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View From Lodi, CA: Dumb (Immigration-Driven) Growth
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December 06, 2002, 04:00 AM
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Two weeks ago in an Op-ed titled "Challenges that we must face" the Lodi News-Sentinel named overpopulation as one of the most pressing social issues of our era.

The article stressed the complexity of dealing with overpopulation, linked too many people to ever-increasing urban sprawl and pointed out that one reason for America`s huge increase in population over the past three decades is "immigration from places where the birth rate is much higher than ours."

That is to say, for the last thirty years, Americans have been having replacement level families—two children per family on average. The average number of children in an immigrant family is nearly four.

Immigrant family size is an important and underestimated factor in population growth. Using present immigration levels as a guideline, the U.S. can anticipate that the total immigrant population—legal and illegal—will increase by 70 million between today and 2050.

But because of children born to immigrants, the total immigration-related increase in U.S. population during the same period will be over 95 million. Since those children will be U.S. born, they will be American citizens and thus are treated in some population studies as part of "a natural increase." This is an enormously misleading statement that can be effectively used—as we will soon see - by those who want to trivialize immigration`s impact.

The News-Sentinel editorial demonstrated a good understanding of overpopulation. Imagine, then, my surprise when it proceeded to recommend "Putting the Pieces Together," [PDF] a 27-page report compiled by Washington, D.C.`s Urban Land Institute.

According to the News-Sentinel report, which suggests ways to improve how California grows, is "stimulating."

In fact, "Putting the Pieces Together" is a transparent hodge-podge of politically-correct nonsense without a snowball`s chance in hell of having the slightest impact on the crisis that is California growth.

As anyone with two eyes in his head can tell you, to discuss California`s growth intelligently, you must—impossible though it is for many—include the consequences of mass immigration.

Consider then that in the very opening comments in "Putting the Pieces Together," the Urban Land Institute notes that California`s "population is steadily increasing. The majority of this growth stems not from in-migration but natural increases." This sentence is a red flag warning that you must not take the report seriously.

No Californian—including the author of the report—believes that immigration has not played a leading role in the state`s growth. How could we when in the last decade, California has accepted millions of immigrants from around the world? More than 30 countries have sent 10,000 people or more; another 18 countries sent 2,000 or more.

In my column last week, I referenced a new study by Dr. Steven A. Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies titled "Immigration in 2002, A Snapshot," which revealed that according to the U.S. Census Current Population Survey over 650,000 legal and illegal immigrants have come to California between January 2000 and March 2002. Those immigrants and their children represent 100% of California`s growth.

On June 19, 2001 Dr. Camarota testified before the House Judiciary Committee on the relationship between unchecked immigration and urban sprawl and congestion. Using the conservative middle level census projection of 70 million people added by immigration over the next 50 years will, according to Dr. Camarota require approximately 30 million new housing units. Remember that this is a conservative projection; the Census Bureau has historically erred on the low side.

Those C.P.S. statistics are light years away from the drivel the Urban Land Institute is peddling.

Let`s use our heads. Each of the 1,700 daily new arrivals to California will require housing, transportation, schools and roads. If the Urban Land Institute wants to publish glossy brochures pledging its dedication to preserving farmland and advocating "smart growth," fine.

But those are nothing but empty words unless federal immigration policy is addressed.

Five years ago, I attended the kick-off meeting of California Smart Growth Association held at the Sacramento Civic Arena. State Treasurer Phil Angelides gave the keynote speech to a group of hundreds of developers, City Managers and environmentalists.

Look around you today—wherever in California you may live—and point out to me any evidence you see of smart growth. California`s growth has either converted prime agricultural land into housing tracts or land in-fill has created traffic, pollution and a vastly deteriorated quality of life.

Residents of the San Joaquin Valley are painfully aware of population growth`s price. The cities that make up the Central Valley—Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto, Stockton, Sacramento and our own Lodi—are experiencing faster growth than Los Angeles County.

And if you don`t think that things can change before your very eyes, the American Farmland Trust reminds us that a mere 40 years ago, Los Angeles was the most productive agricultural county in America.

For a comprehensive look at sprawl in the U.S. go to www.sprawlcity.org. Two reports by Roy Beck and Leon Kolankiewicz, "Weighing Sprawl Factors in Large U.S. Cities" [PDF] and "Sprawl in California" [PDF] have special merit.

Lodi is coping as best it can with overpopulation`s burden. But—sad to say—that translates to not very well.

Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Target are here. Lowe`s is knocking on the door. And seventeen housing developments are underway in "lovable, livable Lodi" at this very moment. Five projects were completed within the last two years

And all this "progress" is taking place in our once quaint community of 12 square miles.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.