Immigration driving population to unsustainable levels

Article author: 
Elizabeth Van Staaveren
Article publisher: 
The Oregonian
Article date: 
11 July 2016
Article category: 
Our American Future
Article Body: 

"The population explosion" was an openly discussed issue some 40 or more years ago. But in recent decades the whole idea of overpopulation and even the word itself have come into ill repute and are studiously avoided in public conversation.

Unpleasant problems, however, cannot be neglected forever. Today, conditions are forcing policymakers and concerned citizens to think about population policy, the numbers of people in the U.S. and how those numbers relate to economic and social circumstances.

Cities and states are faced with many problems arising from huge increases in population in recent years. Schools everywhere are overcrowded and have insufficient funds to function satisfactorily for the numbers enrolled. Established neighborhoods resist enforced density. Expansion of buildings into natural areas is a constant source of conflict. Perhaps half of all political issues covered in news media today are related to increases in the size of the population.

We must think about the impact on the environment and quality of life as the U.S. population burgeons at the rate of one person added every 12 seconds, with no end in sight. Census figures show that in the U.S. we now have one birth every eight seconds, one death every 13 seconds and one international migrant every 28 seconds — making a net gain of one person every 12 seconds.

Population growth in Oregon and the United States at present is mainly triggered by international immigration, not births to native-born American citizens. The Center for Immigration Studies has recently issued an interactive map showing details of population growth for each state.

Overall, one-third of the nation's 50 states now have immigrant populations (immigrants with their minor children) which are over 15 percent of total, and six states have over 25 percent immigrant populations. Oregon's total population in 2015 was 4,050,000, and 16.9 percent of that was composed of immigrants and their minor children. There were 683,000 immigrants and their minor children here in 2015. In 1970, within the lifetime of millions of citizens, Oregon had only 2,091,000 people — of whom only 5 percent (105,000) were immigrants with their minor children.

Without reductions in immigration levels, we are headed for unsustainable population growth in the near future. Recent Census figures show that 3.1 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) settled in the country in 2014 and 2015, or more than 1.5 million annually. When immigration problems are discussed, usually illegal immigration is the main focus, but the enormous impact of immigration is largely the result of those brought in legally.

There is an optimum level of population related to the size and resources of a geographical area. Some scientists have made estimates and say at usual consumption rates, the optimum number for the U.S. is about 150 million people. We now have over 323 million people, with large numbers being added constantly. How can our life-giving natural environment survive this onslaught of people? Will all the forests and farmlands morph into housing developments?

The future looks grim for this country and for Oregon if immigration levels are not drastically reduced now. It's time for a lengthy moratorium on immigration on the basis of numbers alone. This would significantly ease current economic and social problems in Oregon and other states and gradually improve the quality of life.

Is it morally wrong to deny admittance to aspiring migrants? The U.S. provides financial aid and technical assistance to poor countries around the world. Citizens of other countries must look to their own governments and institutions to achieve acceptable living conditions at home, and they will do so if easy escape to the U.S. is closed for the millions now emigrating.

Elizabeth Van Staaveren, of McMinnville, is a longtime member of Oregonians for Immigration Reform.


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