Update on an environmental impact statement for U.S. immigration policy
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), signed into law the same year as the first Earth Day (1970), has been called America’s “environmental Magna Carta.” Section 102(2)(c) mandates federal agencies to prepare a detailed, written statement – an “environmental impact statement” or EIS – for those actions that may incur significant environmental effects. NEPA overtly acknowledges population growth as a key driver of increasing anthropogenic stress on the environment. Indeed, Title I, the “Declaration of National Environmental Policy” begins: “The Congress, recognizing the profound impact of man’s activity on the interrelations of all components of the environment, particularly the profound influences of population growth…”
At 320 million, the United States is the world’s third-most populous country, after China and India. Recent years have witnessed relentless population growth, ranging from 27-33 million/decade, with little evidence of abatement. Indeed, Census Bureau projections to 2100 show demographic growth continuing with no end in sight. Since 1970, elevated immigration rates have replaced elevated fertility rates as the main determinant of future U.S. population growth. Yet to date, there has been no comprehensive analysis or EIS of the long-term, cumulative environmental consequences of continued high immigration rates.
The NGO Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR) aims to remedy this. PFIR is preparing an EIS that evaluates the variable impacts of three annual immigration rates: 1) 250,000 (Reduction Alternative), 2) 1.25 million (No Action Alternative), and 3) 2.25 million (Expansion Alternative). Demographic projections of aggregate U.S. population size in 2100 were conducted using these three assumed annual immigration rates. The U.S. population in 2100 of the reduction alternative is 379 million; no action alternative, 524 million; and expansion alternative, 669 million. The EIS examines such issues as urban sprawl and farmland loss, impacts on biodiversity, water demands, carbon emissions, energy demands and national security implications, and the international ecological impacts of U.S. immigration policies and resultant population growth.
The three options above represent reasonable, plausible alternatives (all within the realm of political possibility). From year to year, the differences between their respective consequences are barely distinguishable. Yet over the long term, they entail starkly divergent, cumulative outcomes for America’s future population size, environmental quality, and prospects for sustainability.