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Immigration reduction

The immigration reduction movement is a movement active within the United States and elsewhere, which advocates for a reduction in the amount of immigration allowed into the United States or other countries. This can include a reduction in the numbers of legal immigrants, advocating for stronger action to be taken to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the country, and reductions in non-immigrant temporary work visas (such as H-1B and L-1 in the United States). What separates it from others who want immigration reform is that reductionists see immigration as being the source of most social, economic, and environmental problems, and wish to cut current immigration levels by 75% or more.

Immigration reductionists insist that those who call the movement anti-immigrant or anti-immigration are incorrect and that the terms immigration reduction or immigration restriction are more accurate. They claim that since they support continued legal immigration at 5% to 15% of current levels they are not opposed to immigration. They also claim to cherish the immigrant past of the United States as well, and feel this also shows them to not be anti-immigrant.


History of the immigration reduction movement

There are several discernible groups within the movement, with separate interests, origins, and aims. The modern immigration reduction movement has many antecedents. Some cite the Nativist United States American Party (often called the Know Nothing movement) of the 19th century and the Immigration Restriction League of the early 20th century as antecedents.

Organized labor and parts of the political left have also had an ongoing debate over immigration levels into the U.S. going back to the 19th century. The National Labor Union (1866-1874) campaigned for immigration restrictions as well as the eight-hour workday, as did the American Federation of Labor under the leadership of Samuel Gompers. The AFL-CIO did not reverse its position on immigration restrictions until 1999. The early United States Socialist Party was split over the issue, with some Socialist leaders including Jack London and Congressman Victor Berger supporting immigration restrictions; the party as a whole never had a consensus, and only went on record in opposition to the importation of strikebreakers.

A separate issue with some overlap was concern over overpopulation. The leading early influence on that issue was Paul R. Ehrlich, who both founded Zero Population Growth and published The Population Bomb in 1968. The popular book foretold alarming distasters that would inevitably occur in the next decades. Though some of his predictions did not come to pass, many believe his main points are valid, and they succeeded in inspiring a movement. Environmentalists including David R. Brower and David Foreman took the threat seriously. The Zero Population Growth organization did not involve itself, for the most part, in U.S. immigration policy, and a subset of the overpopulation movement grew which believed that immigration needed to be reduced, arguing that immigration was driving most U.S. population growth. These activists founded organizations separate from ZPG which would specifically address immigration issues. Among the important early organizations was Negative Population Growth, founded in 1972 by Donald Mann.

The leading inspiration for the modern movement is John Tanton . Tanton founded the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1979, the largest and best funded organization in the movement. Three years later, Tanton formed US, Inc. as an incubator and funding source to help form other organizations. According to public tax records, US, Inc, FAIR, and other Tanton organizations have received large donations from the Pioneer Fund and from the foundations controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife. Tanton created US English (an English-only advocacy group), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), Pro English (another English-only advocacy group), NumbersUSA, ProjectUSA, and The Social Contract Press . US, Inc and FAIR have provided funding and logistical support to other organizations, including American Immigration Control Foundation (AICF), California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR), Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), and the recent Protect Arizona Now (PAN) initiative, Proposition 200.

The movement seemed to be triumphant in 1994 when California voters passed Proposition 187, an initiative which limited benefits to illegal aliens that had been authored and promoted by CCIR. However it turned out to be a Pyhrric victory. Federal courts suspended the law as unconstitutional, and the residual resentment over the racially divisive campaigns on both sides of the issue made immigration a topic that politicians largely avoided dealing with. A notable exception has been Tom Tancredo, who was elected to Congress from Littleton, Colorado in 1994. Together with Patrick Buchanan and the Tanton network, Tancredo has emerged as the most conspicuous voice advocating immigration reform in Congress.

The immigration reduction movement was partly rejuvenated by The Alliance for Stabilizing America's Population coalition. In 1997 members from a range of immigration reduction and environmental organizations met to rededicate themselves to the effort of populaiton stabilization. Organized by Population-Environment Balance , it included such diverse groups as:

  • Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND)
  • California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR)
  • California Wildlife Defenders (CWD)
  • Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS)
  • Carrying Capacity Network (CCN)

A smaller effort was the coalition formed under the name U.S. Sustainable Population Policy Project (USS3P) in 1996 by Douglas La Follette and David Pimentel . The USS3P membership contained many immigration reductionists of the time. In 1999 it sought cosponsors for a major national conference on immigration. A number of major individuals and minor organizations joined as co-sponsors, but no large national groups joined and it folded in 2000 without holding the intended conference.

The Internet offered new opportunities for communication by immigration reductionists, as it has with countless other movements. Peter Brimelow founded his VDARE writers collective in 1999. The NumbersUSA group set up automated system for website visitors to send advocacy faxes to their legislators on immigration topics. Numerous websites, email lists, weblogs, and other resources furthered the effort.

The electoral success of Arizona's Proposition 200, PAN, indicates the support for immigration reductionism among voters. The PAN initiative qualified for the ballot following the expenditure by FAIR of hundreds of thousands of dollars for signature gathering, plus comparable sums for campaigning with some additional amounts raised locally. The initiative was adopted by the public by a significant margin and is likely to inspire similar efforts in other states.

History references

Reasons for reducing immigration

Among the claims that immigration reductionists use to support advocacy for lower immigration numbers:

  • High levels of immigration may be seen as providing a steady source of cheap or low-wage labor to corporations. This can be seen as detrimental to wage levels in the U.S., and as a threat to the ability of labor unions to organize workplaces, with the threat always present that if workers organize they can easily be replaced by cheaper legal or illegal labor.
  • Sometimes, the reason is cultural. Some believe the high levels of legal immigration into the U.S., whether legal or illegal, are at rates too high to allow recent immigrants to assimilate into U.S. society, and especially discourages recent immigrants from learning the English language.
  • Illegal immigration is often seen as symptomatic of widespread lawbreaking by employers, who hire workers illegally in the country in order to escape wage, workplace safety, and labor laws. This is especially a problem in the agriculture sector, where it is estimated that over 80% of workers are in the country illegally. Supporters and critics of the movement debate over whether these workers could easily be replaced by legal workers being paid in accordance with wage laws.
  • Temporary work visas are often used to replace high-wage workers in industries such as computer programming and engineering with lower-wage workers imported from other countries. This is seen by many as closely related to the practices of outsourcing and offshoring of jobs.
  • Illegal immigrants are associated by some with crime. It has been claimed that in Los Angeles, 95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide (which total 1,200 to 1,500) target illegal aliens. Up to two-thirds of all fugitive felony warrants (17,000) are for illegal aliens.[1]

Target immigration levels

Immigration reductionists differ on the ideal level of immigration they would like to see into the United States. Some believe the numbers should be set each year at whatever level would, in conjunction with the current fertility rate and emigration from the U.S., maintain zero population growth in the country. The most prominent immigration reductionist in government today is U.S. Congressman Tom Tancredo R-CO. Tancredo has authored a bill that calls for limiting annual immigration to between 30,000 and 300,000. The organization, Population-Environment Balance , has issued a Immigration Moratorium Action Plan [2] calling for a "non-piercable" cap of 100,000 persons annually, which would be a 95% cut from current levels. Carrying Capacity Network (CCN), another prominent reductionist group, shares that goal while repeating that it is not opposed to immigration.

There are also some who support a complete cutoff of legal and illegal immigration. The Diversity Alliance for a Sustainable America claims that 43% of Californians polled said that a 3-year moratorium on immigration would be benefical to the state (compared to 40% who said it would be unbeneficial).[3] The America First Party calls for a ten-year moratorium, with only spouses and children of citizens allowed in. [4] Other advocates for total bans or moratoriums include, the Reform Party[5] and 2004 Constitution Party presidential candidate Michael Peroutka [6]. Robert Locke surpasses them by calling for a negative immigration rate.

Groups that advocate for immigration reform resulting in reductions of less than 75% are criticized by major organizations like the CCN, who feel that advocating for the numbers recommended by the Jordan Commission, 700,000 annually, is "counter-productive". In a National Alert the CCN warned that organizations supporting numbers higher than 300,000 undercut the movement. [7]

Some groups not connected to the immigration reduction movement nonetheless support a reduction to legal immigration levels of around 500,000 to 600,000. In their 1997 book, Misplaced Blame, Alan Durning and Christopher Crowther of Northwest Environment Watch write that illegal immigration gets too much attention, and identify five main sources of population growth, including lack of access to family planning as well as a misguided legal immigration policy, and subsidies to domestic migration. They readily admit that immigation should be reduced by an unspecified amount, but they also show concern for the rights of existing residents. [8]. The AFL-CIO and some mainstream environmental groups used to be on record favoring lower immigration numbers, although most have quietly dropped this position in recent years.

Proposed methods of reducing immigration

Virtually all immigration reductionists call for the strict enforcement of existing immigration laws. Some in the movement are chiefly concerned with the issue of illegal immigration, mostly cross-broder illegal entry, and hence their chief focus is on the United States Border Patrol.

Lobbying groups, like Carrying Capacity Network, aim to change legal immigration levels through congressional action, and to fight amnesties for existing illegal immigrants.

Birthright citizenship to children born in the United States to illegal aliens, which some believe is guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, is opposed by immigration reductionists. They have sought to end what they call the anchor baby loophole through a constitutional amendment or a congressional act.

Denial of public benefits to documented and undocumented individuals is believed to remove the incentive and reward for immigrants. The Welfare Reform Act of 1996 withdrew certain benefits to legal immigrants, while the 1994 California Proposition 187 and the 2004 Arizona Proposition 200 Protect Arizona Now were written to require proof of legal status in order to receive non-mandated benefits.

Criticism of immigration reductionism

Immigration reductionism is criticized by many for what they see as ties to the white separatist movement. Immigrant rights activists fear that the movement hides an anti-immigrant bias, notwithstanding the repeated insistence by immigration reductionists that they are neither anti-immigrant nor anti-immigration.

Another source of criticism comes from members of the immigration reduction movement making inflammatory statements. For example, the Diversity Alliance for a Sustainable America claims that excessive numbers of unassimilated immigrants may lead to a Bosnia-like civil war. And the leading immigration reductionist group in Utah, a FAIR team member, carries a photo on its website of the burning World Trade Center towers, with a headline caption informing readers that "Mexico is not our friend," and saying that Mexicans cheered the attack.[9]

Groups like American Border Patrol , American Resistance Foundation , Civil Homeland Defense Corps , VDARE, and the Council of Conservative Citizens are criticized rarely in public by those within the movement, whether for their lines of argument or their overall tone. Not all who support reduced immigration numbers wish to be associated with some of the more extreme groups, and some of them have even spoken out. Others either silently accept the support of extremists or actively encourage it. This inability of immigration reductionists to publicly disavow the more extreme groups also generates criticism for them and their movement.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform has spoken out in 2004 against the views of another reductionist leader, Virginia Abernethy, calling her views "repulsive separatist views," and called on her to resign from the advisory board of Protect Arizona Now in Arizona. The two groups closely associated with Abernethy, Population-Environment Balance and the Carrying Capacity Network, have been issuing statements since 2003 accusing FAIR and NumbersUSA of being "reform lite" and "undermining real immigration reform." PEB and CCN are also critical of FAIR for FAIR's support of a national ID card, which PEB and CCN oppose. This split at the national level was also reflected in a split within the Protect Arizona Now group, with two rival state-level organizations, one supported by FAIR, the other supported by PEB and CCN, working to support the passage of the ballot initiative.

The movement is further criticized on a variety of policy grounds. Some population and environmental groups criticize it for taking a narrow approach to the global overpopulation problem. Business interests believe that immigration reductionists do not understand their labor needs, and that the growth of the economy depends on the existing level of immigration. Civil libertarians oppose the increasingly stringent identification requirements supported by some immigration reductionist groups.

See also


External links

Selected organizations promoting immigration reduction to varying degrees:

Last updated: 05-07-2005 10:10:29
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04