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We know what it means to add 82 million people. Do we want to do it again?

author Published by Jeremy Beck

The United States grew by 82 million people from 1990 to today, and could grow by another 50-120 million by 2060, depending immigration scenarios.

Since 1990, legal immigration has averaged more than 1 million per year; the largest wave of immigration in world history. Illegal immigration has fluctuated but is now running at historic levels.

H.R. 2 – if enacted with its E-Verify provision – will end the unsustainable surge of illegal immigration.

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We don’t have to guess at the impact of adding another 82 million people; we can see the impact right now.

“There is no mayor of a US city that could honestly say that they need or want more people to house, feed and find jobs for,” writes Karen Shragg, “and yet we remain at a loss to find a way forward to curb mass immigration.”

“…Eighty-two million people require a huge public infrastructure investment,” writes Jonette Christian, “roads, schools, hospitals, water and sewer systems, the energy grid, universities, etc. Borrowing to cover these unfunded costs has driven the deficit to a whopping $31 trillion, with the Congressional Budget Office projecting another $19 trillion to the deficit in the next 10 years.”

Christian cites growing income disparity as another result of adding tens of millions of permanent workers to the labor pool (“57% of households [did not make] enough in 2021 to pay any federal income taxes.

“And, finally,” Christian writes, “population growth is driving shortages in farmland and water. According to The New York Times, the Colorado River, upon which 40 million Americans rely, is rapidly shrinking from overuse, urbanization and megadroughts driven by climate change. Some communities in Texas and California depend on bottled water trucked from elsewhere. And regarding farmland, we’ve lost 11 million acres to urbanization in just the last 20 years.”

As NumbersUSA’s twenty years of studies demonstrate, urban sprawl and development have taken a toll on biodiversity, one acre at a time, one county at a time, one state at a time, and so on.

The U.S. is shirking its responsibility to life within its own borders, as well as to the international community, argues Rob Harding:

With a shared goal to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, it’s clear what the United States government should do to help halt and reverse growth of the human enterprise within its own political borders. In 21st century America, the country’s biodiversity loss inducing human population growth is a direct and indirect consequence of too much immigration.”

Sprawl and development has cut off Americans’ access to nature, and changed the way we experience it, argues Wyatt Verlen:

Americans are increasingly approaching nature with a “look but don’t touch” mindset — and losing a fundamental part of their national identity in the process….Maintaining, or rekindling, that relationship will only grow harder as the United States grows more populous.”

To be sure, there are many factors that contribute to loss of habitat and biodiversity, and therefore many ways to mitigate the losses without addressing immigration policy. There is no way, however, to prevent habitat and biodiversity loss without addressing Congress’ immigration policy. There’s the rub, and the choice.

EarthX Straw Poll

The environmentally-conscious attendees at EarthX in Dallas last month demonstrate how difficult these choices are for many people. Comparing the results of our straw poll of 160 people to the results of the scientific poll of over a 1,000 likely Texas voters, we see very similar levels of concern about Texas’ population growth.

EarthX attendees were unsurprisingly more concerned about preserving water and habitat for species than the (still-very-concerned) average Texas voter:

When it comes to prevention and mitigation of environmental harms, EarthX attendees were less likely to support measures to curb migration from other states and countries than the average likely voter, and slightly more likely to support measures that would ensure Texans lived more densely (something Texans are already doing). It is worth noting, however, that a plurality still favored curbs on migration (the main driver of population growth in Texas – and the country).

Difficult as these choices may be for many Americans, the results of taking one path over another are relatively straightforward. Immigration policy is projected to account for all long-term population growth in the United States.

“How many people can we sustainably admit each year into this country, while maintaining open access to our resources?” Verlen asks. “Americans who love the great outdoors have a right — and a duty — to start that conversation.”

Or, as Christian puts it more simply: “How big do we want to be?”

JEREMY BECK is a V.P., Deputy Director for NumbersUSA

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