The Census Bureau estimates that a record 51 million legal and illegal immigrants are expected to reside in the United States by 2023. By that time, immigrants will account for more than one in seven members of the nation’s population.
Driven mostly by legal immigration, the Bureau predicts the immigrant population will increase to one in five by 2060, totaling 78 million people. The U.S. population is expected to reach 417 million by then, an increase of 108 million from 2010.
“These numbers have important implications for workers, schools, infrastructure, congestion and the environment,” said Steven Camarota, the director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies. “They also may have implications for our ability to successfully assimilate and integrate immigrants. Yet there has been almost no national debate about bringing in so many people legally each year, which is the primary factor driving these numbers.”
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These statistics will likely have an impact on the 2016 Republican presidential primary. Candidates like former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., are seen as moderates on the immigration issue, having supported changes to immigration law in the past that would encourage greater legal immigration and grant resident status to illegal immigrants already in the country. Others like Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have stood for stricter enforcement of the nation’s current immigration laws before considering any reforms.
Walker added to the debate this week, arguing that U.S. immigration policy should also take into account the impact of legal immigration on American workers:
Well the one thing they’re not saying is we need to make sure as part of that any future legal immigration system that goes forward has to account for American citizens and the workers of this country and their wages to make sure that even with legal immigration in this country we respond to it in a way that doesn’t take jobs away from hardworking Americans.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, shared this concern in a letter to the New York Times published last week:
In 1970, fewer than 1 in 21 United States residents were born abroad. Five years from today, the Census Bureau estimates that more than one in seven United States residents will have been born abroad. Eight years from today, the share of the population that is foreign-born will rise above any level ever before recorded and keep surging.
It defies reason to argue that the record admission of new foreign workers has no negative effect on the wages of American workers, including the wages of past immigrants hoping to climb into the middle class. Why would many of the largest business groups in the United States spend millions lobbying for the admission of more foreign workers if such policies did not cut labor costs?
A Reuters poll conducted last summer found 45 percent of Americans want to see the number of legal immigrants reduced, while 38 percent believe the current number was appropriate; and 17 percent thought the numbers should be increased.
On average, 800,000 people immigrate to the United States annually. The Department of Homeland Security estimates there are 11.4 million people in the United States illegally, making up about one-fourth of the total foreign-born population. The United States has issued on average about 1.1 million “Green Cards” in recent years (for new legal permanent residents).
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Do you believe we should reduce, increase, or keep about the same the total number of immigrants allowed in the United States each year?