Minnesotans For Sustainability©
Sustainable Society: A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.
Population And The American Future
John D. Rockefeller 3rd,
Chapter 13: Immigration
immigration has contributed profoundly to the growth and development of this
country. In fact, we pride ourselves on being a nation of immigrants.
Traditionally, because of the desire to settle advancing frontiers and the
demand for labor in the expanding industries, there were few restrictions on
immigration. However, a changing situation early in this century became
reflected in new immigration policies. The situation is now changing again, and
it is appropriate that the Commission review the role of immigration.
Our nation’s history repeatedly reveals the outstanding contributions of immigrants. They provided much of the manpower and initiative that settled the colonies and opened the west. They helped build the railroads, worked in the factories, organized labor, succeeded at the highest levels of business and government, and have left an indelible mark on American arts and scholarship. Immigrants today are contributing in equally significant ways, and there is every reason to expect such benefits from immigration in the future. Our society has been shaped by the many identities of its citizens.
In response to
the needs of the economically, religiously, and politically oppressed around the
world and to our needs as a new and growing nation, there were no significant
restrictions on immigration until after the Civil War. In 1882, Chinese
The 1965 legislation shifted the restrictions from national origins to priorities based on family reunification, asylum for refugees, and needed skills and professions. Because of past restrictions, backlogs of demand, and the 1965 change in policy, there has been a dramatic shift in the geographic origins of our immigrants. From 1945 to 1965, 43 percent of immigrants came from Europe. But, from 1966 to 1970, only one-third of the immigrants were European, while one-third were Canadian and Latin American, and the remaining third were West Indian, Asian, and African.2 This geographic change has also affected the racial composition of immigrants, increasing the number of nonwhites. Because of earlier changes in composition, women now outnumber male immigrants, and there are more families with dependents.3
sixties, the flow of aliens arriving for permanent residence averaged about
332,000 per year. There were about 100,000 more such persons entering the
country in 1970 than was the case in 1960.4 Because the 1965 changes in immigration
policies are so recent, it is not entirely clear whether these adjustments will
develop into long-range trends.
Immigrants are now entering the United States at a rate of almost 400,000 per year.5 The relative importance of immigration as a component of population growth has increased significantly as declining birthrates diminish the level of natural increase. However, the proportion of the population which is foreign-born (about five percent) is not changing much. Between 1960 and 1970, about 16 percent of the total population growth was due to net immigration (the difference between the number of people entering the country and the number leaving).
However, the increasing relative significance of immigration can be misleading for, if native births and deaths were balanced, immigration would account for 100 percent of population growth.
If net immigration were to remain at about 400,000 per year and all families were to have an average of two children, then immigrants arriving: between 1970 and the year 2000, plus their descendants born here, would number 15 million at the end of the century. This would account for almost a quarter of the total population increase during that period.6
One should ask not only how much immigration contributes to population growth, but also how seriously immigration affects the advent of population stabilization. If immigration were to continue at the rate of about 400,000 per year, a rate of 2.0 rather than 2.1 children per woman would eventually stabilize the population, though at a later date. And the size of the population would ultimately be about eight percent larger than if there were no international migration whatsoever.7
If the flow of residents leaving this country were as large as the flow of immigrants, they would balance each other and have no impact on the growth rate. Unfortunately, no records are kept of people permanently leaving the country; emigration statistics must rely on indirect estimates. Indications are that emigration has been increasing recently from about 23,000 in 1965 to 37,000 in 1970. The most popular destinations are Canada, Israel, and Australia, and these may possibly account for more than half the emigrants. Emigration now is probably only about one-tenth the volume of immigration, but it has been proportionately larger in other periods of history. Of course, it is possible that it may increase again in the future.
affects not only the growth of the population, but also its distribution. It is
not surprising that the settlement patterns of immigrants reflect the
distribution trends of the native population, since most immigrants come to this
country either to join their relatives or obtain a job. In fact, immigrants tend
to prefer metropolitan areas and are concentrated in a few of the largest
cities. Immigrants will contribute about 23 percent of the population growth
which is projected to occur within fixed metropolitan boundaries between 1970
and 2000, assuming the 2-child growth rate.8 Not only do immigrants tend to be
highly metropolitan, they are also concentrated in a few states. Two-thirds of
the recent immigrants intended to settle in six states —New York,
New Jersey, Illinois, Texas, and Massachusetts.9
A major and growing problem associated with immigration is that of illegal immigrants.* It is impossible to estimate precisely how many escape detection; but, during 1971, over 420,000 deportable aliens were located. This figure is larger than the number of immigrants who entered legally during the same period. Estimates place the number of illegal aliens currently in the United States between one and two million. Most are men seeking employment. Because the number of illegal aliens apprehended has risen dramatically (from less than 71,000 in 1960 to over 400,000 in 1971), the number of aliens in illegal status has probably been increasing significantly. Also, the problem has been spreading from the southwest, along the Mexican border, to all the major metropolitan areas across the country.10
* A separate statement by Commissioner Alan Cranston appears on page 152.
The economic problems exacerbated by illegal aliens are manifold and affect the labor market and social services. It is often profitable for employers to hire illegal aliens for low wages and under poor working conditions; these workers will not risk discovery of their unlawful status by complaining or organizing. Thus, illegal aliens (who usually take unskilled or low-skilled positions) not only deprive citizens and permanent resident aliens of jobs, but also depress the wage scale and working conditions in areas where they are heavily concentrated. Although many aliens enter the United States in order to work and send much of their earnings back to their families and homeland, others are not as fortunate in finding jobs and can be a drain on public welfare and social services. Because of the illegal and precarious nature of their status, these aliens are ready prey for unscrupulous lawyers, landlords, and employers.
Eight out of
10 illegal aliens found are Mexicans. Most of the others are Canadians and West
Indians, although there are also sizable groups of Portuguese, Greeks, Italians,
Chinese, and Filipinos. Their countries were affected by immigration policy
changes in the 1965 Act, and there is considerable demand and pressure for
immigrant visas. The flow of illegal immigrants could probably be reduced if the
numbers of permanent residence visas were increased, the economic incentives for
hiring illegal aliens were eliminated, and/or the economic advantages of
obtaining a job in this country were reduced. In any case, an aggressive
enforcement program must be developed along all borders and ports of entry. Any
enforcement programs against illegal entry and possible laws against employment
of illegal aliens must take special care not to infringe upon the civil rights
of Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and others who are legally residing here and
working or seeking work.
In addition to the adverse economic pressures caused by illegal aliens, it is possible that legal immigration could have a negative impact if not regulated carefully. It is the purpose of the labor certification program to ensure that immigrants do not compete with indigenous labor, particularly in periods and geographic areas of unemployment. But, only a small percent of immigrants are actually required to be certified. Since immigrants often have relatively high education and skills, there is an economic incentive for employers and institutions to favor them. This can work to the disadvantage of the native-born, particularly members of minority groups and women, who have traditionally been discriminated against and denied opportunities to upgrade their skills.
A flow of highly trained immigrants can mask the need for developing and promoting domestic talents —for example, in the medical field. Although medical schools have recently been expanding enrollments, a significant proportion of the demand for doctors is being met by immigrants trained abroad. It appears that, without the availability of these foreign doctors, the medical schools would be under greater pressure to increase their enrollment and to provide more educational opportunities for all Americans —particularly minorities and women. The fact that there are more registered Filipino doctors (about 7,00011) than black doctors (about 6,00012) practicing in the United States shows the inequities that can arise.
are also favored in the unskilled and semi-skilled occupations, the
discrimination should be attacked directly. Obviously, such discrimination may
have other important sources which may not be affected by immigration policy.
Thus, it is important to watch occupational trends, particularly in metropolitan
areas, to ensure employment and development opportunities to racial and ethnic
minorities. Traditionally, regardless of their ethnic origins, immigrants have
started employment at the lowest levels and worked their way up to gain a
measure of affluence. For various reasons, blacks have not benefited equally.
Special attention to career advancement programs and promotion practices, as
well as hiring, is needed to permit blacks to travel the same economic path and
have the same opportunities as immigrants.
The Commission believes that it is imperative for this country to address itself, first, to the problems of its own disadvantaged and poor. The flow of immigrants should be closely regulated until this country can provide adequate social and economic opportunities for all its present members, particularly those traditionally discriminated against because of race, ethnicity, or sex.
Thus, the Commission believes that an effectively implemented and flexible labor certification program is necessary to ensure that immigrants do not compete with residents for work. Immigration policies must react quickly to changes in domestic unemployment rates and in occupational and geographic shifts in the labor force. Also, national manpower planners and immigration officials ought to be aware of the more subtle form of discrimination related to immigration. A readily available source of trained professionals from other countries may slow the development of domestic talents and the expansion of training facilities. While this importation of talent may be economical for the United States, it is not fair either to the foreign countries that educate the professionals or to our own citizens —particularly those minority groups and women whose access to professional training and economic advancement has been limited.
In order for Congress and immigration officials to consider these economic problems, apply appropriate regulations, and expect the economic conflicts to be alleviated, they must also eliminate the flow of illegal immigrants. As has been shown, the economic and social problems associated with illegal immigrants have reached significant proportions.
The Commission recommends that Congress immediately consider the serious situation of illegal immigration and pass legislation which will impose civil and criminal sanctions on employers of illegal border-crossers or aliens in an immigration status in which employment is not authorized.
To implement this policy, the Commission recommends provision of increased and strengthened resources consistent with an effective enforcement program in appropriate agencies.
immigration issue involves complex moral, economic, and political
considerations, as well as demographic concerns, there was a division of opinion
within the Commission about policies regarding the number of immigrants. Some
Commissioners felt that the number of immigrants should be gradually decreased,
about 10 percent a year for five years.
The majority felt that the present level of immigration should be maintained because of the humanitarian aspects; because of the contribution which immigrants have made and continue to make to our society; and because of the importance of the role of the United States in international migration.
The Commission recommends that immigration levels not be increased and that immigration policy be reviewed periodically to reflect demographic conditions and considerations.
To implement this policy, the Commission recommends that Congress require the Bureau of the Census, in coordination with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, to report biennially to the Congress on the impact of immigration on the nation‘s demographic situation.
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