Immigration is a national discussion that people have many different ideas about. There are countless perspectives and potential solutions that individuals have, and for this reason, certain aspects of immigration are sometimes misunderstood or overlooked. To learn more about the different perspectives of the issue, I reached out to NumbersUSA to learn more about the immigration reform organization. NumbersUSA Education & Research Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that aims to provide a forum for Americans to focus on the single issue of immigration. The group educates the public, policy makers, and opinion leaders about immigration policies, legislation, and what the potential consequences might be.
I spoke with NumbersUSA President and Founder Roy Beck to find out more. Beck is one of the most prominent spokesmen on the effects of mass immigration and its impact on the quality of life in the United States. As an author, lecturer, and former journalist, Beck has extensive experience in immigration policy research and reporting. The Houston Chronicle labeled him “one of the five leading thinkers in the national immigration debate,” and the Foreign Affairs journal stated that nobody has made a more persuasive case for reducing current levels of immigration.
I talked with Beck about how to approach the complex issue of child immigrants from South America, and the misunderstood aspects of immigration. This is the first of a two part Q&A series on immigration:
1. LW: How did you become involved in immigration, and why do you think it is an important issue?
RB: I was covering Congress for Newhouse Newspapers in 1990 when it passed a law dramatically increasing annual immigration numbers over a level that already had been raised to that of the turn-of-the-century Ellis Island Great Wave of immigration. I was amazed that Members of Congress and Pres. Bush would make such a drastic change without studying the consequences to the nation’s efforts on infrastructure, the economic underclass, environmental quality, and quality-of-life in the nation’s metropolitan areas.
I had been a newspaper reporter since 1968 and began to realize in 1990 that nearly every issue that I had covered and that had interested me potentially would be overwhelmed by the government’s program of importing massive new populations into the nation’s communities (about 10 million each decade after the 1990 law).
A few weeks after the new law was signed, I decided to leave my newspaper career to write a series of books and magazine and journal articles about the potential consequences that were getting almost no attention from the government or news media. One article in the Atlantic Monthly got the attention of the bi-partisan joint U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, chaired by Barbara Jordan, which asked me to meet with it during its considerations on refugees.
After Congresswoman Jordan died early in 1996, I began this non-profit, non-partisan organization NumbersUSA to promote the recommendations of her commission which called for reducing annual immigration to around half of what it is today.
2. LW: There has been much discussion and controversy over the recent surge of child immigrants from Latin America. So many different issues and factors come into play when forming an opinion or set of actions. What are some of the factors contributing to this issue, and how do you think the United States should address the problem?
RB: There are billions of people in the world who are more impoverished than the average Mexican. Polling through the years has indicated that a large number of them would move to the United States if they were allowed — or if they thought they were allowed. About 45 million foreign citizens visit the United States legally each year. Nearly all of them go back home as they have promised when allowed to come, but many do stay illegally and the number could grow exponentially if they saw they would be rewarded for doing so. Any nation, but especially our nation, is always on the cusp of massive uninvited movements of other countries’ citizens coming across the border. Only a credible promise of deterrence can keep that from happening.
The current Border Surge crisis is the result of all those push factors that have been in place in Central America for decades but with the catalytic pull factor of three years of mounting talk and actions by our governmental leaders that have indicated that immigration laws will not be enforced in most circumstances. As the Morton Memos in 2011 began to be publicized about their end of deportations for most illegal aliens who aren’t violent criminals, the flow of younger Central Americans to our southwest border began to increase and then surged with the expectation and then the enactment of the Administration’s DACA actions in 2012. The surge became The Surge this year as the news hit Central America that the Administration was telling Congress that if it didn’t pass a mass legalization this year that the Administration would do it on its own. Although the new entrants to the U.S. would not technically be able to benefit from the new amnesty or DACA, the news was ripe for the drug gangs and other organized crime syndicates to exploit to create a financial bonanza for their businesses, earning hundreds of millions of dollars transporting the “Surgers” to our border.
These kinds of surges can only be stopped in the way that Pres. Obama and Vice Pres. Biden indicated at the beginning of the summer: The people in the sending countries have to know that virtually nobody who comes up will be allowed to stay. That requires that Central Americans see a massive and rapid return of the people in their neighborhood who went north. Unfortunately, the Administration has talked one policy and walked another one, sending images to the world of re-locating the Surgers into communities across America instead of keeping them near the border for their rapid return back to their home countries.
In addition, the Administration needs to send the same message that the U.S. House of Representatives so clearly sent with its bill at the end of July — declare that it will no longer unilaterally issue amnesties in the form of work permits and other benefits to those who are in this country illegally.
But it isn’t just on the Administration. Prominent figures like Jeb Bush must stop indicating that our immigration laws are inconsequential by talking about illegal immigration being an act of love. Religious leaders have to stop treating immigration laws as if they are unjust laws. Leaders everywhere need to tell the world that the United States will vigorously stand behind the conclusion of Barbara Jordan’s commission that every country must have well-enforced immigration laws to protect the most vulnerable members of their society.
The United States has an illegal immigration problem almost entirely because Congress and the President have refused to follow the Jordan Commission recommendations and enact mandatory E-Verify for every employer. Remove the jobs magnet and nearly all illegal immigration problems will disappear.
3. LW: What do you think is the most misunderstood or overlooked aspect of immigration?
RB: The cumulative size and effect of immigration policy. Most Americans have no idea that we give out lifetime work permits to around 10 million new immigrants each decade, or that that compares with around 3 million each decade on average before the current immigration wave was restarted by Congress in 1965. Most Americans and nearly all government leaders fail to consider that immigration policies have added (through new immigrants and births to immigrants) the majority of population growth while the U.S. burgeoned from 200 million in 1970 to nearly 320 million today. Nor that without immigration, the U.S. population would rise toward 400 million this century, but under current policies it is likely to surpass 600 million. All of this means that nearly all the frantic efforts to expand our infrastructure of roads, schools, sewage treatment, water, recreation, etc. are expenses directly related to immigration policies. Without mass immigration, America would have a chance to repair and replace the aging and crumbling infrastructures for the existing population rather than always putting that off to handle expansions.
If current immigration policies continue and double U.S. population this century, every single aspect of American life will be profoundly changed for our children and grandchildren by the end of this century — individual liberty, personal mobility, quality of infrastructure, access to open spaces, freedom to live somewhere other than congested megalopolises, economic opportunity.
Polling consistently finds that those changes by mass immigration are opposed by large majorities of Americans of every political party, ideology, ethnicity, religion, income status and education.
4. LW: Explain the mission of NumbersUSA and why the organization sees lower immigration levels as an important goal for the future. How do you think that will help to improve future conditions and border policy?
RB: Here is our Mission Statement:
NumbersUSA Education & Research Foundation provides a civil forum for Americans of all political and ethnic backgrounds to focus on a single issue, the numerical level of U.S. immigration. We educate opinion leaders, policymakers and the public on immigration legislation, policies and their consequences. We favor reductions in immigration numbers toward traditional levels that would allow present and future generations of Americans to enjoy a stabilizing U.S. population and a high degree of individual liberty, mobility, environmental quality, worker fairness and fiscal responsibility.
Our members work with us for a more economically just society in which Americans — whether foreign-born or U.S.-born — who work hard and play by the rules can live lives of dignity and raise families in dignity. We oppose the government using immigration to distort the free market of labor within our national community, transferring wealth from the poor and working classes to foreign citizens and to the most affluent of our country (as Prof. Borjas of Harvard has concluded is what current immigration policies are doing.
Our website provides the full buffet of what we advocate (https://www.numbersusa.com/about) but the two big items that would dramatically change all kinds of things for the better, including the situation at the border, would be:
1. Reduce annual legal immigration by half immediately (ending chain migration of relatives other than spouse and minor children, ending the visa lottery, ending importing non-extraordinary foreign workers).
2. Mandate E-Verify-plus for all employers to take away the jobs magnet for illegal immigration.
Those two actions alone would reduce illegal flows at the border to a trickle.
5. LW: Immigration is an incredibly divisive issue in the United States – given that and the many perspectives people have on how it should be approached, how do you think the United States should move forward and address the future of immigration with so many different opinions and ideas?
RB: Leaders should stop treating immigration policy as a sacred cow that can’t be dealt with like any other issue.
As I say on our website:
“Every government in the world has the obligation to decide what immigration number is right for the community in its care. The key factor in immigration policy is choosing the right number of authorized immigrants for future years. To choose a lower number does not imply anything negative about the immigrants who already are legally in this country. We’re talking about the future number that is best for both U.S.-born and foreign-born citizens.”
If each immigration action would be discussed in terms of what is in the national interest, one issue at a time, it might be possible for people of varying strong opinions to make some progress together.
In the end, because Congress has not passed the Jordan Commission recommendations and because Presidents have not enforced the laws on the books, there may be a need for some compromises that should not have had to be made. But those compromises that might end up rewarding some people’s illegal behavior would be possible only if the Jordan Commission recommendations of legal immigration reductions and mandatory E-Verify and other enforcement measures are fully in place.