Assessing the Population and Environmental Impact of the Gutierrez-Flake Bill (H.R. 1645) (2007)
Legislation that significantly adds to the U.S. population should forthrightly describe what the population impact will likely be as a result. Because change in the size of the U.S. population is a major factor impacting the environment, any such proposed changes should be evaluated in terms of the likely environmental impact.
H.R. 1645, introduced by Reps. Gutierrez and Flake in March 2007 would: 1) result in a major increase in the U.S. population by the addition of immigrant visas for foreigners sponsored by both family members and by employers; 2) expand guest worker provisions that would increase the presence of long-term U.S. residents; and 3) undercut efforts to combat illegal immigration by including an amnesty for those already here — which would perpetuate the belief abroad that illegal immigration to the United States will be accepted.
The cumulative effects of these proposed changes to the immigration law, if they were adopted, would likely increase the U.S. population by more than an additional 50 million people above the already fast-growing population between now and 2050. Instead of a population of 461 million in 2050, that would likely result with continued mass immigration, the population would soar to about 513 million. If H.R.1645 were enacted, this proposed legislation would add even more to the U.S. population than the Kennedy-McCain bill proposed last year — that we projected would cause the population to surge to about 500 million in 2050.
The United States already has the fastest growing population among industrialized countries. Between 2000 and 2006, the population grew by an estimated 2.9 million residents per year. That is a growth rate of nearly one percent per, and a one percent per year population growth rate implies a population doubling in just 70 years. Needless to say, adding nearly an additional 300 million residents to our population over the next 70 years would have an enormous environmental impact on the U.S. contribution to climate change, urban sprawl, energy consumption, traffic congestion, and dwindling ground water resources, to name just a few of the impacts.
Immigration is the most significant factor influencing U.S. population growth. When the estimated illegal immigrant influx is added to legally admitted immigration, it accounts for about an additional 1.8 million residents each year. The Census Bureau estimates that this is reduced to a net increase of about 1.2 million immigrants per year by return migration and Americans leaving to live abroad. But, that is not the total of the population impact from immigration, because it does not include the children born to the immigrants after they arrive in the United States.
Because so many of the immigrants are young adults and because they often come from societies with high birth rates, immigrants tend to also have a disproportionate impact on population increase from natural change (births less deaths). Though the foreign-born population amounts to about one-eighth of the U.S. population at present, it accounts for nearly double that share of U.S. births. With births to immigrants added, the population impact from immigration adds to about two-thirds of the annual increase, with some estimates putting this impact as high as four-fifths of the current population increase.
In a population projection we did in 2005 looking at the population effects of the then proposed Kennedy-McCain immigration proposal, we found that if that proposal were enacted it would cause the U.S. population to rise to about 500 million persons by 2050.1 That result was nearly 40 million more people in the country than under the highest scenario based on the current trend with no change in the immigration law.
We did not do a study of the impact of the Hegel-Martinez legislation that was eventually passed in the Senate, but analyses by others suggested that legislation would have resulted in a still larger increase in the U.S. population than under the Kennedy-McCain legislation.
Read the full report in pdf format.