WASHINGTON – If flows
of legal and illegal immigration continue at current
rates, they will boost the population of the United States
by 105 million by 2060, according to a study released
That growth, coupled
with births among current residents, would boost the
nation's population to 468 million from its current level
of 301 million, reported the Center for Immigration
Studies, a research group that advocates lower levels of
“The central question these projections raise is – what
costs and benefits come with having a much larger
population and a more densely settled country,” study
author Steven Camarota said during a panel discussion that
included both a leader in the effort to restrict
immigration and a prominent advocate of expansive
Net annual immigration is about 1.25 million people,
comprising 800,000 legal immigrants and 450,000 illegal
immigrants. Camarota's projections include growth only
from future immigrants, not from the 38 million immigrants
now in the United States.
In the panel discussion, Roy Beck, a former
environmental journalist who now heads NumbersUSA, a group
that favors immigration restrictions, called the report
Beck said immigration-led population growth, which took
the U.S. population from 200 million in 1967 to the 300
million mark last year, is the direct result of federal
policy directed by Congress.
“Illegal immigration is a big problem in this country,
but it's not nearly as much of a problem as legal
immigration,” Beck said.
His organization played a major role this year in
mobilizing opposition to a Senate bill that would have
expanded legal migration as well as providing legal status
to an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.
Demographer Ben Wattenberg, who has long hailed
immigration as vital to the nation's economic and cultural
vitality, dismissed anxiety about a “population
Wattenberg said fears about immigration, centering on
flows from Mexico that top both the legal and illegal
immigrant categories, are a misguided reprise of earlier
suspicions about Germans, Italians and Jews.
“There is always in America a nativist, anti-immigrant
feeling,” he said.
But Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center
for Immigration Studies, said the study highlighted the
need to inject concerns about population growth into a
public debate that has focused too narrowly on
immigration's implications for the nation's economy and
Immigration advocate Tamar Jacoby, who did not
participate in the panel discussion, called high rates of
immigration essential to the nation.
“Countries that are not growing are not strong
countries,” said Jacoby, a senior fellow at the Manhattan
The study challenged claims that immigration can slow
the aging of the U.S. population and boost the ratio of
workers to retirees.
“Immigrants grow old just like everyone else,” Camarota
said. He said raising the retirement age would counter the
fiscal effects of an aging population.