Natural Florida is disappearing fast. More than 4,000 square miles of unique Florida nature and its special agricultural land that you could have visited in 1982 no longer exists. They have been cleared, drained, paved and developed into parking lots, streets, shopping malls, housing tracts, water and sewage facilities, and infrastructure of all sorts to handle Florida's population explosion.
The biggest threat to this natural jewel of yours and my national community? It may be that most Americans think all this destruction is inevitable, because they think the population explosion is inevitable.
We hope that NumbersUSA's latest study helps Americans understand that they can stop the disappearance of natural Florida by persuading the American people's Congress to change immigration policies that currently are the chief cause of the population explosion. And it is that population growth that our study found is the overwhelming factor in the elimination of Florida's open spaces.
If Congress will reduce annual immigration to a traditional level, the odds increase considerably that our descendants all across America -- to at least the seventh generation -- will be able to visit a Florida still able to offer the treasures that Americans have most valued there, and that most native species will still be making their home there. (Frankly, we owe it not only to future Americans but to future citizens all over the world to ensure that natural Florida survives for them to see.)
Immigration Really Does Cause Most Florida Population Growth
When I made this claim in a live phone interview for a Florida radio show, my host expressed strong skepticism.
Surely, my host had assumed, Florida's fast growth is mainly from the migration of old people from the north -- and of the younger adults who follow to serve them in their sunnier climate.
But, no, Florida really is filling up mainly because of migration from other countries, Census data show.
Our study focused on the most recent decade (2000 to 2010) when 1,220 additional square miles of Florida's orchards, grasslands, marshes, pine scrub, farmland and other eco-systems disappeared under the bulldozer's blade in the areas surrounding the state's 30 "Urbanized Areas."
The developers were accommodating 2.82 million additional residents.
As in most states, the population growth was the result of many factors, including births to U.S. natives in the state, and in-migration from other states.
But immigration policies had much more effect than all other factors combined. New immigrants and births to immigrants during the decade totaled about 1.9 million, equal to two-thirds (67%) of Florida's total growth in the decade.
In 2010, the total population of immigrants living in Florida included 1.29 million who entered the United States in 2000 or later. and federal data also show that 611,000 children living in Florida in 2010 had an immigrant mother and were born in 2000 or later. Together, that adds up to the 1.9 million.
Immigrants Are Not Responsible For This
Our study notes this:
. . . it is important to emphasize that the sprawl that occurs because of high immigration levels has nothing to do with the quality of immigrants as people or individuals but everything to do with the quantity of population growth that occurs because of immigration.
Congress chooses the number of foreign citizens to legally add to the country each year. And successive Presidents basically decide the level of illegal immigration each year when they decide which immigration laws they choose not to enforce. Only our politicians are to blame.
It would be totally irresponsible to say that immigrants are destroying natural Florida. But it is entirely accurate to say that federal immigration policies are.
Most Immigrants Live in Suburbs
I constantly run into journalists, radio hosts and people who call in to shows who insist that it is not immigrants who are building the mini-mansion estates that are causing the suburbs to spread.
But government data show that the majority of immigrants now live in suburbs where the sprawl occurs. The lower incomes of immigrants tend to cause them to move to the edges of cities where they find cheaper housing. We have found that the adult children of immigrants are just as likely to shun living in high-density core cities as the adult children of natives.
Immigrants and their children move as quickly as possible to live like Americans. Nobody can complain about that.
But all immigrants who already live here, plus their children, plus all Americans whose parents were born in this country have a stake in saving natural Florida. This distinct part of the country belongs to all of us, whether foreign-born or U.S.-born. This is part of what it means to be a national community.
Please take a look at the study on-line and read about why Florida's animal and plant life are so special.
Florida Consumption Choices Not Causing Much Sprawl
Our study discusses some of the ways that local and state officials can slow the open-space destruction caused by population growth.
In fact, the growth in per capita land consumption was nearly stopped in the last decade.
Our study found that only about 4% of the open-space loss was related to the dozens of consumer, government and business choices, along with private lifestyle preferences, that slightly increased the fraction of a developed acre that was required for each Florida resident.
The study determined that 96% of the elimination of surrounding farmland and natural habitat over the decade was related to the extra demand of all the new residents for housing, commerce, transportation, places of work and places of culture, education and recreation.
Our study also noted some ways that local and state officials can discourage population growth within their boundaries.
But we conclude that without a change in immigration policies by federal officials, all that local and state officials are likely to accomplish is the slowing down of the rate of destruction, not the ultimate destruction itself:
. . . very few Urbanized Areas are likely to be able to subdue population growth and sprawl if the federal government continues policies that add around 20 million people to the nation each decade (through immigration and births to immigrants), all of whom have to settle in some locality.
Use our free faxing system to let your Members of Congress know that you want them to allow natural Florida to be saved so that your grandchildren and their grandchildren will have a chance to see it.
Updated: Fri, Apr 17th 2015 @ 3:10pm EDT