Absurd Argument of the Day

This comes from an email I got from some folks called the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

FAIR's new report, The Environmentalist Guide to a Sensible Immigration Policy examines the relationship between America's mass immigration policies and skyrocketing population growth.  It details how both are severely limiting America's ability to make meaningful progress toward important environmental goals.

"Some environmental groups like to pretend that this correlation does not exist," said Dan Stein, President of FAIR. "Because of pressures brought to bear by politically charged special interests demanding open borders, groups sincerely interested in advancing sensible environmental policies remain muzzled on the issue.  Overpopulation fueled by uncontrolled immigration - the root cause of most resource depletion - is unfortunately deemed too radioactive to discuss in some circles."

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, U.S. population has grown by 50 percent, or about 100 million people. U.S. population now stands at approximately 308 million and is currently growing by nearly three million a year "“ the equivalent of adding a new Chicago each year.  By 2050, an estimated 438 million people will live in this country with more than 80 percent of the increase coming from post-2005 immigrants and their children.

Uh, these people would exist whether they live on one side of the map or the other, its not clear how immigration contributes to over-population, unless they are taking some coldly Malthusian argument that more of them would die young in poverty than do once they improve their lives in the US.   Sure, they may be wealthier having come to the US and use more energy and consume more, but my strong sense is that as they come to the US and get wealthier, then their birthrates actually fall, even if they remain higher than the US average.


  1. Evil Red Scandi:

    Oh please, you shouldn't let things like logic and math get in the way of some perfectly good demagoguery.

  2. Dr. T:

    FAIR falls into category 1 of my classification scheme for avid environmentalists:

    Category 1: Environmentalism as a cover for nihilism and a desire to see mankind destroyed. "We're a scourge on the planet."

    Category 2: Environmentalism as a cover for being a technophobe or Luddite who wants mankind to live a Stone Age existence. "We need to adopt a low-energy, eco-friendly lifestyle."

    Category 3: A combination of the above, where environmentalism is a cover for desiring the deaths of almost all of mankind with the survivors living a Stone Age existence. "We won't be a scourge on the planet if our total population is less than 100 million primitives."

  3. morganovich:

    perhaps they mean just the environment in the US and out water and air and trash etc?

    who cares how crowded coach is if you are in first class?

  4. Gil:

    Well put morganovich, sure there will NIMBY attitude towards increasing population densities since there will always be remote estates for those who afford it.

    On the other hand, Dr T, admit it - you have the vision of the 19th century futurist. They looked forward to a world where there is only cities, farms, parks and gardens where are no wild animals or plants nor a need to worry being bitten, stratched nor require to wear insect repellant. Only the most worthwhile flora and fauna are kept and the rest are rendered extinct.

    On the upside to a growing population, holders of relatively fixed assets, such land and gold, can only go up in value.

  5. Ron H.:

    Dr. T

    I believe your characterization of the various types of avid environmentalists is the best I've ever seen. I hope you don't mind, but I'm saving your comment so I can refer to it later when I need a concise description. Thanks for the ammunition.


  6. MJ:

    Actually, this is just a classic case of bootleggers and baptists. FAIR knows that their basic stance is politically unpopular (not to mention illogical), so they latch onto a more politically fashionable trend, like the green movement.

    The neo-Malthusian thinking that guides the green movement is not nearly so carefully scrutinized. If you stopped to ponder FAIR's claims for a second, you would realize that any threat posed by population growth comes from countries like India that still have high fertility rates coupled with a large population. If you take their population figures for the US at face value and do the simple algebra, you arrive at a growth rate that is less than 1% per year. Not too scary.

    I do not know what "skyrocketing" population growth they are referring to. Like many developed countries, our population growth is slowing toward the rate of natural increase.

  7. epobirs:

    This organization isn't considering what is happening in the rest of the world. The US is one of the few developed nations not looking at a severe population contraction. Growing opportunities in Europe will probably start drawing off a significant portion of those from Mexico and farther south who would previously have traveled to the US seeking work. Those Europeans may even allow them to have legal status instead of having to sneak in!

    If the US is continuing to grow a other rich nation start to empty out, where will future immigrants favor?

  8. epobirs:

    Then again, perhaps they figure a large portion of the anchor babies would not exist if their parents were still in their native land.

  9. bob sykes:

    Dr. T's characterization of environmentalism is correct, but I would add a few items. The first is the totalitarian nature of the movement. Second is its resort violence at any pretext. Third would be the underlying superstition and anti-science of the movement. Fourth would be its implicit racism. Reading the early Erhlich and Commoner is truly chilling.

    It should be noted that the most successful Green party of the 20th Century was Germany's NSDAP: blood and soil, animal rights, organic farming, etc., all were promoted by the people killing the Jews. In fact, the rationale for killing the Jews is in some sense "ecological."

    What is truly frightening, however, is the obtuseness of otherwise intelligent environmental engineers and scientists who turn a blind eye to the evils of environmentalism and who thoughtlessly sign on to all sorts of environmentalist programs.

  10. Eric Hammer:

    Epobirs, I think you have a good point in general about the US being one of the few developed nations that is still increasing it's population. However, I would point out that a nation is rich because of its people and culture, not necessarily because the land happens to be there. All of the problems with Mexico are human in nature, not necessarily related to the environment of the place. I suspect that in 30 years, if the US avoids collapsing in on its own debt, it will still be the place to be. Living space is very rarely what makes an area worth living in, since with reasonable wealth and technology you can cram a LOT of people into a small space, and still have people wanting to move there. For examples, see Hong Kong and NYC.

  11. anon:

    Dr. T, I submit a 4th category:

    Environmentalism as a substitute for religion. Replace God with Biosphere, participate in symbolic rituals (recycling, paper vs. plastic, etc. in place of wine + cracker), denial of worldly pleasures as the path to saintliness, replace Adam/Eve's apple with the industrial revolution (bite of knowledge = expelled from Eden), etc.

    These folks have an unshakable faith in their beliefs. Some parade their piety as if its a competition, often with hilarious results.


  12. Methinks:

    Is anyone still trying to immigrate TO the United States anymore? Wow. I had no idea.

    I don't know this group and this is obviously just an anti-immigration stance wrapped in the cloak of environmentalism, but I expect this sort of thing to only increase.

    With each piece of crappy legislation passed, the United States is becoming a zero-sum society. So, of course, Americans are going to become increasingly hostile toward impoverished immigrants. Just like the Europeans.


    I am an immigrant to the United States and I was a very poor immigrant. I immigrated back in the good old days when First Class could simply be expanded to accommodate everyone because the United States was a place where wealth could be created. It was not, like Europe or the USSR, a zero-sum game.

    Sure, America has had some pretty big social welfare institutions for decades, but with the passage of health care deform and the Wall Street deform, America will officially become a zero-sum society. It'll take a couple of years for all of it to sink in, but it will be virtually impossible for the poor immigrants to create wealth as they will need contacts in government to cut through the red tape. It'll hardly be worth it anyway, since success will be severely punished with near confiscatory taxes.

    So, the only way anyone will be able to get "ahead" is to take something from someone else. When that's the way society is structured, people become racist, xenophobic and shockingly greedy.

    America was once the land of the ever expanding First Class. It is now a land where moving people from coach to first class simply turns first class into coach.

  13. Stan Greer:

    I'm simpatico to the general argument here, but I'm pretty sure Mexican immigrants, at least, have more kids than Mexicans who stay in Mexico.

    Not sure about other immigrants, but Mexicans are a big chunk of the total.

    Nevertheless, I think the basic point that immigration to the U.S. leads to at most a very minor increase in the total world population is correct.

  14. anon:

    Stan Greer: Cite, please.

    Everything I've seen shows birthrates are inversely related to income throughout the world.

    I would expect immigration into the US to actually *slow* world population growth.

    Also, note that the FAIR quote only references US population, not world population.

  15. Che is dead:

    Let's put aside all the crap and get to it. Mexicans are encourage by their government to come here. Every Mexican that crosses the border receives an education, health care and a myriad of other services courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. If they get a job, they send money home. Every year, remittances to Mexico are in the tens of billions of dollars.

    From the government of Mexico's point of view, this is a no-brainer. You send the poor, who if they stayed home would be a fiscal burden, north and let the "Gringos" take care of them, and if you're lucky they send money home. This scheme has worked so well, that other nations are starting to copy it.

    We need to seal the border, aggressively round up and prosecute illegal immigrants and levy a huge tax on remittances. You pseudo-libertarians may enjoy playing chump to a bunch of cynical Mexican politicians, but I do not.

  16. Che is dead:

    Further, being here illegally should be considered a "special circumstance" in the commission of a felony, resulting in the loss of bail and an additional minimum mandatory 5 years in prison if convicted. Being here illegally and belonging to a gang should be considered a felony.

  17. epobirs:

    Demography is not that simple. There are many places that are having lowered birth rates without getting rich first. Mexico is currently headed for a flat population growth after doubling in the last 40 years. It may be that the bulk of Mexican women having babies are doing so in the US but that is unlikely. The homicide rate may distort the figures as well but again it is unlikely to account for the effect.

    Iran is facing big problems of low birth rates and a graying population. (They lost a major portion of their young males fighting with Iraq in the early 80s and that is still having a major effect.) One reason Iran is making its bid to take over the Middle East is that they have a deadline after which they'll no longer have the population needed to exert influence. They'll need to start importing workers to help care for their elderly and sustain their petroleum business.

    Likewise for North Korea. If they don't manage to get anywhere with nuclear blackmail, they'll eventually lack the personnel to be a threat and any invasion would be more a mission of mercy. They not only have a lower than replacement birth rate but a horrible general mortality rate outside the capital.

    A very good recent article on the subject:

  18. Stan Greer:

    To anonymous:

    The source below (from 2005) says that, according to the latest available data at the time, fertility in Mexico was 2.4 children per woman, compared to 3.5 children per Mexican immigrant woman in the U.S.

    True, the study's author has a strong restrictionist bias I don't share, but in my experience he get simple facts right. I'm sure the point is confirmed by many other sources, but I don't have time to furnish a bunch of links right now. If you don't believe me, you should check for yourself.

    That said, and as I've said before, my bottom line is that I agree with Mr. Coyote that permissive immigration policies are no threat to the environment and generally beneficial. On the whole, I think native-born Americans benefit from the relatively high fertility of Mexican immigrant women.

    You're right that, on average, higher incomes lead to lower fertility, but the correlation is far from absolute. E.g., by purchasing power, the U.S. is the richest country in the world (at least the richest with a population pf over 40 million), but our overall fertility and the fertility of native-born American women are both higher than those of many other, less wealthy countries.

    Birth Rates Among Immigrants in America: Comparing Fertility in ...
    Among Mexican immigrants in the United States, for example, fertility averages 3.5 children per woman compared to 2.4 children per women in Mexico. ...


  19. MJ:


    If you are really concerned about the public service costs that immigrants imposed on US citizens (don't you have to be a citizen to claim most types of benefits?), locking them up (and extending their sentence) is probably the last thing you want to do. I cannot think of a more expensive way to deal with immigration (well, maybe building a $60 billion wall that does nothing to actually deter immigration). How much does it cost to incarcerate someone for a year?

    As for taxing remittances, that makes no sense whatsoever. If they earn money, it is theirs. You have no right to tell them where to spend it.

  20. the other coyote:

    MJ ~

    Theoretically, you must be a citizen to claim most types of benefits. CHiP is handed out in Texas to legal and illegal children alike. Here is how you work the system if you are illegal: Have a child on American soil. That child is an American citizen and entitled to food stamps, WIC, Section 8 housing, Medicaid, ESL programs, and so on. The illegal parent comes along for the ride, sharing in all the child's benefits. Illegal mothers get to take advantage of all of the same programs if they are single (which they all claim to be) then let the child's father (who may in fact be their husband) live in the Section 8 housing, use the prescription drugs obtained through Medicaid, eat off the food stamps and WIC, and so on.

    There is nothing more frustrating to me, as an American taxpayer, than standing behind a woman and her four children at a grocery store and watching her pay for groceries with a WIC card and beer and cigarettes with cash. When it's an illegal immigrant, it's just that much worse.