Immigration: the Number of Immigrants Matter

Published on September 29th, 2014

By Joe Guzzardi
September 29. 2014

The Center for Immigration Studies recently released its report which found that the number of legal and illegal immigrants living in the United States in 2013 reached a record high, 41.3 million. Nearly one in every six people in America is an immigrant. CIS’ research was based on the Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey.

Dating back to 1990, the U.S. immigrant population has doubled compared to the general population which has risen slightly over 20 percent. Since 1970, immigrant residents have quadrupled while the general population has increased only about 50 percent. During the three-year period between July 2010 and July 2013, the majority of immigrants came from the Middle East, Asia and the Caribbean not, as is widely assumed, from Latin America. Nearly 12 million illegal immigrants, mostly from Mexico, live in the U.S.

Immigration has been in the headlines since June 2013 when the Senate passed a historically sweeping bill which would have granted lawful status to at least 12 million illegal immigrants, given them work authorization and more than doubled legal immigration within a decade. Once the bill passed, advocates on both sides of the congressional aisle plus influential Beltway insiders set out to convince Americans that a huge immigration increase is in their best interests.

Advocates purposely ignored what the CIS study has made clear—that the U.S. already has significant and unsustainable immigration levels. The U.S. admits nearly one million legal immigrants annually, regardless of a weak economy or natural resource shortages, most notably the California drought. The Association of California Water Agencies predicts that 14 state communities will soon run dry.

Another disregarded variable is the relationship between continued high immigration, especially unskilled, and U.S. poverty. During the last two decades, immigration has contributed to a spike in the nation’s poverty level. Immigrants and their American-born children make up one-quarter of all those living in poverty. Even immigrants who have been in the U.S. more than twenty years are, because of their low educational levels, 50 percent more likely to be poor than native-born Americans.

Even liberal, pro-immigration supporters agree that more immigrants mean more poverty. Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize-winning New York Times columnist, wrote that mass immigration can’t co-exist with a strong American social safety net. Because a significant percentage of immigrants rely on Supplement Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Families, Medicaid and various other welfare programs, Krugman cautioned against a costly, global, open door immigration.

The debate shouldn’t be about whether immigration is good or bad, but about how many immigrants the U.S. can successfully absorb and assimilate without destroying its fabric.

On the subject of how many immigrants, there’s far from an accord. Many, pointing to the dramatic increase over the last four decades, propose a temporary immigration moratorium or, at least, a reduction in the total from one million annually to about 250,000. The immigration lobby, however, refuses to identify an optimum total and, when asked directly, suggests that many more than one million should be admitted.

Congress will decide. American have spoken clearly that they want less immigration. A July Gallup poll showed a plurality favors reduced immigration. Future immigration levels should be determined after Congress makes a complete study of all the factors—the economy, poverty, and population growth most important among them. Continuing on autopilot with the existing admission of one million immigrants per year and an undefended border is a disservice to Americans and legal immigrants.


Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been nationally syndicated since 1987.Contact him at [email protected]

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