Published by Jeremy Beck
Much has been made of how surge in illegal immigration into cities as far from the border as Chicago and New York threaten the fiscal resilience of the receiving cities (Mayor Adams says the migrant crisis will “destroy New York City“), and the impact on resilience doesn’t end there.
Extreme weather events in the U.S. are magnified by population growth; making them more intense, costly, destructive, and deadly. All long-term population growth in the U.S. is driven by immigration policy. Illegal immigration is now running twice as high as the legal system established by Congress.
Here’s a summarized breakdown of how population growth can exacerbate the effects of extreme weather events, with the stakes (e.g., tax dollars, property, and lives) getting higher every year —
Floods — More growth (i.e., buildings, roads, and other impervious areas) reduces the land’s ability to absorb heavy rains and floodwaters, and growth also is being pushed into flood zones, which otherwise would serve to absorb floodwaters. This urban expansion not only displaces floodwaters but is itself prone to flood damage.
Heat waves — Urban heat island effect, where the sprawl of asphalt, concrete, buildings required to support a growing population – plus waste heat from motor vehicles – increases the ambient temperatures in growing cities. 41 million people live in a census tract with an urban heat index of 8 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
Drought — Increased need for drinking water and irrigation water, which leads to falling reservoirs and groundwater tables. Housing developments continue to spread across desert areas even as water restrictions are becoming more prevalent. The Colorado River’s flow decreased by an estimated 20 percent over the past century. The seven states that signed the Colorado River Compact in 1922 had a combined population of 2.8 million in 1900. Their combined populations today exceed 62 million.
Hurricanes and tornadoes — More people, and more buildings to house them, makes hurricanes more costly and destructive. The population boom in hurricane-prone Florida is an example of the “expanding bullseye effect.” Cities serve as ever-growing targets for hazard events like hurricanes and tornadoes.
Wildfires — More and more housing is expanding into the fire-prone “wildland-urban interface” where more human activity can start fires by igniting exposed surface “fuels,” such as shrubby plants that dry more quickly than trees in dense stands. (Wildfires are not actual weather events, but are directly related to weather.)
But our communities need not face increasing vulnerability to extreme weather events. America’s unsustainable growth has been primarily a result of Congress’ inability and/or unwillingness to address our immigration policies. These policies have driven the majority of our nation’s population growth since 1965, and the Census Bureau projects the U.S. population will add 75 million people by the Year 2060, with more than 90 percent of that growth due to immigration. The border surge , catch-and-release policies, and visa overstays have created an illegal system that is now twice as large as the already unsustainable legal system established by Congress.
NumbersUSA urges Congress to pass The Secure The Border Act to end the illegal immigration crisis.
JEREMY BECK is a V.P., Deputy Director for NumbersUSA
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