In a time of increasing environmental consciousness and concern over economic inequality,the theory that the U.S. should seek a perpetually expanding economy and population must be challenged. According to a study by the Pew Research Center,the U.S. population is projected to grow to 438 million by 2050 if all present trends continue,an increase of 129 million over the 2010 census count of 309 million. Most of the population growth over the next 40 years will be attributable to post-2010 immigrants and their descendants,with only a small portion attributable to the natural growth of the 2010 baseline population.
How will we provide good jobs,good educational opportunities,good health care,and good housing for 129 million additional residents given our current track record? How many more vehicles will be added to our highways? How many more millions of barrels of oil will we have to import from the Middle East,or extract from deep-water wells drilled into the ocean floor? How many more millions of tons of coal will have to be burned,or nuclear power plants launched,to generate electricity for another 129 million people?
In recent years the U.S. has been admitting approximately 1 million legal immigrants every year,mostly based on family connections,which is more than the number of legal immigrants admitted to any other country. If we count only those receiving comparable permanent residence and a clear path to full citizenship,the U.S. admits more legal immigrants than all the nations of the world combined. In addition,illegal immigrants have succeeded in violating U.S. immigration law,so that the illegal immigrant population in the U.S. is estimated to be around 11 million.
The demographic challenges affecting Social Security and Medicare should not be addressed by further increasing the current historically high level of legal immigration to the U.S.,which would only increase the eventual demands on those programs and aggravate other social problems. Instead,our legal immigration program should be more narrowly focused on admitting immigrants who are most likely to make contributions to solving our challenges.