The Five Billion
The Bush Administration officials
January 2004 that the President`s guest worker plan
will allow anyone in the world with a
minimum wage job offer from an American employer to
move here, and bring along dependents.
Contemplating this, it struck me (among
other things) that our leaders must be clueless
about how many people actually want to move to the U.S…
In fact, we have several pieces of
evidence about what such an open borders plan might
The State Department`s bizarre
Diversity Visa Lottery hands out green cards to
50,000 random individuals per year. Few Americans
have heard of it, yet it is of such avid interest around
the world that anti-government riots raged in the
impoverished African country of Sierra Leone in
1997 when 5,000 lottery applications mailed by
locals were found floating in the Freetown harbor.
The Diversity Visa Lottery gets up
to ten million applications per year. And those are just
from foreigners outside the 15 countries, such as
India, that send the most immigrants to America and
hence don`t qualify for the Diversity Visa.
This suggests that, across the
world, scores of millions would like to immigrate to
America right now.
What about in the long run? We have
two informative examples:
- The U.S. maintains an open
border with its territory of
Puerto Rico. One-fourth of all Puerto Ricans
live on the U.S. mainland, according to Harvard
George Borjas, and that proportion is kept down
only by paying
generous benefits to Puerto Ricans who stay
- There are currently
106 million people in Mexico and approximately
25 million people of Mexican descent in the United
States. In other words, just under 1/5th of all
Mexicans in the world now live in America. And they
got here without an official open borders plan.
So what does that imply?
There are currently over six
billion people who live neither in America nor Mexico.
So, if one-fourth of the rest wanted to move to America,
as happened with Puerto Ricans, that would be 1.5
additional billion people, compared to the current
American population of 296 million.
If only one-sixth wished to
immigrate, that would be a mere one billion people.
But, surely, Puerto Rico and Mexico
are special cases—where extreme poverty triggered
radically high immigration rates?
No. In reality, almost five billion
people (4,976 million to be precise) live in countries
where the average per capita gross domestic product is
lower than Mexico`s mean of $9,600. (These
numbers are from the
CIA World Factbook, and are calculated in terms
of purchasing power parity.)
Despite generations of Mexican
Mexico! So far from God and so close to the United
States"—it turns out that being
so close to the world`s strongest economy is the
best thing Mexico has going.
And, at $17,700 per capita,
Puerto Rico is downright affluent by global
standards, albeit not when compared to the USA
Puerto Rico and Mexico are
different only because they are more conveniently
situated for getting into the U.S.
But travel costs are becoming less
daunting for other Third Worlders.
For example, the heavily populated
Brazil are a long way from the U.S. (about as far
Nigeria is). But the influx of illegal aliens from
Brazil appears to be doubling annually. The
Border Patrol now apprehends more Brazilians on the
Mexican border than any other nationality besides
Brazil does not have a particularly backward
economy—for example, it competes successfully in the
global market for
small jetliners, which even Japan does not. Yet, its
per capita GDP is only 84% of Mexico`s and, with a
population of 186 million, it has 80 million more
Until recently, few Brazilians
immigrated to the U.S. But as the new crop of
Brazilian illegals puts down
roots that future immigrants can exploit, there is
potential for millions or even tens of millions of
Brazilians to come to the U.S.
And there are six more countries
besides Brazil that are both bigger in population and
poorer in per capita income than Mexico.
- China. While China is
booming, its GDP per capita is still less than
two-thirds of Mexico. And more than half of China`s 1.3
billion people live in abject poverty outside of the
industrial zones along the coast.
Most immigration to America has
come, so far, from the Southeast, such as from Fukien
province. But connections with the poorer, more inland
areas in China are increasing, which will facilitate
future immigration. Even though China has enforced a
policy, the population of China is
expected to grow for another 25 years, due to the
phenomenon of "population
momentum" that keeps the population increasing
long after the total fertility rate has dropped below
the replacement level.
- India Life in
India has also started to improve, but its 1.08
billion people have even farther to go. Average income
is only 35 percent of Mexico`s, and the U.S. Census
predicts that India`s population will grow by
another half billion over the next 45 years.
Most of India`s economic growth
since 1991 has been down on the farm. But as
agricultural productivity increases, it`s not clear
where the ex-farmers will go. India lacks China`s
manufacturing base. India is doing very well in creating
software jobs for its best-educated young people, but
it`s not generating the kind of manufacturing jobs that
non-elites can do.
- Indonesia has an amazing 242
million people, most of them Muslims, and its income
level is only 40 percent of Mexico`s. So, far,
immigrate much, but how long will that reluctance
last? Especially as the population of Indonesia is
supposed to reach 336 million by 2050?
Bangladesh. These formerly united Muslim
countries (population 162 million and 144 million
respectively), each at about one-quarter of Mexico`s
income. U.S. government demographers expect them to add
another 269 million people between them by 2050 for a
combined total of 575 million.
- Nigeria, with 129 million
people living on an average of $1,000 per year, or 11
percent of the Mexican level. Currently, most immigrants
from Nigeria to the U.S. tend to be from the elite. But
the long run trend around the world is toward more
immigration by the masses. As
Borjas pointed out: "The typical Puerto Rican
migrant residing in the United States has about 1.3
years less schooling than his compatriots back on the
island." The U.S.
forecast is that Nigeria`s population will reach an
incredible 357 million by 2050.
Still, Nigerians, with their oil
reserves aren`t as impoverished as the 73 million
Ethiopians, at $800, and headed for a population of
145 million by mid-century.
And Ethiopia is just one of many
poor countries expected to have huge numbers of
residents by mid-century. Others include Uganda (16
percent of Mexico`s per capita income and a population
forecast to grow from 27 million to 133 million), the
Congo (seven percent of Mexico`s income, and growing
from 60 million to 183 million),
Egypt (48 percent of Mexico`s income and up from 78
million to 127 million), and little-known Yemen on the
Arabian peninsula (nine percent of Mexico`s wealth, and
20 million turning into 73 million).
And then there are our two new
special friends in the Muslim world. In
Iraq, the current population of 26 million averages
36 percent of the Mexican income level and is thought to
be headed toward a population of 56 million by 2050.
Afghanistan, the GDP per capita in only 8 percent of
Mexico`s. The women of Afghanistan average 6.8 babies
apiece, so the current population of 30 million is
expected to reach 82 million.
a lot of Iraqis and Afghans will be
coming to the U.S. in decades ahead as part of what
John Updike labeled "imperial backwash"? Perhaps
someday Iyad Allawi and Hamid Karzai can start a falafel
stand together in Alexandria, VA?
Mexico, itself, is expected to add another 42
million people over the next 45 years, even though the
total fertility of Mexican women is now down to 2.4
babies per lifetime. But, it was so high in the recent
past that the population will continue to boom for
Strikingly, the fertility of
Mexican-American women is higher than that of
Mexican women. Mexicans who can`t afford large families
within their own country head for America to have more
Although it`s reasonable to assume
that a billion foreigners would like to move to America,
the reality is that they won`t. Even if the Wall
Street Journal editorial board got its way and their
proposed Constitutional amendment
"There shall be open borders" became law, a
billion people would never actually arrive.
But don`t relax. The unpleasant
reason: After only a fraction of that horde had
quality of life in America would decline so
drastically that life back home in, say, Yemen would
start looking pretty good in comparison. America would
become like that
Yogi Berra said got so popular that nobody went
But there`s a more subtle point. In
the modern world, limits on immigration are absolutely
inevitable, and therefore, somebody has to choose
how many get admitted to America and who they will be.
There is no more fundamental job of government.
Those of us who raising immigration
as an issue for democratic debate are
routinely demonized. The
American Establishment tries to drive out of polite
society those of us who take seriously our public duty
to discuss this central issue.
But ostracizing the patriotic
doesn`t make the issue go away. It just hands the
decision over to special interests.
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and