An Immigrant on Immigration Limits

By Yeh Ling-Ling
Published in The Social Contract
Volume 4, Number 4 (Summer 1994)
Issue theme: "The U.S. Congress and U.S. population growth"

[Yeh Ling-Ling, an immigrant from China, is now a U.S. citizen and the California Representative of Population-Environment Balance, a Washington, D.C.-based group.]

California needs elected leaders capable of bringing real solutions to the serious problems facing the state 9.6 percent unemployment, soaring budget deficits, overcrowded schools, persistent homelessness, growing congestion, urban sprawl and chronic water shortages.

Has any candidate running this year for state or federal office recognized that exponential population growth, fueled in part by excessive levels of immigration, is a major contributing factor to many of California's problems?

I am an immigrant and a former immigration paralegal. My experience here, watching rising poverty, homelessness and environmental degradation, has convinced me of our need to stop population growth - including reducing immigration. The latter contributes half of the U.S. population growth when immigration-related fertility is considered.

'It is urgent that Congress adopt a

sensible immigration policy that

would ... [take] into consideration

economic needs and limited


When the Statue of Liberty was erected, this country had 60 million people. Natural resources and job opportunities were plentiful. The economy was labor intensive. The social safety net, unlike today, was almost nonexistent.

But the United States now has 260 million residents. Poverty and homelessness are on the rise. Our schools and freeways are full. We have an oversupply of labor more than 8 million workers are unemployed, and almost 5 million are underemployed.

Growth in California has been particularly pronounced. In just 30 years, the population has doubled to nearly 32 million. The consequences have been devastating.

Even if we could achieve a miraculous growth management plan to limit the environmental impact of continuous population growth, overpopulation will continue to put tremendous pressure on our labor markets, infrastructure and budgets. Water shortage in California, a common occurrence in the past, will only be worse in the future.

Donald Huddle, of Rice University in Houston, estimates that immigration as a whole since 1970 cost California taxpayers a net $18.1 billion in services and assistance programs, with nearly three-quarters of the total attributable to legal immigration.

The United States now has a national debt exceeding $4.5 trillion. We have 37 million poor who do not live the American dream.

We should not continue an immigration policy that allows, every year, nearly 200,000 legal immigrant children to enter our overcrowded and under-funded public schools, hundreds of thousands of low-skilled legal immigrant workers to join our labor markets and compete with our own low-skilled workers, and tens of thousands of elderly legal immigrants who depend on welfare.

Because our economy needs highly skilled workers to compete in a global economy, this nation's priority should be to educate our children and train or retrain our own poor, homeless and unemployed.

It is urgent that Congress adopt a sensible immigration policy that would allow the United States to maintain its tradition as an immigrant-receiving nation while taking into consideration economic needs and limited resources.

An all-inclusive, replacement-level immigration ceiling of 200,000 people a year is proposed by Population-Environment Balance. This level is still higher than the average legal immigrant admissions from 1930 to 1960.

Population-Environment Balance supports the Immigration Stabilization Act of 1993, which would substantially reduce legal immigration and offer measures to curb illegal immigration and asylum fraud.

Balance also supports the Immigration Moratorium Act of 1994, which calls for a moratorium on many categories of immigration. We need a moratorium to fully assess the various impacts of our current immigration policy.

The majority of Americans, including 78 percent of Latin Americans, supports cuts in legal and illegal immigration. A majority of black Americans also believes that current levels of immigration are too high.

It is high time that politicians understand that immigration is not a racial issue, but an environmental, social and economic one. ;

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