“Dangers by being despised grow great.”
Although preelection polls indicated that likely voters would favor candidates who supported immigration control, Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Ross Perot did not consider the issue worth mentioning during the recent presidential contest. But if our leaders wish the “i” word would go away, in the future the public may not let them. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll taken six weeks after the November election confirmed that anti-immigration sentiment is running high, with 71 percent of those surveyed saying that immigration should be cut back.
At least two major reasons account for this new evidence of sustained concern. First, the prospect of millions of “refugees” flooding into our country is not a source of comfort. Within hours of Clinton’s election, Haitians started building boats to make their one-way cruise to the American land of milk and honey. In the New World Disorder, there are, by Freedom House’s definition, perhaps 4 billion people who might qualify as potential refugees.
Second, the American economy is undergoing some fundamental restructuring, marked by dramatic down-sizing. We simply do not need additional foreign job-seekers, nor clients for our overburdened welfare programs. With an estimated 30 million adult illiterates, there is certainly no shortage of potential, unskilled workers. And white collar professions have been hit hard during the past decade, with tens of thousands laid off. The engineers, doctors, and professors streaming in from India and Pakistan should stay where they are and serve their own people. And is our economy really dependent upon Koreans and Middle Easterners to operate our convenience and liquor stores?
Those of us involved in immigration reform have long believed that the debate would evolve through three stages. One, the Statue of Liberty phase, in which appeals to the misrepresented imagery of the statue and a recitation of Emma Lazarus’ sonnet would provide ready answers to any and all immigration policy questions. America, according to this view, should be perpetually open to unlimited immigration. Two, the caveat phase, in which people would begin to reconsider their position, while feeling obliged to voice departures from orthodoxy discreetly by prefacing comments with, “Now, I’m not a racist or a xenophobe, but I’ve been thinking about immigration and . . . ” And three, the free discussion phase, in which immigration policy would finally be acknowledged as a legitimate topic for public debate, just like any other national issue. Those who engaged in the debate could do so without having to endure a campaign of character assassination.
The raft of new titles published in this country touching on the interrelated issues of population, immigration, resources, and community and national unity—of which space permits the highlighting here of only a few—is a sign that the debate is at long last moving into its mature phase. Any lingering reservations one might have about forthrightly discussing concerns regarding immigration and population should be dispelled by the fact that the eminently respectable George Kennan devotes the seventh chapter of his new book. Around the Cragged Hill, to these very issues. Reflecting on a lifetime of service to the elements that assumed power with the election of Woodrow Wilson, Kennan contends that “there is an optimal balance, dependent on the manner of man’s life, between the density of human population and the tolerances of nature.” For the United States, this balance was surpassed by 1970, when our population topped the 200 million mark. Whatever was our past ability to absorb waves of culturally diverse immigrants, “that is water over the dam.” History points to other advanced societies whose inhabitants have been displaced by more fertile, if less civilized, newcomers. “Surely there is a lesson in this,” Kennan observes. He fears that if we refuse to reassess our immigration policies in light of new realities, the migration of Third and Fourth Worlders “will find its termination only when the levels of overpopulation and poverty in the United States are equal to those of the countries from which these people are now too anxious to escape. . . . [T]he inability of any society to resist immigration is a serious weakness, and possibly even a fatal one.”
Keith Barrons is an agronomist who has played a key role in the “Green Revolution,” including the engineering of genetic improvements in vegetables, the discovery and development of herbicides used to increase grain yields, and the pioneering research of “no till” farming, which retards soil erosion. The optimism that marked his earlier experiences has been tempered by acknowledgment that the lOO-plus countries comprising the Third World are undergoing population growth rates—a doubling of their numbers in 20 years—that outstrip their carrying capacity. In A Catastrophe in the Making, he reviews mankind’s demographic past and present and considers its likely future. Rebutting Cornucopians such as Julian Simon, he explains that their positions are based on assumptions about economic and agricultural growth that are 30 years out-of-date. Per-acre output has leveled off, and the limits to solar energy and usable water dictate an end to the truly remarkable gains of the recent past. Ninety-six percent of future world population growth will come among the inhabitants of the Third World. These rates must come down, or virtually all of them will face increasing poverty and hunger and irrevocable environmental degradation. As Dr. Barrons warns his readers, it is this very real population explosion that creates immense pressures for migration to the United States.
An international demographer, Robert Fox, and an immigration researcher, Ira Mehlman, have collaborated to produce Crowding Out the Future: World Population Growth, U.S. Immigration, and Pressures on Natural Resources. This excellent book, suitable for classroom use, combines text, computer-generated graphics, satellite imagery, and charts to explain how population growth outside of the United States is generating immigration pressures. The authors go on to point out that nearly half of America’s population lives on just 10 percent of its landmass, which happens to comprise the most ecologically fragile areas of the country. American population growth, fueled by unprecedented levels of immigration, is choking the very ecosystems that support human existence on the North American continent. The book includes thought-provoking original essays by human ecologist Garrett Hardin and former Colorado Governor Richard Lamm, who discuss the ethics of population growth and immigration control. Hardin counters the argument that we have a moral obligation to take in all who wish to come by reminding his readers that “charity begins at home” and that “brothers and sisters in all sovereign states must accept the responsibility of solving their population problems in their own territories.” Lamm points out that such pressing national problems as unemployment, crime, health care, education, pollution, and national unity are all exacerbated by population growth fed by immigration. He urges America to become an example to others of how a prosperous, stable society can be created.
Most discussions of population are carried on in terms of the maximum number of people a given area can support. Representative of this school is economics professor Jacqueline Kasun, a disciple of Julian Simon who suggested in her book The War Against Population that the entire population of the world could comfortably live in the state of Texas. Lindsey Grant, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environmental and Population Affairs, asked a group of experts in the fields of energy use, agriculture, biology, resource management, labor economics, immigration policy, sociology, and national defense the following questions: “Ideally, given the issues facing the country, how many Americans should there be? How many would be desirable? How can we get there, and how long would it take?” The responses to his challenge are given in Elephants in the Volkswagen, the first book published in this country to link our population size with a host of pressing national problems.
Grant and his colleagues refute the fundamental assumptions of those who argue that continuing population growth is desirable, arguing that the United States is already over-populated, especially given the standard of living we wish future generations to enjoy, and that national policies and social behavior are exacerbating the situation. Paul Werbos of the National Science Foundation contends that, though we require a skilled and productive labor force, current immigration policy favors the admission of unskilled Third World natives. And increasingly, “it is the poorest [Americans] who are having the most children.”
Crowded societies, the authors point out, do not leave much room for the kinds of freedom that can be enjoyed in uncrowded ones. Had the American population stabilized at the 1950 mark of 150 million, today we would require no imported oil, pollution would be dramatically lower, and many other problems would be less intense or nonexistent. By calling for restrictive immigration policies and other measures to reduce population density in the United States, the contributors to this symposium demonstrate how individual prosperity and a quality environment may be assured for future generations. As Grant explains in his concluding essay, “In a world of nation-states, we have neither the authority nor the patent to save the rest of the world. Our responsibility is to our own people, and to our descendants.”
Eleven years ago, Leon Bouvier, a Tulane University demographer long associated with the Population Reference Bureau, co-authored The Future Racial Composition of the United States, which stated matter-of-factly that “we are at a crossroads in the development of the nation. . . . The United States is on the verge of being transformed ethnically and racially.” Given continuing high rates of Third World immigration and relatively high birthrates by these new entrants and their descendants, sometime in the early to mid-21st century non-Hispanic whites will no longer constitute a majority. Whether this will prove to be a blessing or instead lead to the sort of strife we now witness in the former Soviet Union and the subcontinent of India, he would not hazard to predict. He emphasized that his work was based on projections of events that need not come to pass. But for an alternative future to be possible, he added, changes in American population policy would have to be enacted—and soon.
At the request of the Center for Immigration Studies, Dr. Bouvier has directed demographic studies of three states that are the destination of preference for many immigrants. Readers who are afraid of statistics need not shy away from these volumes, which include only the essential figures, accompanied by clear text. Bouvier presents the available facts and notes the prevailing trends. He and his coauthors leave it to the reader to arrive at his own conclusions.
Bouvier’s Fifty Million Californians? focuses on the nation’s most populous state. California’s population, now at 31 million, may surpass 50 million by 2020. Well before that happens, perhaps as soon as the year 2000, the state’s non-Hispanic whites are expected to comprise less than half of the population. California already suffers from high unemployment, a huge state budget deficit, overcrowded schools, growing welfare rolls, severe air pollution and water shortages, and traffic gridlock, in addition to mounting ethnic conflict. One can only guess at what the political future holds for this multiple-minority state.
Bouvier and sociologist Bob Weller, currently Scientific Research Administrator at the National Institutes of Health, assess the Sunshine State in Florida in the 21st Century. They point out that Florida’s population increased 33 percent during the 1980’s and that by 1990 Florida had become the country’s fourth-largest state. High levels of legal and illegal immigration, along with domestic migration, pose a serious challenge to maintaining the state’s quality of life, which is today characterized by urban sprawl, air and water pollution, threats to wildlife, and strained educational and social services. According to the 1990 census, 76 percent of Floridians were “Anglos,” 13 percent black, and 12 percent Hispanic. If current fertility, mortality, and migration patterns continue, the Anglo proportion will fall to 64 percent by 2020 and 57 percent by 2050. The proportion of blacks will increase to 16 percent in 2020 and 19 percent in 2050, while the proportion of Hispanics will likewise rise to 16 and 19 percent over those same periods. Should these projections become reality, the ethnic and age compositions of Florida’s future population will increase the likelihood for conflict among ethnic groups and generations.
Bouvier has also joined with Dudley Poston, chairman of the sociology department at Texas A&M, to produce Thirty Million Texans? Here they examine the demographic future of the Lone Star State and consider its meaning and implications for the state’s social institutions and infrastructure. As in California and New York, should current trends continue here, by 2005 non- Hispanic whites will no longer be the majority and by 2020 Latinos will surpass Anglos to become the state’s largest ethnic group. Texas already confronts an educational challenge of crisis proportions; the fastest-growing ethnic groups, blacks and Hispanics, have dismal educational attainments, nearly 34 percent of African-Americans and 55.5 percent of Latinos having less than a high school education. A remarkable 38 percent of Latinos have less than a ninth grade education. Should Texas continue to receive a large number of Hispanics, whether legal or illegal aliens, how will the state cope with a growing population characterized by limited education and poor proficiency in English? Employers already report that 70 to 80 percent of applicants for entry-level clerical and technical positions lack basic English and math skills. The demographic shifts of the 1970’s and 1980’s have affected virtually every segment of Texan society. But as the authors emphasize, “Texans can do something about these demographic changes if they really want to.”
In one of the more quixotic gestures of a dismal presidency, George Bush signed into law the 1990 Immigration Act, which increased legal immigration by 40 percent. Whisked through Congress with little discussion, legislators let the public understand that the United States faces a looming labor shortage, thus justifying the act, while Ben Wattenberg went so far as to claim that the chronic federal budget deficit could be eliminated if more immigrants were admitted.
Immigration 2000: The Century of the New American Sweatshop contains 25 studies and articles by some of our leading economists and immigration scholars. These provide an iron-clad refutation of the myths about the economic benefits of the immigration policies promoted by Simon, Wattenberg et al. The thrust of their work is that current policies are contributing to a decline in American economic competitiveness, while undermining the job opportunities, wages, and working conditions of American workers.
How immigration policy relates to other political, economic, social, and cultural issues facing this country is the topic of former Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy’s book, A Colony of the World: The United States Today. McCarthy points out in his introduction that, historically, colonialism is characterized by political, military, economic, demographic, and cultural control of the colonial territory by outside directing powers. It is his thesis that the United States has, for all practical purposes, descended to the status of a colony, one dominated not by any single foreign country but rather by a combination of outside forces (some political, some economic, some ideological), which are aided and abetted by special interests within. “A mark of a country’s colonial dependence,” he notes, “is lack of control over its own borders . . . [and] lack of control over who or what crosses those borders.” After reviewing the 1965 Immigration Act, which opened our country to large-scale immigration from the Third World, McCarthy bluntly states, “If one thinks of the classic definition of colonialism—the arrival of large numbers of people who impose their cultural values and language on the preexisting society—it is hard not to define the current wave of immigration as a colonizing force on the United States. What distinguishes the United States from other colonized societies is that we have the power to prevent it, and choose not to use it. . . . We have come to question whether the culture that built a society that has the world beating a path to our doors is even worth trying to preserve” [emphasis added].
Even people who are familiar with the information contained in the books reviewed here, and who privately agree that “something must be done,” are loath to “come out of the closet,” to borrow a phrase used by another “community.” Garrett Hardin has dismissed these worthies as “a passel of poltroons who quail at the word ‘minority.'” But if we fail to act at this turning point in our demographic history, the probable outcome of the process of social, cultural, and political disintegration to which our immigration policies are a major contributor will be what Andrew Hacker suggested in The End of the American Era, published in 1971: “The United States is about to join other nations of the world which were once prepossessing and are now little more than plots of bounded terrain. Like them, the United States will continue to be inhabited by human life; however, Americans will no longer possess that spirit which transforms a people into a citizenry and turns territory into a nation.”
[A Catastrophe in the Making, by Keith C. Barrons (Tampa, Florida: Mancorp Publishing) 290 pp., $16.95]
[Crowding Out the Future: World Population Growth, U.S. Immigration, and Pressures on Natural Resources, by Robert W. Fox and Ira Mehlman (Washington, D.C.: Federation for American Immigration Reform) 64 pp., $10.00]
[Elephants in the Volkswagen, by Lindsey Grant et al. (New York: W.H. Freeman) 272 pp., $22.95 (hardback), $13.95 (paperback)]
[Immigration and the Future Racial Composition of the United States, by Leon Bouvier and Gary B. Davis (Monterey, Virginia: American Immigration Control Foundation) 27 pp., $2.00]
[Fifty Million Californians?, by Leon Bouvier (Washington, D.C.: Center for Immigration Studies) 93 pp., $9.95]
[Florida in the 21st Century: The Challenge of Population Growth, by Leon Bouvier and Bob Weller (Washington, D.C.: Center for Immigration Studies) 203 pp., $9.95]
[Thirty Million Texans?, by Leon Bouvier and Dudley L. Poston, Jr. (Washington, D.G.: Center for Immigration Studies) 113 pp., $9.95]
[Immigration 2000: The Century of the New American Sweatshop, edited by Dan Stein (Washington, D.C.: Federation for American Immigration Reform) 158 pp., $7.50]
[A Colony of the World: The United States Today, by Eugene McCarthy (New York: Hippocrene Books) 120 pp., $16.95]