April 24, 2013
President John F. Kennedy, A Nation of Immigrants
William Jefferson Clinton, Portland State University Commencement 1998
"Within five years there will be no majority race in our largest state, California." ... "In a little more than 50 years" ... "there will be no majority race in the United States." ... "The driving force behind our increasing diversity is a new, large wave of immigration. It is changing the face of America." ... "No other nation in history has gone through a change of this magnitude in so short a time." ... "What do the changes mean? They can either strengthen and unite us, or they can weaken and divide us. We must decide... But mark my words, unless we handle this well, immigration of this sweep and scope could threaten the bonds of our union.
May 1999, K. Pitts
I have nothing against immigrants. My ancestors were immigrants. My parents were immigrants to California. Some of my friends are immigrants. But there has come a critcal time now that we must say no to growth. While the greatest need is in third world countries, tears come to my eyes when I think of what is happening to the wild areas of California, the favorite haunts of my youth. California is one of the most biologically diverse parts of the world. But not for long. It has become horrifically sprawled out and the miles driven in greenhouse-gas-emitting vehicles has increased even faster than the population while the number of hours spent sitting or creeping along in traffic (and the emissions still spewing out) has increased even faster. I have little faith that our unproven attacks on sprawl will resolve the ever-increasing problem of human overflow in California. Los Angeles, big and bloated, craves more and more water. Economic growth due to population growth will end when our resources run out, but not before the environment is trampled.
U.S. population has risen by 100 million since 1970, and an area three times the size of Britain was recently opened up for mining, drilling, logging and road building. A million new legal migrants are coming into the USA every year and the Census Bureau projection for 2050 is 420 million. The belief that the US is the best country in the world is a cornerstone of national self-belief, and many Americans want others to share it. They also want cheap labor to cut the sugar cane, pluck the chickens, pick the oranges, mow the lawns and make the beds. The population issue is political dynamite and it is potent among the Hispanic community, who will probably decide the future president and do not wish to be told their relatives will not be allowed in or, if illegal, harassed. "Neither party wants to say we should change immigration policy," says John Haaga of the independent Population Reference Bureau. "The phrase being used is 'Hispandering'". Extra Americans are a problem for the world because migrants take on American consumption patterns. It's not the number of people, it's their consumption. The federal government does not include anyone charged with thinking about this issue.
An average of 104,000 foreigners a day in arrive the United States. This group includes 3,100 who have received immigrant visas that allow them to settle and become naturalized citizens after five years, and 99,200 tourists and business and student visitors. About 2,000 unauthorized foreigners a day settle in the United States. Over half elude apprehension on the Mexico-U.S. border; the others enter legally, but violate the terms of their visitor visas by going to work or not departing.
The recent recession and unemployment has reduced the number of unauthorized foreigners entering the country. However, most unauthorized foreigners did not go home even if they lost their jobs, since there were also few jobs in their home countries. The recession resulted in the loss of 8 million jobs; civilian employment fell from 146 million at the end of 2007 to 138 million at the end of 2009.
Enforcement of immigration laws has been increased, especially after the failure of the U.S. Senate to approve a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2007, including the proposal to require employers to fire employees whose names and social security data do not match.
The number of unauthorized foreigners fell in 2008-09 for the first time in two decades but experts disagree over why it fell. Some studies suggest the recession, others say the effects of federal and state enforcement efforts to keep unauthorized workers out of U.S. jobs.
More states and cities are enacting laws to deal with unauthorized migration, including an Arizona law signed in April 2010 that makes unauthorized presence in the state a crime. Public opinion polls find widespread dissatisfaction with the "broken" immigration system.
For a decade, Congress has been unable to agree on a three-pronged package that would toughen enforcement against unauthorized migration, legalize most unauthorized foreigners, and create new guest worker programs and expand current ones.
Arizona and a dozen other states require employers to use the federal government's electronic E-Verify system to check the legal status of new hires; private employers with federal contracts must also use E-Verify.
As U.S. fertility fell from a peak of 3.7 children per woman in the late 1950s to 2.0 today, the contribution of immigration to U.S. population growth increased. Between 1990 and 2010, the number of foreign-born U.S. residents almost doubled from 20 million to 40 million, while the U.S. population rose from almost 250 million to 310 million. Immigration directly contributed one-third of U.S. population growth and, including children and grandchildren of immigrants, immigration contributed half of U.S. population growth.
Of 39 million foreign-born US residents in 2009; 11 million, almost 30%, were in the U.S. illegally. The United States has more foreign-born residents than any country, three times more than number-two Russia, and more unauthorized residents than any other country.
In recent decades, immigrants have been mostly Asian and Hispanic, changing the composition of the U.S. population. In 1970, about 83% of the 203 million U.S. residents were non-Hispanic whites and 6% were Hispanic or Asian. Today, 20% are Hispanic or Asian. If current trends continue, by 2050 the non-Hispanic white share of U.S. residents will decline to about 50%.
Most immigrants come to the United States for economic opportunity. In 2009, about 15% of U.S. workers were born outside the United States.
Economic theory predicts that adding foreign workers to the labor force should increase economic output and lower wages, or lower the rate of increase in wages. A National Research Council study confirmed this theory, estimating immigration raised U.S. GDP, the value of all goods and services produced, one-tenth of 1% in 1996. This would suggest that, in 2010, immigration contributed up to $15 billion to U.S. GDP.
Average U.S. wages were depressed 3% because of immigration. Because of internal migration, most economists look for the impacts of immigrants throughout the U.S. labor market rather than in particular cities.
Almost half of the 12 million U.S. workers without a high-school diploma are immigrants, and most have low earnings. Most taxes from low earners flow to the federal government as Social Security and Medicare taxes, but the major tax-supported services used by immigrants are education and other services provided by state and local governments.
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300 Million ... and Counting; If You're Like Many People, That's a Hard Number to Comprehend, but You Might Want to Get Used to That Figure. Later This Year, the U.S. Population Will Reach That Mark.January 29, 2006, Sacramento Bee
The U.S. Census Bureau expects the population to hit the 300-million mark in October. In the last five years, about 58% of growth has come from natural increase while 42% is because of immigration. The natural increase in California last year outpaced immigration, with 64% of growth because of births outweighing deaths and 36% because of immigration. Some lament the strain on natural resources and the toll the growing population exacts on the environment, but many can't make an accurate guess when asked how many people live in the US. People have a hard time relating to numbers because they think it doesn't affect their lives. If anything, reaching the 300 million people benchmark is a time to look at overpopulation and how it may affect the quality of our lives. Are we going to have enough schools, are classes going to be too crowded, what services will be available? Are our communities going to be safe and healthy? Will there be enough parks and open space? The problems are already here and they're going to get worse. Countries with little growth or even population declines are at the opposite end of the spectrum, asking, 'What are we going to do with a declining working age population and growing aging population?' U.S. population growth doesn't take into account the indirect result of immigration. In 2003, 24% of U.S. women who gave birth were foreign-born and 46% of California women who gave birth were foreign-born. If not for immigration, the U.S. population would not be growing very fast, but we also would be a lot older. We're younger because immigrants are young, working-age adults for the most part and are in their prime child-bearing years. The envıronmental organization Sierra Club laments the stress population growth places on the environment, but believes the focus should be on human rights. Ensuring people have access to reproductive health care, education and equal economic opportunities is directly linked to the planet's health. When every individual has access to basic human rights, they choose to have smaller and healthier families. The average person doesn't really care about the number of people living in the United States.
A recently released report, co-authored by Robert Warren, former demographer of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, and John Robert Warren, professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, puts the size of the unauthorized population at 11.7 million as of January 2010. Moreover, unauthorized arrivals plummeted nationally from 1.39 million to 384,000 from 2000 to 2009, while departures rose from 369,000 to 558,000. As a result, the U.S. unauthorized population decreased in 2008 and 2009.
The report comes at a politically charged moment, as Congress begins to consider immigration reform and a possible path to citizenship for the nation's unauthorized residents.
Other important findings:
* The largest single cause of "departures" is not formal removals (deportations), but emigration.
* Emigration of the unauthorized did not increase in 2008 and 2009, despite the Great Recession and record levels of immigration enforcement.
* Nearly 5.7 million U.S. unauthorized residents had entered prior to 2000 as of January 2010. The longer an immigrant remains, the greater the likelihood that he or she will seek to remain permanently.
* Nearly two-thirds of U.S. unauthorized residents live in California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Georgia. Between 1990 and 2010, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Georgia each experienced more than an eleven-fold increase in their unauthorized populations. These states have been flashpoints for anti-immigrant anger and activism.
The report's findings might be seen to complement a growing body of research which demonstrates that strict border enforcement policies have led unauthorized laborers - who might otherwise have come and gone as their work demanded -- to stay in the United States for longer periods and has, thus, incentivized illegal migration by their families as well. Both sets of research suggest the need for immigration policy reforms that combine enforcement with new avenues to legal status.
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