July 28, 1993
By Yolanda Reynolds
The number of immigrants to the United States is of concern to many; both those who feel that there should be no borders anywhere to those who feel that uncontrolled immigration can be disastrous to the host countries.
According to a recent report of the United Nations Population Fund there are 100 million immigrants world-wide. The areas of origin of the largest total numbers of immigrants/refugees are Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Countries such as Yugoslavia, India, Pakistan, Mexico, Algeria and Tunisia have large numbers of immigrants with huge numbers many from the rural countryside to large urban centers worldwide.
This immense migration of people has many causes among then the tremendous growth of the world’s population. Paul Kennedy in his book “Preparing for the Twenty First Century,” points out that in the early sixties, demographers, economists and others suggested “a negative correlation between demographic growth and economic development; more meant worse.” By 1980 there was a rejection of that idea. A leading proponent of this new vision was Julian Simon, who said that a growing population is better than a stationary population for economic development, in the long run, for both developed and less-developed countries.
Kennedy points out that the population projections on which Simon developed his theories were greatly underestimated. Some countries fertility rates are as high as 7.0 in Nigeria, 7.8 in Syria, 8.3 in Rwanda instead of the far more moderate 2.5 expected by Simon which is a little above that needed for replacement of the existing population.
Kennedy points out that such increased “does hurt the mases of overcrowded and undernourished youth who compose that boom.” He adds that there is a relationship between human activity and ecological damage.
In addition, he says that even revisionists like Julian Simon admit that the world’s population growth cannot be sustained with our current patterns and levels of consumption.
Kennedy points out that it is not population growth alone that is the problem, it is also the fact that developed countries consume more per capita of the worlds resources that do people living in developing countries.”
For example, Kennedy points out that although the United States made up only 4 percent of the world’s population, in 1989, it used up 6.3 billion barrels of oil “100 times more than that of most developing countries”.
Some economists claim that the average American baby, “represents twice the environmental damaged of a Swedish child, three times that a Brazilian, 35 times that an Indian and 280 times that of a Chaadian or a Haitian, because the level of consumption throughout life, will be so much greater.”
World population has long been a concern. Attention was first brought to this in the late 1700‘s when Thomas Malthus wrote his famous “Essay on the Principles of Population.” Malthus pointed out that population increase tends to occur geometrically while the means of its support food, etc. usually increases arithmetically. That unbalanced ratio he predicted, would eventually result in the poor becomingpoorer and believed that only famine and wars would reduce the inadequacy of resources unless population control was affected by late marriage and parental restraint.
When Malthus wrote his book. the world’s population was less than one billion. Today there are approximately 5 billion people. Some demographers project that within forty years that world’s population will double to 10 billion people worldwide.
As populations have grown, per capita resources have decreased and social unrest and environmental degradation have increased. Vast numbers of people who are seeking better living conditions elsewhere.
According to Barry Newman in an article he wrote for the Wall Street Journal entitled “End of the Line: Flooded by Refugees. Western Europe Slam Doors to Foreigners.” Newman says that Italy is using gunboats to keep Albanians out. France has a goal for zero immigration, Spanish border guards search out African immigrants making their way by boat to Spain, while England severely restricts the number of West Indian and Asians it will admit, Germany has seen the rise of new Nazi “skinhead,” types who harass and even kill “foreigners.”
Many Russians who hoped to leave their country, say that Russia and the West have swapped places. They add that “an Iron Curtain has dropped before the majority of those who want to enter Europe.”
Newman points out that last year, there were 560,000 “asylum seekers” in Western Europe, while in 1983, that number was only 63,000. Western Europe now has a yearly inﬂux of nearly 2 million people and an estimated total of 5 million illegal immigrants.
In the United States, the clamor for more control of our borders has escalated with the high proﬁle attempts by boatloads of mainland Chinese, mostly males, who have attempted to illegally enter into the United States. Reportedly, once on American soil they plan to request asylum on the basis that China restricts families to having only one child. China has an enormous population of over 1.1 billion people.
Others have been asking for more control of the border between the United States and Mexico. There has been less concern for the Canadian border, even though many Irish, East Indian and Asian immigrants are said to be illegally using Canada as a way station to the United States.
Though the United States is relatively un-populated compared to some areas, the growth of the population, whether by immigration or birth, is causing alarm to some.
Safe drinking water is becoming scarcer. In some areas over irrigation is destroying farmlands since eventually the land becomes so salty plants cannot grow. Scientists are searching for a genetic solution that will enable vegetable farming to be possible in salt contaminated soils.
Lack of housing is a new problem here. In San Jose, the price of housing though lower than it has been in recent years is still beyond the reach of many individuals and families who want a place to live. During the last three years the population of San Jose has grown by 13,000 people but, in that same time period there have only been built4,000 new housing units
The lack of adequate affordable housing has many causes but one thing is certain a high demand for a product usually will result in high prices.
Policy leaders and others involved with civil rights are very concerned that in the rush to control immigration, human rights and civil rights are not violated.
In Germany, native born Germans of Turkish heritage have been denied citizenship; in the United States people of Mexican or Latin American heritage are often singled out as “foreigners” when in fact they were born here, with the citizenship of some going back many generations.
According to Kennedy, history reveals that the great upheavals of the past occurred in societies where there was a great increase in population. He points out that that was the situation when the Vikings left their lands to explore Europe and the World, when Elizabethan England expanded, it was the situation during the French revolution and is now the same in Central America and the Middle East.
Kennedy adds that, besides experiencing population explosions, these countries and areas were having difficulty in absorbing the increasing numbers of young men who lacked opportunity and employment.
That is a frightful prospect when one thinks of China where the “one child” policy has resulted in a practice of allowing only the male children to live. It is no wonder they seek a place where the ratio of males to females is more balanced.
The United States is primarily a nation of immigrants and, though each succeeding immigrant group has had to endure scholarly analysis has shown that the nation has ultimately benefitted. What is not certain today is whether technological advances are possible which will enable a continued supply of resources to sustain the population of the world. It is hard to understand population growth as Malthus described until one is told that, in the 1980‘s, Mexico City had a population of under 300, 000 people. Today there are over 20 million in Mexico City with a total population of over 88 million in Mexico. Mexico City is the second largest city in the world. In 1990, 72 percent of Mexico’s population was urban. In 1985 the world’s population was slightly over 1.8 billion people.
The United States has almost 250 million people. Its largest city is New York with a population of slightly over 14,6 million People. In 1990, 68 percent of its population was urban.
Some of the developed countries are searching for methods to relieve the economic and social problems that underline the desire of so many to leave their country of birth. The NAFTA agreement is one such effort intended not only to help the United States but also to be a boon to Mexico that has a high percentage of unemployed and underemployed people.
Many who are critics of NAFTA, are not opposed to the intent of the agreement but are very concerned about the unintended results if the agreement does not address labor rights and environmental concerns.
President Clinton has promised that those concerns will be addressed in “side agreements” and that the treaty will be signed by January next year. © La Oferta Newspaper.