Increased Immigration is Not A Simple Solution for US Population Woes

I do not normally agree with the Center for Immigration Studies, with its general anti-immigration work, but this analysis largely mirrors my own concerns regarding the arguments of Canadian advocates for increased immigration:

Conventional wisdom has developed that the United States desperately needs more immigration to address the supposed twin evils of population aging and slowing population growth. The 2020 Census showing the U.S. grew by “only” 22.7 million over the last decade has prompted a new round of calls to expand immigration.

In fact, immigration does not make the population substantially younger unless the level is truly enormous and ever-increasing. Moreover, there is no body of research showing that higher rates of population growth necessarily make a country richer on a per-person basis. Advocates of mass immigration also ignore the downsides of larger populations, as well as the more effective and less extreme alternatives that exist for dealing with an aging society.

Despite this reality, Jay Evensen of Salt Lake City’s Deseret News argues that the slowdown in population growth revealed by the Census “portends a population disaster.” Bloomberg News’ Noah Smith thinks lower population growth creates a “grim economic future.”

Many commentators argue for increasing immigration above the more than one million already allowed in each year to spur population growth and “rebuild the demographic pyramid,” as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush famously put it in 2013. But as the former director of Princeton’s graduate program in population studies, Thomas Espenshade, observed a number of years ago, “the effect of alternative immigration levels on population age structure is small, unless we are willing to entertain a volume of U.S. immigration of historic proportion.”

To illustrate, the Census Bureau’s “low-immigration” scenario produces a U.S. population of 376 million in 2060, compared to 447 million under its “high-immigration” scenario — a 71 million difference. Under its low-immigration scenario, 56 percent of the population will be working-age (18-64) in 2060, compared to 57 percent under its high-immigration scenario. Thus, the addition of 71 million people raises the working-age share by just one percentage point.

One reason the impact is so modest is that immigrants are not uniformly young when they arrive — many now come in their 50s and 60s — and they grow old over time just like everyone else. Moreover, immigrant fertility now only slightly exceeds native-born fertility, and their children add to the dependent population — those too young or too old to work. Of course, these children eventually grow up and become workers, but by then many of their immigrant parents will be at or near retirement age.

Given the inefficiency of immigration as a tool to address population aging, immigration advocate Justin Gest at George Mason University is forced to propose unprecedented levels of future immigration to accelerate population growth and slow population aging. In a piece for CNN and a report for the immigration advocacy group fwd.us, he argues for doubling immigration to the United States to make the country “younger, more productive, and richer.”

Gest’s own projections show that the current level of immigration will make the U.S. population 74 million larger in 2050 than if there was no immigration, while doubling immigration would add another 92 million people by 2050.

Gest emphasizes that making the population 166 million larger increases the aggregate size of the economy significantly. More workers, more consumers, and more government spending does make for a larger GDP. But a larger population means the larger GDP is spread out over more people, so each individual is not necessarily better off. If all that mattered was the overall size of the economy, Bangladesh would be considered a richer country than New Zealand. Of course, what really determines the standard of living in a country is its per capita GDP.

Gest claims that the 74 million additional people that the current level of immigration would add will raise per capita income by 4 percent in 2050, relative to no immigration. He further asserts that doubling immigration would, along with an additional 92 million people, increase average income by another 3 percent. The idea behind this calculation is that if there are more workers — or more specifically, if a larger share of the population is of working-age — the average income of the entire population will be higher.

What is so striking about these numbers is that even if everything Gest argues is true, adding a total of 166 million people to the country — more than the combined populations of France and Germany — in just three decades only modestly improves per capita economic growth. But even this small increase is an overestimate if the new immigrants crowd out some existing workers from the labor force. There is certainly evidence that this happens with teenagers and Black Americans.

In the real world, it is hard to find evidence that population growth actually increases per capita economic growth. For example, if population growth were such an economic boon, then countries like Canada and Australia, which have among the highest rates of immigration and resulting population growth in the developed world, would dramatically outpace a country like Japan, which has relatively little immigration and a declining population. And yet, between 2010 and 2019, Japan’s per capita GDP growth was slightly higher than Canada’s and Australia’s. Among all developed countries, the correlation between population growth and per capita economic growth was actually negative between 2010 and 2019.

One of the reasons population growth is not associated with economic growth is that increasing the supply of workers reduces incentives to improve productivity. Looking across countries, a 2017 study by Ronald Lee and Andrew Mason found that “low fertility is not a serious economic challenge.” Instead, they find that “The effect of low fertility on the number of workers and taxpayers has been offset by greater human capital investment, enhancing the productivity of workers.” There is simply no reason to assume that a larger population will necessarily be richer.

Putting aside economics, making the population 166 million larger or even 74 million larger than it would otherwise be has important environmental implications. While population is not the only factor that determines human impact on the environment, it does have a direct bearing on everything from preventing further habitat loss to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

One can debate the severity of climate change and how best to address it. But mathematically, if the total population is 166 million (50 percent) larger in 2050 than it would otherwise be, then each person would have to reduce their greenhouse gases admission by roughly one-third just to maintain the current level of emissions, to say nothing of lowering levels. As Joseph Chamie, the former director of the United Nations Population Division, pointed out in The Hill recently, stabilizing America’s population is necessary “to deal effectively with climate change and many other critical environmental concerns.”

In addition to the environment, making the population dramatically larger must also have profound implications for the quality of life. Most Americans aspire to live in areas with a fair amount of open space. A 2018 Gallup poll found, by a two-to-one margin, that Americans want to live in rural areas or suburbs. The rapid suburbanization of immigrants shows that they share this desire. Significantly increasing the nation’s population density is likely to make it more difficult for many Americans to live the way they want to.

There is also the issue of traffic. As a Brookings Institution analysis a number of years ago concluded, “The most obvious reason traffic congestion has increased everywhere is population growth.” Traffic congestion alone has been estimated to cost the American economy $120 billion annually. Both the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Department of Transportation have reported that the nation’s roads are in a state of disrepair and need significant upgrades. It is hard to imagine that adding tens of millions more people in just 30 years would not create even more congestion.

If we are concerned about population aging, there are far less radical ways to address it. Projections by Karen Zeigler and myself show that raising the retirement age by just one year increases the share of the population that is working-age (16-64) about as much as all of the immigration expected by the Census Bureau through 2050. Increasing it by three years improves it more than does doubling immigration. We also found that increasing the share of working-age people who have a job from the pre-Covid rate of 70 percent to 75 percent would do more to improve the overall share of the population who are actually workers in 2050 than would the current level of immigration.

Population boosters assume a larger population would be a boon to the economy, even though there is no clear evidence that this is the case. They also ignore the negative impact on the environment, congestion, traffic, and other qualify of life issues. There are more effective, less radical, and more environmentally sustainable ways to deal with the challenges associated with population aging than using an ever-increasing level of immigration to dramatically increase the population.

Dr. Steven Camarota is director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies.

Source: Increased Immigration is Not A Simple Solution for US Population Woes

Immigration Newspeak II — USCIS Edition

Predictable criticism by CIS on the more inclusive language of the Biden Administration. Similar to Canadian debates over “illegal” border crossers and “irregular arrivals”:

As I previously wrote, open borders advocates vehemently oppose the use of precise legal terms found in U.S. immigration law. The recent “dehumanizing” strawman term is “alien”, which is defined in statute at section 101(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) as: “The term ‘alien’ means any person not a citizen or national of the United States.” The Biden administration particularly despises the term and devotes an entire section of its mass amnesty bill to replace “alien” with “noncitizen” throughout the INA. While this legislative change is silly and unnecessary, if it becomes law then so be it, that is the proper way of making change.

However, Biden’s deputies at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have taken it upon themselves to preemptively trash statutory language in favor of the activists’ preferred lingo. Unexpectedly, the first change occurred at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) where agents were ordered to discontinue using “alien” and “illegal alien” and instead use “undocumented noncitizen” or “undocumented individual”. Further exposing the absurdity of this linguistic gymnastics, ICE agents were ordered to replace “aslyee” with “asylum-seeker”. When I worked at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the term “asylee” was largely understood to mean an alien who had established eligibility for asylum. Under the Biden “newspeak”, legitimate asylees have now been demoted in reference to speculative asylum seekers. DHS justified this change as “an effort to align with current guidance and to ensure consistency in reporting”. But, as my colleague Art Arthur pointed out, the term “noncitizen” inherently defines someone by what he or she is not — a citizen.

Alas, this illogical scrubbing of technical language has reached my former agency. As first reported by Axios (and confirmed by my sources), USCIS staff received a memo February 16 — dated February 12 — with the subject “Terminology Changes”. (See the two pages of the memo here and here.) Citing the Biden-backed mass amnesty bill that has still not formally been introduced in either chamber of Congress, the memo says “the Biden Administration provides direction on the preferred use of immigration-related terminology within the federal government” and includes a table of previously used terms and the Biden-approved replacements. On the outs are “alien”, “illegal alien”, and “assimilation”, which are replaced with “noncitizen”, “undocumented noncitizen or undocumented individual”, and “integration, civic integration”. Curiously, the table also lists “undocumented alien” as a previously used term (to be replaced by the same terms acceptable in place of “illegal alien”) yet this term was never used in my four years at the agency because it is an inaccurate term made up by amnesty advocates.

Un-ironically, the memo contradicts itself by saying the guidance “does not affect legal, policy or other operational documents, including forms, where using terms (i.e., applicant, petitioner, etc.) as defined by the INA would be the most appropriate.” In the table replacing “alien” with “noncitizen” there is an associated footnote that reads, “Use noncitizen except when citing statute or regulation, or in a Form I-862, Notice to Appear, or Form I-863, Notice of Referral to Immigration Judge.” Translation: This cringe-worthy effort is a messaging gimmick.

At a time when USCIS is continuing to struggle financially and has record-level backlogs, posturing by the political appointees at the agency demonstrates a clear disconnect from the serious issues the agency needs to address. At the risk of embarrassing the Biden political appointees at USCIS, I do wonder if they are aware that the “A” in “A-Number” (the unique personal identifier assigned for immigration benefits) and “A-File” (individual files identified by the A-Number) stands for “alien”. Has the USCIS Office of the Chief Financial Officer calculated the time and money it will take to replace “A-Files” with (presumably) “NC-Numbers” and “NC-Files”? How about a complete overhaul of the USCIS website? Even if the answer is yes, which I doubt, what a waste of resources.

If you believe the memo, the terminology changes are essential for “the interest of effective communication” and “designed to encourage the use of more inclusive language.” I can think of nothing more ineffective than requiring USCIS staff, the media, and the public to maintain a cheat sheet of terms in order to communicate and understand what is being discussed. And, again, who exactly is “excluded” by statutory term “alien”? The memo, unsurprisingly, is silent on that point.

Source: Immigration Newspeak II — USCIS Edition

Foreign Students and Online Instruction: Canada’s Approach

An Intern for the largely anti-immigration Centre for Immigration Studies, has praise for the Canadian approach to international students during COVID-19 (and of course, there is also an anti-immigration “industry”:

Last week, ICE announced that new incoming foreign students will be denied entry to the U.S. if their institution plans to deliver solely online coursework. Such a regulation makes sense; new international students can engage in virtual learning and come to the U.S. once they have a reason to be on campus. However, the announcement only arrived after the agency succumbed to special interests regarding the larger current student visa population, which is now free to enter and remain in the U.S., regardless of whether students are studying in-person or remotely.

As a sophomore at Dartmouth College, some of my closest friends in university are F-1 visa recipients, and I have directly seen how international students enhance the campus community. But the Department of Homeland Security must look after the national security interests of the U.S., which are undermined when over one million foreign students are able to study virtually off-campus, and the federal government cannot track their whereabouts. That said, ICE’s initial decision was abrupt, leaving many in precarious situations. For example, some of my some of my international peers, who had already returned home, feared that studying remotely in their native country could result in the cancellation of their F-1 visas.

Perhaps, instead of entirely backing down and resorting to complete non-enforcement, the United States should have handled the student visa situation through a more measured approach to reconcile both national immigration security interests, as well as international student well-being. And it seems such a policy is being implemented in Canada.

Despite having a dismal record on immigration issues, Justin Trudeau’s reigning Liberal government is handling the Canadian foreign student situation with prudence. Last week, Canada’s federal immigration department announced that international students will not be allowed into the country until their institutions reopen. Entry will be only permitted on an individual discretionary basis, if one can prove they need to be on campus. Most Canadian public universities are delivering entirely virtual instruction, with the exception of a few specific STEM programs that feature an in-person lab component. This Canadian policy stands in accordance with the correct notion that entry into a country should be permitted only to those who have legitimate reasons to do so; only when international students have a reason to be on campus will they be permitted to study in the country.

Marguerite Telford, the Center’s Director of Communications, drew an analogy to tourist visas to explain this idea. Despite closing their doors to visitors, many museums are offering virtual tours. Issuing a student visa to someone studying at a virtual institution is akin to a country granting a visitor visa to a foreigner planning to attend a virtual museum tour: something that is unnecessary and preposterous. Canada has adopted this belief in shaping its student visa policy; however, it has simultaneously enacted several measures to mitigate any concerns of foreign students.

Canada has ensured that they will not have their visas rescinded for temporarily continuing their education abroad virtually. Further, foreign students already in the country have not been instructed to leave; if they do voluntarily, however, they will not be granted re-entry until on-campus instruction resumes at their institution. Of course, Canada’s decision is not entirely uncontroversial, given it has upset the usual migration advocates, who are urging the government to designate every foreign student as “essential”. However, viewed through a rational lens, the policy represents a pragmatic middle ground: international students outside of Canada will only return when their campus reopens and they have a clear reason to do so, but they will not be penalized on visa grounds for studying virtually from abroad, and those still inside the country can remain put.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has pragmatically handled its student visa situation by balancing national security and international student interests – an approach the U.S. should have likewise adopted. However, in America, negotiation is difficult when interest groups, such as the higher education industry, refuse to co-operate. Unfortunately, the government’s response should not be to completely kowtow. Strong immigration policy entails making tough decisions. Until then, we are stuck with capitulation without compromise – and that does not put American interests first.

Source: Foreign Students and Online Instruction: Canada’s Approach

Birth Tourism, Belts, and Braces

Interesting analysis of the visa screening proposal by the Trump administration and some of the implementation issues:

A news story about the likelihood of a crackdown on birth tourism by the current administration got me thinking about birth tourism as a challenge, in and of itself, and how its management is complicated by the number of migration screenings experienced by a pregnant alien woman.

Birth tourism, as my colleagues and I have argued over the years, is a problem because it not only allows instant citizenship for the infant involved, it grants immigration benefits to that child’s parents 21 years later — all without any governmental control, and all beyond the numerical ceilings that control most legal immigration. CIS has estimated that there are about 33,000 such births a year.

The news story reports that the State Department has announced that it is contemplating issuing a new regulation that a tourist visa should not be used in connection with birth tourism, and that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may being doing the same.

Were both State and CBP to come up with such policies, how would they be enforced? This leads to my comments about the varying number of screenings that a pregnant alien could experience on her way to becoming a birth tourism mother. The more processes, the more likely the pregnancy would be noticed.

The number of barriers that an expecting mother faces would vary, to some extent, by the likelihood of her giving birth in the United States. Women arriving from China, Russia, and Nigeria, often mentioned in this connection, would have a harder time bringing this off than, say, a Canadian, but it’s unlikely that a Canadian would be interested in birthright citizenship for her expected child. (Aliens from the first three countries need visas to enter the United States; Canadians do not.)

In some cases, to use a British metaphor, there would be a single barrier (or belt) to birth citizenship, and in others there could be as many as one belt and two pairs of braces; here are the variations:

  • One belt: The mother in question is from a visa-waiver country, so she would not need a visa, she simply has to get past the immigration officer at the U.S. airport where her plane lands.
  • One belt: The mother is Canadian and needs to be admitted at a port of entry; she might be a passenger in a car, at night, with her body shape hidden in clothing.
  • One belt plus one set of braces: The mother’s nation of origin is such, say Peru, that she needs a visa to come to the United States, so she is screened once at the embassy and again at the airport.
  • One belt plus two sets of braces: That visa-bearing Peruvian woman is in China when she finds out she is pregnant; she chooses to fly to Guam to see her sister, is inspected there, and inspected again in Hawaii on her way to California, another birth tourism hot spot.

The reader will note that the proposed control of birthright citizenship is confined to people with tourist visas. Other longer-term visas are not involved. Some tourist visas are issued for multiple years, and the visa-issuance process regarding birth tourists would not be effective in those cases.

My musing about the number of barriers erected by policymakers is not just a matter of immigration trivia because one of the prime centers of birth tourism is the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, just north of Guam. Chinese nationals, while needing a visa to come to the Mainland or Hawaii do not need one to go to CNMI; so there is only the CBP officer at the Saipan airport between them and birth tourism.

Birth Tourism Is Not for Everyone. The baby’s parents have to be financially strong enough to pay the bills, young enough to be parents, and farsighted enough to go through this whole maneuver; though my colleagues may disagree, this is not a bad combination.

Birth tourism, like the movement of immigrant investors in the EB-5 program, attracts well-to-do migrants, as family migration, generally, does not. And both birth tourism and EB-5 are apparently very attractive to well-to-do, but nervous, people from China.

EB-5 is limited to 10,000 visas a year, but there are no limits to birth tourism.

Source: Birth Tourism, Belts, and Braces

New Estimate: 72,000 USA Births Annually to Tourists, Foreign Students and Other Visitors (CIS)

Bit of an overly simple methodology to use given that it assumes similar behaviours and natality rates between groups. Much more comfortable on the Canadian data despite its limitations, available from CIHI:

Two new analyses by the Center for Immigration Studies estimate that there are 39,000 births a year to foreign students, guest workers and others on long-term temporary visa, plus an additional 33,000 births annually to tourists – 72,000 in total. Those born to these “non-immigrants,” as the government refers to them, are awarded U.S. citizenship because they were born in United States and not because a parent was a U.S. citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident (green card holders). These births are in addition to the nearly 300,000 births each year to illegal immigrants.

Our analysis does not address the controversial question of whether the U.S. Constitution actually requires “birthright citizenship,” as it is often called, to anyone born in the United States regardless of the parents’ immigration status. Rather, our estimates inform that discussion by estimating the scale of births to non-immigrants, which is one part of the birthright citizenship controversy that is seldom considered.

“Our analysis makes clear that the number of children born to visitors is not trivial; and over time the numbers are substantial,” said Steven Camarota, the report’s lead author and the Center’s Director of Research. “It seems doubtful that the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment could have anticipated that tens of thousands of people each year would automatically be granted citizenship simply because their parents were on a temporary visit to the United States at the time of their birth.”

Births to Long-Term Temporary Visitors

  • The government estimates that in 2016 there were 800,000 women age 18 to 44 in the country on long-term non-immigrant visas, primarily foreign students, guest workers, and exchange visitors.
  • Based on a comparable population of women in Census Bureau data, we estimate there are 49 births per thousand to these women for a total of 39,000 births annually or 390,000 each decade.
  • The birth rate for non-immigrants aged 18-44 is relatively low compared to the 77 births per-thousand for immigrant women generally. However the total number of births to temporary visitors is still large because so many foreign students, guest workers and exchange visitors have been allowed into the country.
  • We estimate that at least 90 percent of the fathers of children born to non-immigrant women were not U.S. citizens, almost all them on temporary visa themselves or illegal immigrants. This means at least 35,000 children were born to a non-immigrant mother and were awarded U.S. citizenship at birth solely because they were born on U.S. soil and not because their parents were citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders).

Birth Tourism

  • Many news stories in recent years have focused on “birth tourism,” which describes the phenomenon of pregnant women coming to America shortly before their due dates so their children are born in the United States and are awarded U.S. citizenship.

  • Based on a comparison of birth records and Census Bureau data, we estimate there were 33,000 births to women on tourist visas in the second half of 2016 and the first half of 2017. This translates to perhaps 330,000 such births each decade.

  • While there is significant uncertainty around this number, our new estimate is very similar to our prior estimate for second half of 2011 and first half of 2012.

  • It should be emphasized that the small number of mothers who provide a foreign address on birth documents are probably not birth tourists, as those engaged in birth tourism likely list a U.S. address so they can receive birth certificates and passports before returning to their home countries. These addresses are typically a relative’s or a residence arranged by those “selling” birth tourism services.

Source: 372000 Born to Illegal Aliens and Visitors Every Year, 33000 to ‘Birth Tourists’

ICYMI: US Immigration fees jump for the first time since 2010, making it tougher for would-be Americans

immigration_fees_jump_for_the_first_time_since_2010__making_it_tougher_for_would-be_americansIn contrast to Canada, US CIS is a revolving fund, with all fees raised used for the citizenship program. In Canada, any increase in fees goes to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (general government revenues), with no direct link to the citizenship program expenditures:

For the first time since 2010, the Department of Homeland Securityhiked a range of administrative fees for citizenship applications — in a few cases more than doubling the costs of key services. Any new petitions filed after Dec. 23 will not be accepted unless they include the higher fees.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency charged with handling immigrant applications, said in a statement the proceeds will help cover detecting fraud, processing cases and a range of other administrative costs, in what USCIS called a “weighted average” price hike of 21 percent.
Experts say the stiffer bureaucratic costs means the path to becoming an American could become a heavier burden for many cash-strapped would-be citizens. However, USCIS justified the price hike by arguing the agency was almost exclusively funded through the fees paid by petitioners, and needed the cash infusion.

Still, USCIS Director Leon Rodríguez said in a statement that the agency was “mindful of the effect fee increases have on many of the customers we serve,” which is why it waited so long to increase fees.

Peter Boogaard, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, told CNBC that along with the new fees, “USCIS will also offer a reduced filing fee for certain naturalization applicants with limited means.”

Still, “these changes are now necessary to ensure USCIS can continue to serve its customers effectively,” he added.

US citizenship ‘as soon as possible’

The new pricing could have far-reaching implications for the vast number of immigrants that vie for U.S. citizenship on an annual basis. Each year, USCIS naturalizes hundreds of thousands of new citizens.

Source: Immigration fees jump for the first time since 2010, making it tougher for would-be Americans