During 2017, immigration will be the red-hot topic that the Trump administration will have to deal with. Congress is clearly divided between the immigration expansionists and the restrictionists, with a handful falling somewhere in between.
Both sides advance convincing arguments. But one indisputable consequence that neither side talks about, even though each would agree that it’s a negative, is immigration’s immediate and long-term contribution to population growth. President-elect Donald J. Trump ran his entire 18-month campaign on creating a more functional immigration system, but rarely if ever discussed the unsustainable population growth that the existing level spawns.
Last week, the Census Bureau introduced a new population clock that shows in real time growth in the United States with births, deaths and migration. Every eight seconds, a birth is recorded; every 11 seconds, a death; and every 33 seconds, the arrival of a net new international migrant. Translated, the Census Bureau’s clock means that the U.S. experiences the net growth of one resident every 17 seconds; immigration contributes about 45 percent of that growth. In all, legal and illegal immigrants account for 1.1 million new arrivals each year.
If anything, the Census Bureau data understates immigration’s role in population growth because it doesn’t factor in births to immigrants, the American citizen children born in the U.S. Research by the Center for Immigration Studies, based on the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey data, showed that in 2014 the nation had 42.4 million foreign-born residents, and their American-born children numbered 16.7 million. In all, the 59.1 million immigrants and their children totaled nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population. The Pew Research Center projects that if the current immigration trend continues, the nation’s population will rise from today’s 324 million to 438 million by 2050.
Since 2014, the Obama administration has allowed the population crisis to continue even though token immigration law enforcement would have slowed growth. In 2014, almost 140,000 unaccompanied Central American children or children traveling with adults surged the border. During the first two months of fiscal year 2017, 43,000 children and families crossed, and set a pace that, if it continues, would shatter the 2014 mark.
Most of the Central Americans as well as other migrants from Mexico, Cuba, Haiti and Africa will request and receive asylum, eventually become permanent legal residents, and can then petition their nuclear family members, spouses and minor children, to join them from abroad. At that point, chain migration kicks in. The immigrants, not the federal government, choose, regardless of individual skills or background, who will come to the U.S. — the original immigrants’ brothers and sisters, their nieces and nephews. Chain migration has persisted for decades despite economic downturns, job stagnation and international terrorist attacks. This migration is poised to continue indefinitely unless Congress takes immediate and dramatic steps to end it.
Expansionists would fight efforts to curb immigration. But with immigration at record high levels (pre-1965 average, 750,000; post-1965 average, 1.1 million), the U.S. needs a rational solution before it’s overwhelmed. Ending chain migration is a good place to start. Family-based immigration must be limited to spouses and unmarried minor children. The current system of extended family admissions is not merit-based, runs on autopilot and creates exponential immigration growth.
Contact Joe Guzzardi at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.