Amy Boylan's picture

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  by  Amy Boylan

Exorbitantly high levels of immigration driving population growth, ultimately affecting quality of life issues, is not unique to the United States. Concern for job opportunities, housing, the preservation of natural resources, as they relate to one's well-being, are expressed in a recent article by Clare Foges titled, "How much immigration can Britain sustain?" This article, found in the United Kingdom's The Times, could easily have been written to refer to America's immigration system.

Foges writes that recently released data show that in the UK "work visas are up 50% from 2019-20, study visas up 58%, visas granted for family reasons up 63%." She further laments that this is occurring while the government declares it has "delivered on its promise to the British people to take back control of our immigration system."

It's unclear in what way the British government believes it has its immigration system under control when it certainly appears the opposite is true. Foges explains that 60% of voters polled believed that Brexit would result in reduced immigration. Yet this has not come to fruition because "any attempt to tighten up any visa route is met by huge opposition from lobbyists, liberal commentators and those in the Treasury who are loath to break the link between rising immigration and rising total GDP (as opposed to GDP per head)."

It appears that unfortunately, that ponzi growth is alive and well in the United Kingdom as it is in the United States, and both countries are sadly battling similar opponents. Foges continues:

...The definition of a "skilled worker" has been loosened. The salary threshold for such workers can now start at £20,400. The rule that employers had to first seek workers from the UK population before recruiting overseas has been scrapped. Most significantly, foreign students now have the right to stay in Britain for at least two years at the end of their course to look for work, with no restrictions on the kind of work they may seek.

This may sound familiar because in the United States, there have been numerous instances where large companies and corporations exploit foreign workers through similar tactics, to the ultimate detriment of its citizens. The concern over the sheer number of people these sorts of policies bring is of grave concern. Foges touches on the impact of this in the UK:

...If resources and land were infinite this wouldn't be a problem, but meeting the needs of those already here is hard enough. More than six million people are on an NHS waiting list. Soaring global food prices have us resolving to be more self-sufficient but already "the land cannot keep pace with the number of mouths to feed" as the National Farmers' Union put it. Water scarcity is another threat. Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, has warned that "many parts of our country will face significant water deficits by 2050, particularly in the southeast where much of the UK population lives".

Where to start with housing? It has been estimated that to build enough houses to accommodate the expected six million increase in population over the next 20 years, we would need to throw up an average of 2,300 per week, 330 per day and 14 per hour, night and day for the next two decades. I should start saving now so that my children will at least be able to afford a bunk room in one of the old cargo ships we will anchor in the North Sea to house the overspill population.

...surely it is sensible to have a debate about roughly how many more people we can sustain? Surely it is reasonable to consider the impact of current policies on population size in 20, 30 years' time?

I understand politicians' terror of this subject. Talk of population oversight smacks of weird natalists who see women as breeders. Any politician making prophecies of demographic doom runs the risk of looking like Enoch Mark II. And so long-term population growth is barely debated — a hot topic in the Dog and Duck but a non-topic in the heart of power. This chasm between public opinion and policy is terrible for trust in politics...

...it would be wise for the government to initiate a serious national conversation about demographic change, and soon. The prime minister likes "oven-ready" policies, so here is one: establish an Office for Demographic Change, similar to the independent Office for Budget Responsibility, to provide expert advice to the government on demographic issues, recommend actions and lay out a long-term plan for the optimum level of population in this country.

This is not my idea but a proposal by Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, a Conservative peer, who wisely observes that "demography is not an area that responds well to jerks on the policy tiller at five-year intervals". His solution — an independent body — lifts the issue above the political fray and the electoral cycle. Reporting to parliament once a year, the ODC would help to ensure that politicians are held accountable for the decisions they make that will affect our country in profound ways.

"To add a city the size of Newcastle to the UK every year . . . let me put it this way, it's too high to do without consent," said Boris Johnson in 2016. He was right — and it is high time for a serious national conversation on the future we want to shape, starting now.

Seems like a novel idea for elected representatives to debate the ways in which their policies impact the average citizen. But the U.S. has done this, most recently with the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform known as the Barbara Jordan Commission, which focused on the economic impact of immigration on American workers, and President Clinton's Task Force on Population and Consumption, that explored quality of life implications for unchecked growth. The work has been done but apparently the conclusions are drowned out by the perpetual growth echo chamber.

The Biden Administration promised to address our country's immigration problems, but his platform on the issue hasn't aged well as a dismal percentage of voters profess to be happy with the current state of affairs. Much of this can be attributed to this Administration's dismantling of policies and programs that have contributed to bringing our country's foreign-born population to a staggering 47 million. Despite polling showing Americans would like to see immigration reduced, we're in the same position as Foges and the UK with both of our governments failing to put citizens and their families first.

Amy Boylan is the Content Writer for NumbersUSA's Sustainability Initiative

Updated: Thu, Jun 16th 2022 @ 9:12am EDT

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