Years ago, a New York Times editorial offered some words of wisdom:
Unlimited immigration was a need, and a glory, of the undeveloped American past.
Yet no one believes America can still support it. We must choose how many people to admit, and which ones.
How many? Which ones? They are both necessary questions. You can't have a functioning immigration policy without answering both. But our great national debate as played out in D.C. and in the media has arguably spent too much time on the latter "qualities" question and too little on the former "quantities" question -- with results that have been counterproductive for all sides -- yielding more accusations than dialogue, more hurt feelings than enlightened thoughts, more partisan walls (pun half-intended) than bridges.
Perhaps a focus on the "how many" would allow for a less emotional, more rational debate. Starting with the numbers might help us think with our heads more than our guts. How many green cards should the United States issue every year? 200,000? 500,000? One million? 2 million? 5 million?
Somehow, this basic question is almost never considered in the legacy media (and not enough, in my opinion, in new media). As one reader of the New York Times reader recently commented:
"Does the US want a population of 500 million, a billion? That is where we are headed, with zero discussion."
Roy's "Off The Charts" video demonstrates that the trend line shows no sign of ever leveling off unless the numbers are changed.
Roy and NumbersUSA obviously agree with the recommendations of federal commissions going back to the 1960s that annual immigration should be far less than the current one million per year, but reasonable people can have other opinions. The thing is, very few immigration expansionists (outside of true open border types) are willing to go public with where they think the numbers should be. And few in the press are interested in asking. The entire Gang-of-Eight debate came and went without any of the bill's supporters explaining in the press why it would be good to double the numbers and grant over 20 million new green cards and another 20 million temporary work visas over ten years.
Economic debates, however, inevitably lead us back to the "which ones" question, so let's get more basic: Everybody consumes, regardless of skill or family ties. As another New York Times reader commented:
"We are building a pipeline through Native American lands to serve a growing population. The water in Flint is still poisonous. Our population has grown 124.4 million (65%) since 1970, the first Earth Day. Immigration is the main driver of population growth."
Sprawl costs the U.S. about $1 trillion a year, in addition to making commutes longer, access to open spaces more difficult, and generally making people cranky. More than 20 million acres of agricultural land have been developed over since the Reagan administration. About 70 percent of urban sprawl is due to population growth, and about 88 percent of population growth moving forward will be due to immigration.
In order to keep up with this Congressionally-mandated population growth, the government estimates another $1 trillion will be needed to expand the infrastructure that supports clean drinking water in the U.S., and the majority of states are expected to experience some kind of water shortage in the coming years.
These are real challenges that we must face or leave to future generations. The most profound impacts of the numbers we set today won't be felt by us but by our children's grandchildren. If we can't bring ourselves to think about "How many?" perhaps we should ask instead "how will we be remembered?"
JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA
Updated: Thu, Mar 9th 2017 @ 7:50am EST