Amnesty and Its Adverse Impact on California’s Population Growth

With the possibility of an amnesty the hottest post-election Capitol Hill topic, reviewing the population-related lessons that should have been learned (but apparently were not) from the 1986 Immigration and Reform Control Act is worthwhile.

Namely, IRCA triggered significant increases in the birth rate among those amnestied which subsequently overpopulated California’s schools, hospitals, housing markets and highways. Twenty-five years later, the state still hasn’t caught up.

Public Policy Institute of California demographers Lauren Hill and Hans P. Johnson have a recently published research report that lays the stark facts out in detail. Titled Understanding the Future of Californians’ Fertility, the Role of Immigration, Hill and Johnson write that the majority of the 1.6 million amnesty applicants were young male agricultural workers who settled in California permanently. Later, their wives joined them. Since the couples came from Mexico’s rural regions where little education is available and high fertility is the norm, they had an average of 4.4 children per household.

Hill and Johnson wrote:

“Between 1987 and 1991, total fertility rates for foreign-born Hispanics [in California] increased from 3.2 to 4.4 [expected babies per woman over her lifetime]. This dramatic rise was the primary force behind the overall increase in the state’s total fertility rate during this period. Were it not for the large increase in fertility among Hispanic immigrants, fertility rates in California would have increased very little between 1987 and 1991.”

The 113th Congress will likely debate amnesty’s merits or lack thereof.  A study of what amnesty’s direct effects on population growth would be is essential. California, which already has the largest numbers of illegal aliens, is likely to be the hardest hit with an exploding birth rate. According to the Department of Homeland Security, 2.8 million aliens reside in California, 25 percent of the nation’s total.

For more details about the link between amnesty and increased population, read CAPS’ Issues pieces by Ric Oberlink, Sustainable California: the Unmentionable Problem of Population Growth and by Maria Fotopoulos, No Home for Amnesty in a Sustainable America.

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