In 2012 the Census Bureau sharply reduced its projection for U.S. population growth. Prior to that it forecast that the total U.S. population would reach 439 million by the year 2050. The Pew Research Center calculated that 82 percent of that growth would come from immigrants and their descendants.
With its subsequent revision, the Census Bureau now predicts that our population will reach only 400 million by the middle of the century. With our current population at around 320 million, that still means 80 million more people within the next 35 years. One of the main reasons the Bureau lowered its estimate was the belief that immigration levels, legal and illegal, would decrease from previous assumptions. Even so, immigration under this latest projection will still account for “the overwhelming majority” of population growth, according to an analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies.
But is this assumption reliable in the long run? One factor influencing the Bureau’s reassessment was that illegal immigration began a substantial decline after 2007. Since 2012, however, it has started turning upward, as measured by apprehensions of illegal aliens by the Border Patrol.
Several factors probably explain this new trend. It is no coincidence that illegal immigration began plummeting as the U.S. economy entered a severe recession. With the economy down and jobs becoming relatively scarce, many would-be border crossers decided not to come, and many illegal aliens residing here decided to go home.
The Obama Administration certainly exaggerates the improvement of the economy, but today it is better than it was five or six years ago. The improvement no doubt has acted as a magnet for more illegal immigration, and if the improvement continues, it will draw and retain even more people with little regard for our laws.
The administration further encourages illegal immigration with its unilateral offers of amnesty. Rewarding illegal behavior simply promotes more of it by sending the message abroad to potential violators that they too might win the amnesty jackpot if they venture to come here.
Since 2010, the Obama Administration has systematically undermined and sabotaged immigration law enforcement, an activity meticulously documented by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Surely the word is circulating south of the border that if you can make it here you face little risk of being sent home. And again, maybe you can get amnesty too, and eventually get a pathway to citizenship, a goal the powerful pro-illegal alien lobbies will ardently promote. Then as a citizen, you can bring in your relatives.
So if the economy keeps improving and the administration’s policies aren’t repealed, it is quite likely that the level of illegal immigration will be much higher than what the Census Bureau now thinks it will be. And on top of that, legal immigration could go up substantially as well.
According to a paper by the Center for Immigration Studies, the administration may try to boost legal numbers without getting approval from Congress. Under existing law, the U.S. sets an annual limit of 140,000 for work-based legal visas. This total includes both the visa holders and their family members. What the administration may seek is to have the quota just include the visa holders – and family members would come in above the quota. Allowing that arrangement, as the paper notes, goes against the intention of Congress in establishing the quota. Furthermore, this same number-enhancing tactic could be applied to other quota categories.
Once again, the Census Bureau may have to revise its current projection upward. But even if it doesn’t, the present forecast of 80 million more people is not a good prospect. To appreciate the magnitude of this number, consider that it is only slightly less than the total population of our three most populous states. Thus in a little more than three decades, we would add in terms of population another California, Texas and New York.
Could we absorb such a multitude without significant stress and dislocations? Probably not. So certainly we should be looking at ways to cut immigration rather than allowing it to rise higher and higher.