NumbersUSA's mission to investigate and educate the public on immigration's impact on U.S. population growth, the environment, labor market and local communities is not a new concept. Over the past three decades, many federal commissions have called for U.S. population stabilization to address the economic, social and environmental stresses of high immigration levels due to federally sanctioned growth policies. Here we present a brief history of advocacy for population stabilization as a result of several federal commissions over the past three decades.

President Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development, 1993
The President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD) was established by President Clinton in June 1993 to advise him on sustainable development and develop "bold, new approaches to achieve our economic, environmental, and equity goals." Formally established by Executive Order 12852, the PCSD was administered as a federal advisory committee under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Between June 1993 and June 1999, the President's Council on Sustainable Development advised President Clinton. Ray C. Anderson, chairman and CEO of Inferface, Inc. and Johnathan Lash, president of World Resources Institute were selected to co-chair the counsel. Among the key goals of PCSD was a move toward the stabilization of the U.S. population.

Key findings:

  • At the time, the U.S. was the only major industrialized country in the world experiencing population growth on a significant scale. U.S. population was growing at approximately 1.0% when immigration is taken into account, translating into a doubling time over 70 years.
  • U.S. Census Bureau projected that if current immigration, fertility, and mortality patterns persist, U.S. population will reach 350 million by year 2030 and nearly 400 million by 2050, growing indefinitely. (This is a medium projection). A rise in fertility and immigration would produce a population of 500 million by 2050 with “continued growth inevitable and no stabilization in sight.” (This is the "high projection.")

PCSD's recommendations about immigration policy include:

  • Develop comprehensive and responsible immigration and foreign policies that reduce illegal immigration and mitigate the factors that encourage immigration.
  • Increase research on linkages between demographic change, including immigration factors and sustainable development.

The full report including final recommendations and supplemental views by commissioners can be found here.

U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, 1990
As mandated by the Immigration Act of 1990, the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform was created to examine and make recommendations regarding the implementation and impact of the U.S. immigration policy. The Commission held over 40 public hearings, consultations, site hearings and expert discussions throughout the United States and in several key foreign countries. Rep. (D) Barbara Jordan of Texas was appointed to serve as chairman of the commission. Rep. Jordan stated she believed "it is both a right and a responsibility of a democratic society to manage immigration so that it serves the national interest.” See Rep. Jordan's full testimony at a 1995 congressional hearing before the subcommittee on immigration and claims here. The final report and recommendations were submitted to Congress and President Clinton on September 30, 1997.

The Commission's recommendations to create a "credible, coherent immigrant and immigration policy" and a "credible, efficient naturalization process" included the following:

  • Believed it was necessary to distinguish between those who obey laws and those who do not. Illegal immigration is unacceptable.
  • More worksite enforcement; ½ of nation’s illegal alien problem stems from visitors who enter legally but remain after their time is up because of jobs. Need a reliable system for verifying authorization to work. Recommend an electronic validation using a computerized registry based on the social security number.
  • Recommend making eligibility for public benefits consistent with immigration policy. Recommend against illegal aliens, except in unusual circumstances. Legal immigrants should continue to be eligible for means-tested programs. Abuse of the public should be grounds for deportation for legal aliens.
  • Stressed deportation is crucial. Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: those who should get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave.
  • Recommended management plans for migration emergencies.
  • Stressed the importance of reliable data of immigration trends. Contracted with the National Academy of Sciences to analyze the methods used for evaluating immigration data.
  • Stated unilateral action on the part of the United States will never be enough to curb illegal immigration. Must attack the root cause of illegal migration and summit international cooperation.
  • Recommended better border management; US must deter illegal crossings and facilitate legal ones.
  • Recommended a scale back of family chain-migration by implementing a prioritization of family relationships to determine who will be admitted through family-based immigration. Spouses and minor children of US citizens would continue to be admitted as first priority.
  • The Commission recommends elimination of other family-based admission categories, including:
    • Adult, unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens;
    • Adult, married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens;
    • Adult, unmarried sons and daughters of legal permanent residents; and
    • Siblings of U.S. citizens.

Family Based Immigration

  • Stressed a focus on the admission of highly-skilled individuals to support the national interest by bringing to the U.S. individuals whose skills would benefit our society. Recommended the elimination of the admission of unskilled workers and elimination of the diversity visa lottery.
  • Proposed a immigration admissions level of 550,000 per year, to be divided as follows:
    • Nuclear family immigration 400,000;
    • Skill-based immigration 100,000;
    • Refugee resettlement 50,000.*

The full report including final recommendations and supplemental views by commissioners can be found here.

Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy, 1978
The Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy constitutes the first major effort by a joint presidential/congressional commission to examine and overhaul the immigration laws. In 1978, 601,442 people became resident aliens in the U.S. 900,000 waited for immigrant visas. This same year, Congress created the commission to study, to evaluate and to make recommendations on the following issues: international issues, undocumented/illegal aliens, admission of immigrants, refugee and mass asylum issues, non immigrant aliens, language requirements for naturalization and treatment of United States territories under U.S. Immigration and Nationality laws. The questions addressed by the Commission are as follows: how many immigrants to admit, from what countries, by what criteria, and through what process? Reverend Theodore Hesburg, President of Notre Dame University, was appointed as chairman of the committee. Hesburg and the committee presented their final report and recommendations to U.S. Congress and President Ronald Reagan on March 1, 1981.

The committees' recommendation to make for a "sound, coherent [and] responsible immigration and refugee policy" include:

  • that Border Patrol funding levels be raised and current interior laws be firmly enforced.
  • Port of entry inspections be enhanced.
  • Investigations of Visa abuses be maintained and made a priority
  • Fully automated system of non immigrant document control be established by Immigration and Naturalization Services to track aliens and verify departure
  • An annual ceiling of 350,000 numerically limited immigrant visas with an additional 100,000 visas available for the first five years to account for backlog
  • Family and non-family immigrants be subject to different ceilings of admission numbers
  • Fixed percentage limit to the independent immigration from any one country

The full report including final recommendations and supplemental views by commissioners can be found here.

Rockefeller Commission Report on Population Growth and the American Future, 1969
Proposed in 1969 by President Nixon through a “Special Message to the Congress on Problems of Population Growth” and finally released in 1972, the Rockefeller Commission Report on the Population Growth and the American Future came to the conclusion that “no substantial benefit will result from further grown of the Nation’s population, rather that the gradual stabilization of our population through voluntary means would contribute significantly to the Nation’s ability to solve its problems.” Chaired by John D. Rockefeller III, the commission reports addressed issues of population concentration (namely urban sprawl) and social security—a balance between the quality of life and population size, growth, and distribution. After two years of extensive research, the commission made recommendations in certain key areas:

  • Immigration
    • Enforcement of legislation concerning illegal immigration
    • Maintaining immigration levels
    • Development of national population distribution guidelines
  • Population growth
    • Education regarding population stabilization
    • Increased availability of sex education and contraception
    • Encourage adoption (provision of subsidies, review of current laws and practices)
    • High priority to research regarding fertility control
  • Research
    • Government support to population survey
    • Increased availability of population data to research agencies
    • Establishment of National Institute of Population Sciences (within the National Institute of Health)
  • Greater governmental attention to population problems

The full report including final recommendations and supplemental views by commissioners can be found here.

During the period of the Rockefeller commission, a joint resolution regarding population stabilization was introduced in the Special Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, chaired by Senator Alan Cranston, in 1971. Sponsored by 33 senators, the Declaration of U.S. Policy of Population Stabilization By Voluntary Means recognized the implications of unmitigated population growth on the environment, resources, and the American future. This resolution was predominantly focused on finding “what population level and growth rate is most consistent with other national goals and aspirations” and achieving that level by non-coercive means. While a large portion of the testimonies addressed the consequences of the “poor control over fertility” (Statements of Louis M. Hellman, M.D.), a number of statements mentioned immigration as a factor and almost all of the testimonies brought up issues of resource depletion and economic problems caused by unchecked population growth. The senate hearing continually emphasized the importance of achieving an appropriate growth rate--without placing a great burden on society yet large enough to sustain economic growth and productivity. Although S.J.Res.108 was never passed, it was one of the first documented attempts by the U.S. government to address the future population issue.