As a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow, each Earth Day and on many other days during the year I address the key words that my organization strives for — population stabilization.
Environmentalists have written volumes about the importance of achieving sustainable population. On Earth Day, politicians pay token attention to how overpopulation contributes to the environment’s fragile condition. Yet the only change since the first 1970 Earth Day is that more people have been added. Today, global population is 7.5 billion, more than three times what many consider a sustainable total, and U.S. population is 325 million, more than twice what some scientists agree is the optimum number of humans.
In the U.S., population growth is less an individual family choice than the direct result of conscious congressional decisions to expand immigration that date back to 1965. During the Senate hearing about the effect the 1965 Immigration Act might have on population, New York Senator Robert Kennedy, responding to North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin’s questions, acknowledged that the legislation would eventually double U.S. population, and that mass immigration to America couldn’t and wouldn’t solve global overpopulation. Senators Ervin and Kennedy were right in their analysis, but wrong in their votes to pass the legislation. Both sides of the aisle overwhelmingly voted for the 1965 Immigration Act.
The Pew Research Center, in its retrospective on the 1965 Immigration Act, found that since its passage and through 2015, new immigrants, their children and grandchildren added 72 million people to the U.S., which accounted for 55 percent of the nation’s population growth.
The modern immigration wave vastly exceeds previous migration flows: between 1840 and 1889, 14.3 million immigrants came to the U.S., and between 1890 and 1919, an additional 18.2 million arrived.
Assuming continued decline in native fertility rates and a modest decline in net immigration, the Census Bureau calculates that in 2051 the U.S. population will hit 400 million.
But the Census Bureau is a government entity, politically motivated to calculate conservatively. Other independent studies, namely Pew and Decision Demographics, estimate that by mid-decade U.S. population will increase to more than 435 million. The same researchers concluded that if immigration were cut in half, population would grow only 70 million; if eliminated, only 31 million.
More than half a century has passed since the 1965 Immigration Act was enacted. Millions more live in our overcrowded nation. The question that Congress must answer is how many immigrants should be admitted annually to guarantee the best quality of life for future generations. Arguments to reduce immigration should not be confused as anti-immigrant, but rather pro-environment. Congress has numerous options that could establish sensible immigration that would help immigrants and native-born alike.
- A sharp reduction in employment-based visas for all but the truly exceptional. Visa holders’ U.S.-born children are automatically granted citizenship which helps permanently anchor their parents in the U.S. Students, tourists and family visitors must return home when their temporary visas expire. Congress passed an entry-exit plan 30 years ago that hasn’t yet been implemented.
- Pass mandatory E-Verify, which would ensure that only citizens and legal immigrants are employed. E-Verify eliminates the jobs magnet that lures illegal immigrants.
- End the visa lottery, and promote refugee resettlement near their home nations.
- Pass Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton’s RAISE Act that would cut legal immigration from more than 1 million annually to 500,000. Less immigration creates tighter labor markets and puts upward pressure on long-stagnant wages.
The U.S. has no population policy, and therefore no understanding of the limits to growth.
Congress must act to reject the political correctness, which has made the mere mention of population stabilization taboo, and act quickly to create an improved quality of life for all.