Jo Wideman is taking immigration control beyond right-wing politics

Published on August 22nd, 2013

Friday, April 12, 2013
By Joseph Cotto
The Washington Times Online Edition

FLORIDA, April 12, 2013 — Opposition to illegal immigration is often portrayed as a key aspect of right-wing politics. Is this accurate? Might there be broader appeal for immigration control? 

How does family planning relate to population stabilization? What sort of family planning programs should government agencies promote in order to ensure a better quality of life for Americans?

In this second part of our discussion, Jo Wideman, the executive director of Californians for Population Stabilization, one of America’s foremost groups addressing population-related issues explains. She also tells us why she believes that unsustainable population growth is somewhat to blame for America remaining caught within the Great Recession’s clutches.


Joseph F. Cotto: Opposition to illegal immigration is often portrayed as a key aspect of right-wing politics. In your experience, is this accurate? Might there be broader appeal for immigration control?

Jo Wideman: There are both conservative and liberal reasons for reducing legal immigration and stopping illegal immigration. Some reasons for opposing illegal immigration include concerns for sensitive borderlands, the impact of population growth, the effect on schools, downward pressure on wages for low-income workers, terrorism and security, injustice to those who follow the rules, and the lack of respect for the rule of law. 

In today’s polarized political environment, politicians tend to exacerbate their policy differences rather than to seek common ground. 
While many right-wingers do embrace the cause of immigration restriction, especially curbing illegal immigration and enforcing our nation’s immigration laws, actually, immigration is an issue that has traditionally cut across party and ideological lines. (However, as battle lines have hardened, and wagons have been circled ever more tightly during the past decade or two of struggle, this may be somewhat less the case than in the past.) Many left-wingers in particular have been relentless in demonizing anyone who favors less immigration or more effective immigration enforcement as racist and xenophobic. 

This has tended to silence many centrists and left-of-center Americans who would rather not be so smeared. No less than Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat, former two-term Wisconsin governor and three-term U.S. Senator from that state, referred to this vilification as left-wing McCarthyism.

The fact is that the founders of some of the nation’s leading immigration restriction organizations are environmentalists first and foremost and are deeply concerned about the injurious effects of mass immigration on U.S. population growth and the environment. Groups such as CAPS not only care about the environment but also about the plight of American workers of all ethnic and racial backgrounds faced not just with offshoring in this globalizing world, but also a veritable flood of immigration.  

It is a myth that immigrants only take those jobs that Americans no longer want and therefore do not compete with American workers. Excessive immigration is responsible for unemployment, underemployment, and depressed wages and working conditions, not just for the working class (e.g. janitors, dry-wall hangers, gardeners and construction workers) but increasingly, for high-tech professions, such as IT and engineering, as well.  

Cotto: How does family planning relate to population stabilization?

Wideman: Population stabilization is achieved when there is replacement-level fertility over a sufficient time period and when there is replacement-level immigration. Fertility in the U.S. has been at, or just below, replacement-level for 40 years. Were it not for large-scale immigration, the U.S. would have achieved a stable population. A population does not stabilize immediately upon reaching replacement-level fertility because of “population momentum,” a large cohort of younger people in their reproductive years as a result of previously high fertility rates. 
Family planning is thus an integral part of population stabilization both in the United States and internationally. Family planning and more broadly, women’s reproductive health programs, are crucial elements in U.S. and global population stabilization efforts. They are what have enabled the U.S., over a period of four decades, to maintain a Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of approximately two – i.e., “replacement level” – which is the number of children needed for long-term population stability.  

Globally, family planning has been responsible for a halving of the global TFR over the past five decades, from approximately 5 to 2.5 or so. It is a phenomenal achievement. Yet, due to demographic momentum, as well as lingering large family preferences in a number of countries, as well as the sad fact that over 200 million couples worldwide are unable to access family planning services, world population is still growing by about 80 million annually.

No women want to bear as many children as their latent fecundity would allow. (In theory, a woman can bear upwards of 18 children over her lifetime.) Thus, almost all women practice birth control of one form or another during their reproductive years. Family planning is the broader term to describe a woman’s ability to control both the number and spacing of her children, as well as to maintain her health during pregnancy and childbirth plus infant health. (In countries with high infant and childhood mortality, women will have more children to assure that some survive to adulthood.) 

At the group level—community, country, or the planet as a whole—population stabilization occurs when women bear on average approximately 2 children over their lifetimes (ignoring immigration). Since population growth cannot go on indefinitely, family planning (especially modern, reliable, safe methods of birth control) is essential to allow a society to stabilize its population at an optimum level that allows the society to thrive within its natural resource base and its social endowments.
Cotto: In your opinion, what sort of family planning programs should government agencies promote in order to ensure a better quality of life for Americans?

Wideman: At a minimum, government agencies should support: 1) population education and awareness campaigns through public schools and continuing education; 2) appropriate sex education programs in public schools, starting from about 5th grade and continuing through 12th grade; 3) education on the role of population growth in environmental degradation that will enable families to make responsible decisions that are appropriate for them and beneficial to the environment; and 4) require health insurance plans to also cover prescription contraceptives in plans that otherwise include prescription medication coverage. 

When they have the opportunity, American women choose small families.

Cotto: Despite the federal government’s numerous attempts to stimulate the economy, America remains caught within the Great Recession’s clutches. Do you believe that unsustainable population growth is somewhat to blame for this?

Wideman: While population growth did not cause the Great Recession, continued levels of high immigration have exacerbated the high unemployment levels. 

Overall employment levels have still not regained where they were pre-recession, yet each year we willingly flood the labor market with additional workers through our immigration policies—the U.S. economy must create 150,000 new jobs each year just to keep pace with population growth – this at a time when so many Americans, both native-born and immigrant, are struggling to find jobs that pay well enough and provide enough hours to make ends meet. This is irrational and definitely not in the national interest. 

More broadly, the role of population growth in pursuing prosperity is a subject of great debate among economists, ecologists, and futurists. CAPS would argue that for any prosperity to be truly sustainable – rather than boom and collapse –  population stabilization is a prerequisite.   


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