National Review, June 2, 2022
The total foreign-born population reached a record 47 million in April, according to a new report by my colleagues Steven Camarota and Karen Ziegler.
While that’s the largest number ever recorded, and the total number of immigrants is important in itself, the simple fact of a record number is maybe the least interesting finding of the report; after all, a growing population of any kind sets a new record every year.
But the pace of that growth is remarkable. The report, based on the Census Bureau’s monthly Current Population Survey, noted that the 47 million number is half-again more than in 2000. Going back further, the total size of the foreign-born population has doubled since 1990, tripled since 1980, and quintupled since 1970. (The total U.S. population has grown only by about half since 1970.)
What’s more, the growth is accelerating. This total number of foreign-born (people living here who weren’t U.S. citizens at birth — legal and illegal, naturalized citizen, green-card, H-1B, whatever) has grown by 2 million just since Joe Biden was inaugurated in January of last year. And two-thirds of that increase under Biden are illegal aliens (1.35 million), which should be no surprise considering the ongoing dissolution of the border. (The Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics both state that illegal immigrants are included in their survey data, though some do get missed.)
In addition to the size of the foreign-born population, the percentage also matters. The foreign-born now account for one in seven U.S. residents (14.3 percent) — the highest percentage since 1910. As recently as 1990 they were about one in 13 (7.9 percent) U.S. residents. The numbers are growing so fast that if present trends continue, the foreign-born share of the population will reach about 15 percent by the end of next summer, higher than at any time in the nation’s 246-year history.
While even illegal immigration is a policy choice — what are we willing to do to enforce the law? — three-quarters of the immigrants are legal. That means this is a policy choice; immigration is just another federal program, like farm subsidies or the Air Force, not a fact of life we have to accommodate ourselves to, like the tides or the weather.
Considering this rapid growth in numbers, and the approaching record percentage, you’d think lawmakers would want to consider the impacts on schools, health-care systems, welfare programs, physical infrastructure, the job market, quality of life, etc.
Maybe even more important, where is the national leader who even asks how many people we can successfully assimilate? The last great wave of immigration, from the 1870s to the 1920s, was brought to an end when immigration was greatly curtailed by legislation, contributing hugely to the successful assimilation of those already here. This, even more than the disaster at the border, is the most pressing issue in immigration policy.