Since biologist Paul Ehrlich loudly sounded the overpopulation alarm in his 1968 book, “The Population Bomb,” many demographers, ecologists and scientists have continued to address the issue, recognizing it is one of the biggest challenges facing humankind.
Why has the United States never had a formal population policy?
President Nixon’s Commission on Population Growth and the American Future concluded in 1972 that U.S. population should stabilize at 200 million (the approximate population at the time) to be sustainable. The Commission also recommended limiting immigration, securing borders and adopting a population policy.
Two successive presidential commissions studied U.S. population growth and immigration; both recommended curbing immigration. With current population at 313 million and projections of 600 million by 2050, neither a president nor any Congress has acted on any recommendations from these commissions, even as other countries have adopted formal population policies.
We will look at how the U.S. arrived at its current overpopulated status and failed to adopt a policy to address a sustainable population that takes into account the impacts of immigration. In order to do this, the country’s long and rich history of immigration is reviewed.
During the Depression of the 1930s, President Roosevelt wanted to keep jobs open for unemployed Americans, so immigration was limited. During World War II, the bracero program was implemented, importing laborers from Mexico for farms because so many American men were away at war.
After the war, the U.S. experienced the “Baby Boom.” U.S. population grew rapidly with average families having 3.4 children, and immigrants came in masses. Then in 1965, the Hart Cellar Immigration Act ended immigration based on national quotas, shifting emphasis from European countries to Latin America and Asia. Hart Cellar opened up huge numbers of slots for family members to join family here. It was the start of a mass migration pattern to the U.S. that hasn’t been curbed by any administration since.
Today we bring in more than 1 million legal immigrants annually, and we estimate that between 500,000 and 800,000 enter the U.S. each year illegally, many from countries known to harbor terrorists. Sixty percent of U.S. population growth in the last 11 years has come from immigration, both legal and illegal. In California, between 2007 and 2010, 98% of growth was from immigration.
Politics drive this situation--and there are numerous other reasons why we should all be concerned about overpopulation in the United States.