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America's Population Bomb: Immigration

The emergency room in the county hospital, which sees a large percentage of uninsured and indigent patients, was in its usual frenetic state when I watched a nurse bring in two new patients. They were an elderly couple who had just arrived from India. Both carried with them several manila envelopes filled with details of their medical history. Each complained of having chest pain. The pain was no different from the "angina" they'd been suffering for years. In fact, their medical records from India indicated that they both had been diagnosed as having severe coronary artery disease. They both were on multiple heart medications. But it was obvious that what they needed was more than medication. Their best chance to become pain free and reduce their risk of heart attack was "heart surgery," which usually involves "bypass" or "angioplasty." That was what they needed and that was what they had come to the U.S. to get.

I asked the resident physician who had seen them whether he thought they'd eventually get their surgery.

"Sure," he said, "If they know how to play the system."

As many as 30% of the heart surgeries performed at Harbor/UCLA Medical Center are performed on non-citizens. Some are illegal aliens and some are foreign visitors with legal visas. Ironically, in a bizarre Catch-22, the usual policy is that non-emergency cardiac surgery will not be performed on aliens with travel visas, but those who have no legal status but are nevertheless residing in the U.S. are eligible. So, here's how to play the system. If you have severe heart disease and need a bypass, you can fly in from some Third World country, drive direct to a county facility, and ask for one. Just don't tell them you have a visa. Tell them you're an illegal alien living here.

Millions of people come to the United States every year. Some come on 747's to survive heart disease, and some come on inner tubes across dangerous Caribbean waters for simply a better life. While the world's politicians now perceive global over-population to be a crisis issue, it is immigration that is creating America's population crisis.

In Cairo several years ago, the "International Conference on Population and Development" was busy trying to hammer out policy to control over-population. Regardless of their final conclusions, unless Armageddon occurs, world population is still predicted to nearly double to about 10 billion by the middle of this century. Unless draconian birth control measures are introduced worldwide, just as inevitably, the fertility rates in the "have-not" countries will continue to far exceed those of the "haves." While the average number of births per woman in the U.S. is less than 2, the number per woman in much of Africa, Latin America, and other Third World countries ranges from 4 to 7. Although we can hope that advancing technology will keep pace with the needs of a growing population for food, shelter and social services, it is likely that in many regions of the world the only solution for an unsatisfied expanding population will be to emigrate elsewhere. It is this emigration that is far more consequential to U.S. population growth than our ongoing growth with the two child family.

The current U.S. population is about 300 million. The Census Bureau projects our population to increase to half a billion by 2050. Of that anticipated 21st century growth, nearly 90 percent will be post Year-2000 immigrants and their descendants.

I don't mean to infer that we should simply slam shut our doors. But with legal immigration numbering about one million yearly and illegal immigration numbering millions more, we need to guard those doors more closely.

Striving for a smaller population would probably make it easier for us to deal with all the social, environmental, and resource problems that confront us.

Today if you come here from a country with too much population or, more pertinent, too few resources, all you have to say is, "my heart hurts," and we'll take care of all your needs - for medical care, for food, for shelter, for education. That ought not to continue. As we try to convince other nations to control their over-population, we should not forget that we our becoming over-populated too, not due to our birthrate but due to immigration.

Our own social fabric is torn. And it's unlikely to be repaired by inviting more people to wear it.