Pete Buttigieg, one of the surviving Democratic presidential candidates, goes from up to down to sideways in his pursuit of the elusive 2020 nomination. The former South Bend mayor was up in Iowa and New Hampshire but is struggling in South Carolina and Nevada.
When candidates are trying to separate themselves from the pack, they’ll throw out ideas – often half-baked – to see what might stick. During a stop in Merrimack, New Hampshire, Buttigieg provided a great example of concept-testing – in this case, a bad immigration proposal.
At an American Legion hall, Buttigieg suggested that the federal government create a new visa to fast-track legal immigrants into communities that need to stimulate their population growth.
Community renewal visas would, Buttigieg said, go “to those who are willing to be in those areas that maybe are hurting for population but have great potential.”
Buttigieg didn’t explain what would happen once those immigrants arrive. They’ll need to find increasingly scarce jobs, secure ever-more expensive housing, compete in overcrowded classrooms for educations, and access the other services that are synonymous with a relatively smooth transition into a new American lifestyle.
Making those services available is costly, and the fiscal burden would fall in large part on the existing municipalities and their residents.
If history is our guide, the feds never ask municipalities or residents their feelings about adding more foreign-born residents. For years, the federal refugee resettlement program sent refugees into cities without forewarning locals that a new populous would soon be settling into their towns.
Merrimack is a curious place for Buttigieg to introduce his radical community renewal visa. Like most established communities, the majority of residents would oppose more traffic and sprawl, two guaranteed disruptive outcomes from relentless population growth. Developers, bankers and retail businesses, however, have a different viewpoint. More immigration means a bigger customer base, and therefore higher profits.
The mantra among Buttigieg and his Democratic rivals is that more immigration is unequivocally good, and must be presented in solidly positive terms. Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar and Buttigieg ignore Census Bureau projections that immigration-driven population growth will drive up our total population from 392 million to over 400 million by 2060.
Although Congress refuses to acknowledge the solution, reducing immigration by half would make a dramatic difference in the country’s future. Assuming the status quo remains unchanged, U.S. population will add 75 million people over the next 40 years. On the other hand, a 50 percent cut would mean that only 25 million people would be added, a much better outcome.
Congress has plenty of room to cut immigration. Roughly two million legal, illegal and temporary guest workers come to the U.S. each year. Not only is the country adversely affected by the impacts of such tremendous growth, but for U.S. workers, the economy suffers. Although the unemployment rate is a low 3.6 percent, there still are millions of American workers who want but cannot find full-time jobs. Immigration hurts job-seeking minority workers who don’t have a college education. Real wage growth remains where it’s been for decades – stagnant.
President Trump is also a culprit in the steady erosion of Americans’ hopes for commonsense immigration. During Trump’s first two years in the White House, the average number of Green Cards issued has been higher than the average number of Green Cards issued annually during each of President Obama’s eight full years in office.
Immigration, Capitol Hill-style, helps the monied class. Other Americans, victims of endless growth, pay a heavy price. Buttigieg’s community renewal visa would be another step away from immigration policies that benefit Americans, and toward rewarding the wealthy.
Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.