Americans Can’t Have Both
Today more than ever Americans value the opportunity to escape from their confined urban lives and enjoy the natural habitat. A Pulse Research poll of likely voters showed that preference for preserving natural habitat and farmland to personally experience nature’s wonders has hardly changed since similar 2014 polling.
The results reflect concern over the U.S. Department of Agriculture findings that development is irreversibly diminishing the limited supply of U.S. farmland, raising serious food production, economic and environmental concerns. Between 1992 and 2012, development has ravaged about 31 million acres of fertile agricultural land.
Here are some of the poll’s results: 73 percent agree that time spent in natural areas provides a “spiritual uplift;” 62 percent responded that it’s “very important” to protect farmland from development so that the nation could produce enough food to feed its population; and 62 percent considered it unethical to pave over productive farmland for housing development.
To the key survey question: Over the rest of this century, would you prefer that the nation’s population continue to grow toward 500 million, grow much more slowly, stay about the same as it is now at 331 million, or slowly become smaller? The answer from 75 percent of the respondents was to “grow much more slowly or not at all.”
The vast majority of Americans want to protect the environment, and to slow population growth. But the same Pulse Research poll found that, even though immigration was identified in the question as the major population growth driver, about 45 percent of respondents wanted to either increase immigration or keep it at the same annual 1 million-plus level. A slightly higher total, 47 percent, want immigration reduced, and population growth slowed.
Population growth and immigration are intertwined. Slower population growth is mathematically impossible as long as immigration remains at its current level. Not only are there more than 1 million immigrants added to the U.S. population each year, the immigrant families have children. The birth rate for immigrant women of reproductive age was 61 births per thousand from 2008 to 2018.
Family reunification is another growth variable. Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School found that each 100 newly arrived immigrants petition, on average, about 350 relatives. This is a growth feature permitted by the federal government’s reunification policy, often referred to as chain migration.
Americans cannot have both a protected environment and more immigration. Immigration’s boost to population levels in rich nations like the U.S. inevitably results in an ecological footprint larger than it would otherwise be. More people mean more development which requires more transportation, either cars or buses. But cars, trucks, commercial aircraft and buses are public enemy №1 in the quest for a clean environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation account for about 29 percent of total U.S. GHGs.
Although President Trump rarely addresses population growth and the threat it presents to the U.S., previous administrations, both Republican and Democratic, have voiced their concerns. In 1993, President Clinton formed the Population and Consumption Task Force to find ways to unite people to protect the environment without jeopardizing the future. The task force’s report included this: “As a matter of public debate, immigration is a sensitive and explosive issue, and both legal and illegal immigration must be addressed with great sensitivity and care in order to advance the debate…. We believe that reducing current immigration levels is a necessary part of working toward sustainability in the United States.”
Nearly three decades have passed since President Clinton’s warning. Yet no administration has had the courage to act on his recommendation to reduce current immigration levels, perhaps because immigration is a more explosive issue today than in 1993. Nevertheless, no one in the media or on Capitol Hill addresses population growth.
Immigrants aren’t to blame for skyrocketing population growth. The fault lies with cowardly Congresses that have refused to act on the obvious fact that immigration levels are unsustainable and compromise Americans’ living standards. Net immigration contributes to the challenge of maintaining a stable population or achieving reduced population. The link between high immigration and population growth is incontrovertible. To pretend that the two variables aren’t intertwined, as Congress and the mainstream media do, is willful blindness.
Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.