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Where Will We Put Them All?

February 19, 1990

Immigration pressures on the United States will grow to record levels in the years ahead because of rapid population expansion in countries that generate most of the legal and much of the illegal migration, according to a new study by the Washington-based Population Crisis Committee. The findings underscore the need for foreign aid for family planning.

Within 30 years, the numbers of potential young migrants in developing nations, not even counting China, will increase 70% to a total of 1.7 billion. Against a background of economic stagnation, if not outright starvation, in their homelands, they will be under intense pressure to move in search of economic security.

Almost half of the population of the developing nations is under the age of 18. In the next two decades, 1.86 billion people in the developing nations will enter their 20s, the age group most likely to migrate if frustrated in the search for jobs, housing and security at home. The virtually impossible task of meeting their needs in terms of jobs is illustrated by Mexico, which is adding 2 million persons a year to its population. It would have to create 900,000 jobs a year in the 1990s to absorb new labor-force entrants, yet job creation has been "virtually stagnant" since the 1982 fall in petroleum prices.

There will likely be a continued concentration of the immigration impact. The report notes that 60% of new immigrants live in five states: California, New York, Texas, Florida and Illinois, and 40% of all immigrants reside in metropolitan Los Angeles and New York City.

Noting that only 1.2% of total U.S. foreign aid goes for population programs, the report concludes: "Demand for immigration to the United States will only slacken if economic and political conditions in the immigrant-sending countries offer local citizens more hope for a better life."

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