Current Immigration Level Swamps “Great Wave” of Last Century

“Comprehensive” immigration bills would send total even higher

SANTA BARBARA (March 5, 2014) - Historians refer to the Great Wave of immigration from 1880 to 1924, but current numbers dwarf that era and will go higher still if Congress passes a “comprehensive” immigration bill such as the one approved by the Senate.

Over the last four decades, the United States has experienced a tsunami of immigration. The foreign-born population has quadrupled since 1970, reaching 40 million in 2010, almost three times the number at the end of the previous wave, according to the Census Bureau. About 13 percent of the total population is foreign-born, approaching peak levels not seen for a century.

“There are a number of problems with these record levels of immigration,” said Jo Wideman, executive director of Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS). “Obviously, this population growth creates great strain on our natural environment and burdens the infrastructure that we have built. It is also extremely harmful to the unemployed and working poor who experience increased job competition and downward pressure on wages.”

“Our nation needs a time out from this period of massive immigration, some breathing space to allow assimilation of this huge population, and a return to more traditional rates of immigration. Previous waves of high immigration have been followed by periods of low immigration.”

From 1925 to 1965, immigration to the U.S. averaged fewer than 200,000 per year. According to Wideman, this period of moderate immigration effected great upward mobility, allowing millions of Americans to move into the middle class for the first time.

While the controversial Senate immigration legislation received considerable media attention, little notice was given to those provisions that would produce a huge increase in legal immigration and population growth. The Congressional Budget Office said that, over the next 20 years, the bill would increase the U.S. population by an additional 15 million beyond the previous projections that include our current record-high levels of immigration.

“We cannot grow on like this,” said Wideman. “Not if we want to protect wildlife habitat, protect our quality of life, and provide opportunities for our own poor.”