake, but the residents don't have to worry about walking down their streets at night. They are a far happier town as a result.

Accelerating Environmental Destruction

It is difficult to say with any precision what the optimal population for the United States should be. Several studies suggest that we are already past the optimal leve1.94 Although it is debatable what the optimal sustainable level is, there is no doubt that attaining a population of 400 to 500 million over the next fifty years will be environmentally devastating. Destruction of wetlands, forests, topsoil, underground aquifers, water and air quality will accelerate. On the other hand, if the population of the United States had remained at the 203 million level of 1970 and we had diverted the funds spent to meet the needs of immigrants on solving environmental problems instead, we would have met or been very close to meeting all of our environmental goals.

At present, America's 470 million acres of arable land works out to about 1.8 acres per person. Urban sprawl, erosion, and development will reduce America's available cropland to 290 million acres by 2050 according to David Pimentel, a professor of ecology at Cornell University.95 At the same time population will have doubled. These two trends will result in a decline of cropland to 0.5 acres per person. It is estimated that it takes about one acre of land per person to provide the highly nutritious American diet. The result of the decline in cropland will be to shift the United States from a net exporter of food to a net importer, and a commensurate drop in the standard of living for Americans.

Continued population growth due to immigration will also nullify the technological progress we are making to improve air quality. For example, tight restrictions on automobile exhaust have enabled Los Angeles to cut pollution per vehicle by 50 percent during the past thirty years. However, doubling the population of L.A. during that same period wiped out all the gains.96 Total U.S. energy requirements have risen 27 percent since 1970, in lock step with population growth despite the tremendous increase in energy efficiency.97

Even the harm caused by natural disasters will increase as population grows. The hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes of the 1990s would not have been as devastating a couple decades ago for the plain reason that there were far fewer people living in those areas. If we settle people on flood plains and in hurricane or earthquake‑prone areas, such as the East and West coasts, it's not difficult to predict periodic tragedies of growing proportions.

Occasionally we hear the argument that since the environment is global it makes no difference whether people migrate from one country to another; the global impact is the same. Ridiculous! Let me demonstrate. It is indeed irrelevant to the environment in other nations of the world if 1 per­cent of the world's population were to move to the United States since it would reduce pollution in rest of the world by 1 percent, all things being equal. But 1 percent of the world's population in twenty years will equate to 100 million people immigrating to the United States, which would increase pollution by 37 percent (100m/270m minus the present popula­tion of the United States), again, all things being equal. Actually, the situation is far more grave, because we have to include the children of immigrants. Furthermore, all things are not equal. People who come to the United States inevitably strive to reach its standard of living. Hence, their consumption and consequential environmental impact is far worse than if they had remained in their country of origin.

Moreover, as will be discussed in the next chapter, many measures indicate that the U.S. environment is under great duress even with the present population. For example, an Audubon Society study concluded that species loss in the United States is greater than in countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, or Kenya.98 So America must recognize the distressing dilemma that adding 100 million more immigrants will do little to improve the environment in other countries, while it could result in irreversible ecological damage here at home. As Roy Beck observes, if the federal government prohibited immigrants from settling any place where they would contribute to environmental deterioration, there would be very few places left for them.99

The Balkanization of America

The aforementioned economic costs do not include the less tangible, but possibly most worrisome cost of all. Garret Hardin observes that ethnic diversity and equality are mutually conflicting goals that have been achieved nowhere in the world. According to Lawrence Auster, the more likely outcome of cultural diversity is the “devolution of society into per­manent divisions based upon ethnicity."100 Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. and Eugene McCarthy have also passionately warned that multiculturalism, which is so intellectually enticing as a goal, will in all likelihood degenerate into the balkanization of America into a bunch of warring ethnicities.101 We have already been shocked at the racial backlash against immigrants that occurred in Germany and to a lesser extent in England and France. We have witnessed the horror of the ethnic wars that rocked the Balkan area and the previous Soviet Union. Eugene McCarthy points out that this is the inevitable conflict that results in the absence of a unifying culture. In the 1990s we have witnessed cultural clashes throughout the world:

·        Tamils and Singhalese in Sri Lanka

·        Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, and Albanians in the former Yugoslavia

·        Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland

·        Greeks and Turks in Cyprus

·        Basque separationists in Spain

·        Corsicans and French

·        Czechs and Slovaks in former Czechoslovakia

·        Shiites and Sunnis in the Middle East

·        Armenians and Adjerbaizianis in the former Soviet Union

·        Moslems, Sikhs, and Hindus in India

It would be a serious miscalculation to believe that such conflict could not happen here. If continued immigration results in job displacement and greater poverty, a backlash is the inevitable result. Sociologist Stanley Lieberson noted that during the early years of this century when there was a high influx of Japanese and Chinese immigrants "the response of whites was of a violent and savage character in areas where they [the immigrants] were concentrated,”but the hostility quickly ended when immigration policy was changed to stem the influx.102 We have already witnessed an increase in hate crimes in recent years. 103 By 1997 hostility to immigrants was at the highest level in seventy years.104 When the next economic recession occurs, the situation could become increasingly explosive.

The situation can only deteriorate if the high rates of migration con­tinue. In small numbers, immigrants feel the need to assimilate and have been generally successful. Assimilation is a slow process at best. George Borjas's analysis of those immigrants and their descendants who came during the great wave of immigration during the first two decades of this century indicates that it takes about a century ―four generations for assimilation to occur.105 Also, the process of assimilation did not begin until the numbers of immigrants were dramatically cut. There is little incentive for the Cubans of Florida or the Mexicans in many parts of the Southwest to assimilate. Why should they when in many areas they are the majority? The larger the number of immigrants from any ethnic group, the less they see the need for assimilation.

In another two decades, we may have such a large Spanish-speaking population in the Southwestern states that we will encounter the phenomenon that Canada experienced with the attempted secession of French speaking Quebec. Already a militant Hispanic movement headquartered in Los Angeles called Casa Aztlan estimates that within twenty to thirty years they will have enough votes in California, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona to win a secession vote to set up a new Hispanic nation or reunify with Mexico. On 90 percent of the public high school and university campuses in the Southwestern United States, there is a group called MEXA.*

* Until 1997 they called themselves MEChA Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan. In 1997 they changed the spelling of Chicano to Xicano and now call themselves MEXA.

The preamble to the MEXA Constitution states that: “Chicana/Chicano students of California must politicize our Raza [race] and continue the struggle for self‑determination of the Chicana/Chicano people and the liberation of the nation of Aztlan."106 Article II, Section 1 states that the “General Membership shall consist of any student who accepts, believes, and works for the goals and objectives of Me.Ch.A. including the liberation of Aztlan, meaning self‑determination of our people in this 'occupied state' and the physical liberation of our land”(emphasis mine).

In a California conference entitled “The Immigration Crisis,” Dr. Jose Angel Gutierrez from the University of Texas drew cheers from his audience when he shouted:

Why do they come after us? Because we are fighting as a new Meztizo nation, not to be conquered .... We are going to build Aztlan we are here again! . . . We are millions! Regardless of the outcome in the short term, we have to survive. There is an aging white America; they are not making babies. It is a matter of time. The most preferred minority (blacks) are not making babies, their numbers are declining. Their expectations exceed what they are entitled to. Asians are at our heels; don't get too comfortable. You've got to get ready to govern. You must believe that you are entitled to govern. They say you are Latinizing Los Angeles I love it! Aztlan is our homeland! We are here again!107

This rhetoric has the same tone as the white supremacy groups employ. Yet, few people are willing to criticize such inflammatory racial rant. Apparently, such racial sentiments are politically acceptable if they are spoken by 1 minority group.

Is Dr. Gutierrez spouting just empty rhetoric? Although he is wrong about the number of blacks declining, Dr. Gutierrez is correct in recognizing that the fastest‑growing group in America are Hispanics. If present trends continue, their numbers will rise from 22 million in 1990 to 81 million by 2050.108 They will be primarily concentrated in just nine states: ‑California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Florida, Illinois, New Cork, and New Jersey. If they continue to be on the bottom of the economic heap and the socioeconomic profile of most of new immigrants suggest that they will be109 they will most likely blame the American “occupiers” of “Aztlan.” The use of terrorism to achieve the goal of secession then becomes quite probable. We might recall that the last time a group of states tried to secede from the Union it was a bloody event indeed. Even if we can avoid a war of secession, the eventual outcome of present migration trends will be the “disuniting” of the United States to the detri­ment of all its citizens.

Michael Lind of the New Republic takes a somewhat different view, sug­gesting that Balkanization will not be the major problem if present trends continue. Rather, the problem will be “Brazilianization” increased income inequality with a minority of white Americans forming an overclass, dominating an increasingly larger number of nonwhite poor.110 Now that is a scenario ripe for social strife.

Even if the most dire prognostications are not realized, the huge influx of people from a culture with no tradition of common law, due process, or dissent within the law is bound to have serious consequences. As columnist Lawrence Harrison explains, Latin America does not even have a word for dissent. Disagreement is often seen as treason or heresy.111 Until very recently, revolution has been the process employed for changing authoritarian governments, not the ballot box. Whether the move to democracy of recent years will be sustained remains to be seen.

The present migration patterns will even change the mix of religions in America, greatly increasing the power of the Catholic Church, which is a major reason Catholic prelates are so anxious to support sanctuary movements and virtually unrestricted immigration. Jesuit Father Richard Ryscavage, executive director of Migration and Refugee Services, boasted that immigration “is the growing edge of Catholicism in the U.S.” and the influx of more than ten million migrants in the last decade“is the key to our future."112
______
Used with permission of the author.
* This essay is from Chapter 4, Daleiden, Joseph L., 1999, The American Dream: Can it survive the 21st Century?, Prometheus Books, New York. p99-146.

The separation into three parts is not in the original paper; it is done to make the file smaller to speed loading.
[Continue to Part 2.]

 

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