Conservative Spotlight: Numbers USA

NUMBERS USA The immigration reform movement is not made up exclusively of conservative-minded Americans who simply want to preserve American culture and reduce crime. Proponents of reducing immigration levels come from all across the standard ideological spectrum. Numbers USA spans that spectrum, offering a variety of arguments, some of which are outright left-leaning and others that only seem so to the unreflective. “I started Numbers USA in ’97,” said Roy Beck, Numbers USA’s executive director. “It’s an outgrowth of the book that I did for W.W. Norton & Co., which was an outgrowth of a piece I did for Atlantic Monthly.” Beck, whose book was called The Case Against Immigration (1996), wrote “about the ordeal of immigration in Wausau, Wis. It was kind of a case study of Wausau and a bunch of people who were well meaning but ruined their culture. It was a homogeneous society, and like many homogeneous societies, there was no poverty class. It was more egalitarian. There was virtually no crime.” Beck studied the effects of immigration on small towns such as Wausau—and how the lack of immigration preserved the culture of other towns. “You go to one small city or town and see the effects of immigration, and 30 miles away there is a town that is untouched by this. One has a lot of crime and social problems, and the other has a more homogeneous, egalitarian society,” he said. Mass immigration over the past few decades has seriously degraded Americans’ living environment, Numbers USA contends. “No wonder Americans in the 1990s became increasingly alarmed at their deteriorating quality of life due to sprawl, congestion, overcrowded schools, lost open spaces and increasing restrictions on their individual liberty in order to handle the new population explosion!” says the group’s website. “Because this population boom was almost entirely engineered by federal forced-growth policies that are still in place, the Census Bureau says that Americans will suffer this kind of rapid congestion every decade into the future unless Congress changes the policies.” “The key issue is numbers,” Beck said. “Immigration works only when we do it in small numbers.” Figuring out how to solve any problems caused by reducing mass immigration, he contended, is a lot easier than “trying to figure out a way for America to survive under large numbers of immigrants that would require changing almost everything about America.” Beck argued that American immigration policy should be set by two straightforward criteria: “What immigrants can do for this society, and secondly, what humanitarian purposes can we achieve by immigration policies?” If we were to follow those rules, he said, we would immediately implement Numbers USA’s top two specific policy proposals, “which were also the goals of the Jordan Commission: the elimination of the visa lottery and chain migration of adult family members.” The visa lottery hands out 50,000 visas a year at random, and chain migration generates an almost-endless supply of new immigrants to this country year by year. “How do these programs ensure that immigration benefits us or that it achieves the humanitarian purposes we consider most important?” Beck asked. The Jordan Commission on immigration reform, appointed by President Clinton and congressional leaders and headed by the late Rep. Barbara Jordan (D.-Tex.), called for lowering immigration levels in 1994, a landmark moment in the immigration reform movement. Numbers USA believes that high levels of immigration have depressed the wages of lower-class Americans, particularly racial minorities. “Federal policies of high immigration interfere with market forces that otherwise would cause corporations and other employers to find ways to maximize American wages and working conditions while also maximizing productivity,” it says. “The result has been a decades-long wage depression in many occupations and even in some professions.” Beck lambasted “the amoral behavior of Republican politicians who like the cheap labor and who don’t look around the corner to see the consequences for destabilizing the American economy and undermining free-market capitalism in the long run.” He also criticized liberal Democrats “who claim to care about the poor but. . . know that high levels of immigration pump in a net of 300,000 Democratic voters a year.” Beck noted that the immigration issue, even more than others, exposes a great divide in American society. “I don’t know of another issue in which every sector of the opinion elite is on one side and the great majority of the people are on the other,” he said. “Religious leaders are for large-scale immigration, the majority of all religious groups’ members are against; both political parties’ elites are for, the members of both are against; union leaders are for, union members are against. . . .” Numbers USA may be reached at 1601 N. Kent St., Suite 1100, Arlington, Va. 22209 (703-816-8820; e-mail:; website: