Randy Hall | Staff Writer/Editor | Friday, August 31, 2007
That increase of 167 million people over the next 53 years "is equal to the combined populations of Great Britain, France and Spain," said Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), during a news conference at the National Press Club.
Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Camarota wrote in his report, "100 Million More: Projecting the Impact of Immigration on the U.S. Population, 2007 to 2060," that "about 1.6 million new legal and illegal immigrants settle in the country each year. About 350,000 immigrants go home, so net immigration is about 1.25 million."
Immigrants who will arrive in the future and their descendants "will account for 105 million, or 63 percent of the increase," a total that by itself "is equal to 13 New York Cities," he said.
"If the United States actually started enforcing its immigration laws and reduced illegal immigration, that would have a very significant impact on future population increases," Camarota said. However, net immigration "has been increasing to the United States for about five decades."
"While illegal immigration is certainly a very large number, the overwhelming majority of the population increase will come from legal immigration, which is very high," he said. "Last year, for example, the United States allowed 1.2 million people to settle in the country permanently on a legal basis."
"The central question these projections raise and the American people must answer is what costs and benefits come from having a much larger population and a more densely settled country," he added.
'Hate du Jour'
Roy Beck, executive director of Numbers USA, said during a panel discussion on the report that he found the study "thoroughly depressing" and "a devastating prognosis for the country" because of what its data predict about the future quality of life in America.
"Every time an American complains about traffic congestion, infrastructure overload, private schools, loss of natural habitat, the possibility to get out of town and have some spiritual recreation in nature, that is a result of federal policy" on immigration, he said.
However, Ben Wattenberg, senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), responded that despite the findings in the report, he considers the U.S. to be "under-populated" as evidenced by all the "flyover country" he sees when traveling "from sea to shining sea."
The AEI scholar dismissed the phrase "'population explosion,' which we have been told is something to dread. That is putting into two words something that can be put in one, which is 'growth.' The question is whether or not that growth is harmful."
"In 1790, there were 4 million Americans in our first census. Today, there are 301 million in the country, a 75-fold increase," he said. "Now, what happened to that nation, which suffered from the most terrible population explosion? It became the most prosperous and influential nation in human history - so what's the problem?"
Wattenberg also said America "is a wonderful place to live, because wonderful people live here," but there is "always some kind of nativist, anti-immigrant feeling." All immigrant groups "start out being hated," but one or two generations later, "they end up being assimilated into U.S. society."
Today's "hate du jour" is toward Mexicans, even though the largest percentage of Medal of Honor winners are Mexican immigrants, he added.
"I hope you're not suggesting that anybody who's critical of current immigration levels is wearing a white sheet," Camarota replied.
Regarding history, "World War I came along in 1914, as well as restrictive legislation in the 1920s, and immigration was low for about 50 or 60 years," he continued. "If that's to be our guide, then we need to have low immigration for many years so we can assimilate the immigrants already here."
"Immigration is not the weather. It is not something outside our control," Camarota added. "What the American people have to decide is whether they want to live in the society these projections lead us to."
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