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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Immigration Policy in America: What do Americans Think?

The current Immigration Policy of the United States has put the country in danger of a future as a possible third world nation. Americans who are vastly pro-immigrant, are worried about the influx of Immigrants and the stability of America.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me
I lift my light beside the golden door!

These words entered onto America's own Colossus lovingly know as the Statue of Liberty can be found in any debate on immigration, be it legal or illegal. The argument that America was founded on immigration and should continue along that same path is supported by the snippet of a poem by Emma Lazarus. These words and others, usually volatile and accusing, have become a bane to the real issue facing America. This issue is not whether or not Americans like immigrants, or want immigrants, it is if the country can afford more immigrants and sustain a culture and society at the current levels.

Most Americans would agree that immigrants are an essential and welcome part of the American culture and society. If you ask an American about their cultural heritage most will pour through 5 - 10 different nationalities from Europe, Africa, Russia, Asia, South American and Native American. Many will proudly proclaim that they are a descendant of someone on the May Flower, or that their originating ancestor has their name at Ellis Island. Immigration is a proud part of the heritage of the nation. However, Americans today are faced with a new downside of the proud beginnings of America.

The history of immigration is important to understand before discussing immigration today. Before 1965 the average number of immigrants coming into America averaged 255,000 a year. A quarter of a million people kept new blood into America and fueled our economy making America one of the richest nations on earth. The large landmass of America had no problem accommodating immigrants, who came with their immediate families.

After 1965 Congress restructured immigration allowing extended families beyond the "nuclear families" to enter the United States. This meant that not only did we have mothers, fathers, and children coming over as a family unit, but also grandparents, in-laws, cousins, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces. The average amount of immigrants coming to America surged to 1 million a year, 2 million a year if you add illegal immigrants to the mix. What this means is that immigrants are arriving in America faster than new jobs can be created, land can be developed, and schools can be built. The numbers are causing a sharp rise in population that is becoming more difficult for America to sustain, and these are just the legal numbers. If illegal immigrants are added to the mix one can expect the American bubble to burst.

Immigration invokes large amounts of competition for land and resources such as jobs and homes; not only are citizens competing with immigrants, but the immigrants are competing with each other. The high number of immigrants has created a crisis specifically in the job force. Usually healthy competition is a good sign in an economy run by capitalism, but there have been more reports of hundreds of people applying for one position. Illegal immigrants tend to take low-skilled jobs that go to people who are undereducated or only proficient in a specific trade skill. People are calling for the mass deportation of illegals, but in reality deporting 10-12% of the workforce would cause even more of an economic collapse than America is experiencing right now. The current amount of deportations from area to area seem to be more logical, but is a gradual draw down of all types of immigration seems to be the prefered action.

The fix for the problem offered by Roy Beck, is the return to pre 1965 levels of immigration that were not only sustainable but beneficial to America. He is supported by a majority of Americans in this sentiment, but as he explains in his popular immigration video, Americans are reluctant to talk about it because many have immigrant friends who they love dearly and do not wish to see any harm come to them. That is the reason why the numbers do not reflect that actions taken.

The Numbers of Immigration:

¨ Over one million immigrants enter the United States every year. (Immigration and Naturalization Service) ¨ Immigration has accounted for 70% of U.S. population growth this decade. (Center for Immigration Studies)

¨ If mass immigration continues, the population of the United States is projected to exceed 500 million by 2050. (Census Bureau)¨ Population growth causes per capita municipality taxes to rise. Per capita taxes in municipalities of any given size average 25% higher than those in municipalities of half the size. (Professor Albert Bartlett, University of Colorado, Boulder)

¨ An estimated 1.88 million U.S. workers have been displaced from their jobs because of immigration, including many "discouraged" workers who have dropped out of the employment market. (Dr. Donald Huddle, Rice University)¨ 44% of the decline in the real wages of high school dropouts from 1980-1994 was due to mass immigration of less-skilled immigrants. (National Research Council 5/97)

¨ Over 1 million acres of land are lost annually to urban, transportation, and industrial expansion. Another 2 million acres of farmland are lost annually to erosion, salinization, and unsustainable agricultural practices. In sum, we lose about 3 million acres a year. Thus given U.S. population growth of about 3 million a year, for each person added to our population, 1 acre of open land is lost. (Dr. David Pimentel, Cornell University)

¨ The United States' ability to support a population within its carrying capacity is already being strained because of continued population growth. Fifty percent of our original wetlands have been drained to accommodate growth. (Environmental Protection Agency) Ninety-five percent of all U.S. old growth forests have been cut down. (Save America's Forests)

¨ Increasing traffic congestion, school overcrowding and increasing costs, and pollution are among the many negative consequences of immigration-generated population growth. (Population-Environment Balance)

The Numbers of Immigration Opinion:

• 41% of Republicans and 45% of Democrats support stopping legal immigration altogether. (Gallup poll, October 2000)

• 84% of Americans support tighter restrictions on immigration. (McPheters & Company and Beta Research, November 2001

• Six in ten Americans support reducing legal immigration levels. (CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, October 2001)

• A Roper poll in January 1996 found that 83% of Americans favor a lower immigration level. 70% favor restricting immigration to less than 300,000 new immigrants a year (including 70% of Republicans, 73% of African-Americans, and 52% of Hispanics). Most want even larger cuts: 54% favor an immigration level of below 100,000 a year. 20% support no immigration at all.

This is one article in a series on immigration reform for this election season. For the rest of the series visit my blog Daughter of America.