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Immigration key to population growth

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Posted: Friday, December 6, 2002 10:00 pm

In a Nov. 23 editorial headlined "Challenges that we must face," the News-Sentinel named overpopulation as one of the most pressing social issues of our era.

The article stressed the complexity of dealing with overpopulation, linked too many people to ever-increasing urban sprawl and pointed out that one reason for America's huge increase in population over the past three decades is "immigration from places where the birth rate is much higher than ours."

That is to say, for the last 30 years, Americans have been having replacement level families - two children per family on average. The average number of children in an immigrant family is nearly four.Joe Guzzardi

Immigrant family size is an important and underestimated factor in population growth. Using present immigration levels as a guideline, the U.S. can anticipate that the total immigrant population - legal and illegal - will increase by 70 million between today and 2050.

But because of children born to immigrants, the total immigration-related increase in U.S. population during the same period will be more than 95 million. Since those children will be U.S. born, they will be American citizens and thus referred to in some population studies as part of "a natural increase." This is an enormously misleading statement that can be effectively used - as we will soon see - by those who want to trivialize immigration's impact.

The News-Sentinel piece demonstrated a good understanding of overpopulation. Imagine, then, my surprise when the editorial recommended "Putting the Pieces Together," a 27-page report compiled by Washington, D.C.'s Urban Land Institute. According to the News-Sentinel, the report, which suggests ways to improve how California grows, is "stimulating."

In truth, "Putting the Pieces Together" is a transparent hodge-podge of politically correct nonsense without a snowball's chance of having the slightest impact on the crisis that is California growth.

As anyone with two eyes in his head can tell you, to intelligently discuss California's growth, you must - impossible though it is for many - include the consequences of mass immigration.

In my column last week, I referenced a new study by Dr. Steven A. Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies titled "Immigration in 2002, A Snapshot" which revealed that, according to the U.S. Census Current Population Survey, more than 650,000 legal and illegal immigrants have come to California between January 2000 and March 2002.

On June 19, 2001, Camarota testified before the House Judiciary Committee on the relationship between unchecked immigration and urban sprawl and congestion. Using the conservative middle level census projection of 70 million people added by immigration over the next 50 years will, according to Dr. Camarota, require approximately 30 million new housing units. Remember that this is a conservative projection; the Census Bureau has historically erred on the low side.

Let's use our heads. Each of the 1,700 daily new arrivals to California will require housing, transportation, schools and roads. If the Urban Institute wants to publish glossy brochures pledging its dedication to preserving farmland and advocating "smart growth," fine. But those are nothing but empty words unless federal immigration policy is addressed.

Look around - wherever in California you may live - and point out any evidence of smart growth. California's growth has converted prime agricultural land into housing tracts which has led to increased traffic, pollution and a vastly deteriorated quality of life.

Residents of the San Joaquin Valley are painfully aware of population growth's price. The cities that make up the Valley - Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto, Stockton, Sacramento and our own Lodi - are experiencing faster growth than Los Angeles County.

And if you don't think that things can change before your very eyes, the American Farmland Trust reminds us that a mere 40 years ago, Los Angeles was the most productive agricultural county in America.

Lodi is coping as best it can with overpopulation's burden. But that translates to not very well.

Wal-Mart, Big Kmart and Target are here. Lowe's is knocking on the door. And 17 housing developments are underway in "lovable, livable Lodi" at this very moment. Five projects were completed within the last two years

And all this "progress" is taking place in our once quaint community of 12 square miles.

Joe Guzzardi, an instructor at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly opinion column since 1988. He can be reached via e-mail.

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