Out of control immigration
By Alan Caruba
Editor's note: For the record, ESR and Mr. Caruba differ somewhat on the issue of immigration. In the interests of fostering a debate on this subject, I have decided to run this piece.
For a few weeks now, I have been reading a series of articles in USA Today whose common theme is that America should be so happy for the immigrants who have "reinvigorated" life in this nation. We were told that "Immigration helped restore cities." Elsewhere in the mainstream press, stories about the demographic changes occurring in the nation are showing up, but there's a side to the immigration story that is not being told.
If you visit the Internet site of the Center for Immigration Studies (www.cis.org) you will learn that 28.4 million immigrants now live in the United States, the largest number ever recorded in the nation's history. It represents a 43% increase since 1990. Immigrants now represent more than one in every ten US residents, the highest percentage in 70 years.
More than 1.2 million legal and illegal immigrants combined now settle in the US each year. The ramifications of this are only just beginning to be openly discussed in political circles. Simply put, you cannot have such an unprecedented increase without asking questions about what this is doing to all aspects of life in America today. And tomorrow.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) had to revise its initial estimate from six million illegal aliens living in the United States to anywhere from nine to eleven million! This number of illegals is estimated to annually grow annually by anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000. In 1987, the Immigration Reform and Control Act awarded amnesty to approximately 2.7 million aliens. Of those entering the US illegally, the INS estimates 60% come in across the border, primarily the one that stretches from Texas to California. Another 40% enter legally, but then overstay their visas.
Of the estimated eleven million illegal immigrants in the US in 1999, the INS managed to deport only 1.8%. The other 98% continued to enjoy the full benefits of life in America. These illegals represent the population equivalent of 17 congressional districts.
This nation has lost control over its borders. The 11.2 million immigrants who arrived between 1990 and 2000, plus the 6.4 million children born to immigrants living here, equal almost 70% of the US population growth in the past decade. Overall, between immigration and the births of new Americans, the US population grew 13%. Keep in mind that the 90's were years of economic growth, so this increase went largely unnoticed until the 2000 Census figures were released.
Here's where the problems of such growth begin. Fully 30% of our immigrants lack a high school diploma, that is more than three times the rate for native Americans. The proportion of immigrant households using welfare programs is estimated by the Center for Immigration Studies to be between 30% to 50% higher than that of native Americans. Crime is always a major concern of Americans. Immigrants represent 25% federal prison population.
One third of immigrants do not have health insurance. This is a rate that is two-and-a-half times higher than native Americans. Immigrants who arrived here after 1989 and their US-born children account for 60% or 5.5 million of the increase in the size of the uninsured population.
Immigration accounts for a significant number of the increase in public school enrollment over the past twenty years. According to a recent Associated Press article, in addition to the children of Baby-Boomers, 15% of students are Hispanic and 4% are Asian. This is roughly comparable to their national percentage of the total population. In 2000, there were 8.6 million school-age children from immigrant families in the US. Some States, however, have a particular challenge. In California, half the school children are either foreign-born or first-generation Americans. California voters cut funds for bilingual programs, instinctively understanding the need for English as a single common language.
All this translates to increased tax burdens for schools and other public services. It increases all the problems associated with highly populated urban areas. We have been importing poverty. We have been importing the increased cost of providing services to those unable to join the employment ranks in a meaningful way and become taxpayers. We have been importing people who show up at the emergency rooms of America's hospitals because they cannot afford medical care.
Where is this immigration coming from? Mexico accounts for 27.7% of all immigrants with 7.9 million immigrants now living in the US. Immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and East Asia now constitute 69%, make up the majority of immigrants. Only 17.1% of the immigrants who arrived in the past decade came from Europe or Sub-Saharan Africa.
Immigrants now comprise 12.8% of the nation's total workforce. Of these, in 1998, nearly 30% did not have a high school diploma and, of those who arrived in the 1990's, 34.4 were school dropouts. At the highest level of education, immigrants tend to be slightly more educated than natives, with 10.7% holding a graduate or professional degree, compared to 9.3% of native Americans.
The simple fact is that this nation has welcomed a huge population of under-educated people to its shores, unprepared to work in a society that is highly dependent on technology and the education to operate it.
The result is that, as a group, immigrants have lower median incomes than native Americans. It's bad enough that an estimated 25% of the total school population drops out and condemns itself to a life of low wages and poverty, but this nation has been importing still more to join their ranks! When will the US put the brakes on before the social and economic burdens of this huge influx of new, legal and illegal, population begins to play havoc with the nation's ability to absorb them?
"No nation", says Dr. Stephen A. Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies, "has ever attempted to incorporate more than 28 million newcomers into its society" and, without a change in immigration policy, the Census Bureau projects eleven to twelve million new immigrants in this decade. At this rate, our population will never stabilize itself sufficient to keep pace with such growth.
Unsaid or as yet unexamined is the affect of a growing number of new Americans, legal and illegal, who arrive from cultures and societies where democracy is not as ingrained and the freedoms embodied in our Bill of Rights are seldom enforced. Bad enough most Americans have no idea what the Bill of Rights guarantees, it is hard to grasp what this means when you include the thousands of illegal immigrants who can't even read the Constitution.
It's time to rethink the words of Emma Lazarus's famous poem that says, "Give me your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
These words represent the America of 1886 and of Ellis Island that existed between 1892 and 1924, but America is a very different nation, living in a very different era. That was then. This is now.
Alan Caruba is a frequent contributor. His weekly column, "Warning Signs", is posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba, 2001.
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