Illegal Mexican aliens: Who's counting?

The American Enterprise Institute has a new study out called "US policies toward Mexico" (57 pp; paperback). On page 29 one expert estimates that "250, 000" Mexicans enter the United States illegally each year and on page 34 another expert says "more than 2 million illegal aliens cross the border every year" of whom about, 900,000 are apprehended and sent back (leaving a total of around 1, 100,000 successful entries).

The expert making the modest estimate is Victor L. Urquidi, head of the College of mexico, Mexico City; the larger estimate comes from Peter T. Flawn, president of the University of Texas at Austin. Nobody knows which figure is right.

Hispanics will be the largest ethnic minority in the United States within a few years, surpassing blacks. They are already having marked influence on the society and politics of substantial parts of the country. Census takers will try to estimate the number of illegals this year but it will be difficult; naturally they are coy about admitting their status. Demographers have wrestled with the subject for years.

Joyce Vialet, in a study for the Congresssional Research Service in 1976, estimated the number of illegals in the US at "4 to 8 million" with 89 percent Mexican. She quoted former US Immigration Commissioner Leonard Chapman as saying "one million" US jobs are held by illegals. Former Attorney General William B. Saxbe said "they mock our system of legal immigration."

Five years ago President Ford created a Domestic Council committee on Illegal Aliens (Jan. 6, 1975) under Attorney General Edward H. Levi. It wrote a comprehensive 255-page report. It said that "today legal immigrants" (roughly 400,000) "account for 30 percent of the US population growth. . . . Levels of illegal immigration are not accurately known, but most recent estimates run to several million yearly."

The Levi report said that the US immigration policy is "ineffective." One result is to "create communities concentrated in our largest urban centers whose existence depends on avoidance of law and authority."

America's growth rate is uner control; Mexico's isn't. Mexico "has an annual rate of natural increase of about 3.5 percent," demographer John Tanton told the House Committee on Population in 1978, "meaning its 64.4 million population could double in just 20 years. In contrast the US has an annual rate of natural increase of about 0.6 percent. . . . And a growth rate, including legal immigration, of 0.8 percent, doubling the population every 87 years."

On the 2,000-mile Mexican border a developed country faces a so-called underdeveloped country. Pressure to enter the US is tremendous. The Us Immigration Service apprehends about a million illegals a year and perhaps as many more succeed in entering.

Demographers Richard D. Erb, Stanley R. Ross, and others give only minor consideration to immigration in their new study of US- mexican relationships. Mexico's family planning program got underway offcially five years ago, Professor Urquidi explains. Birthrates are now declining throughout the country , he says, but "we still have one of the highest rates of population growth in the world." He seems rather casual about it.

By contrast Professor Flawn sees trouble ahead as illegals flood across the border. "Throughout history," he notes, language differences between people sharing the same area have caused friction or violence. He adds, ominously:

"To an extent, the Southwest is a staging area from which illegal aliens stream northward to better jobs and more secure employment.

"But the ethnic increment within the region is significant.

"If the problem is not addressed with an effective long-term policy, there will be a major social, economic, and political reaction in the Southwest in a very few years."

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