But the dismal economy of the last four years has discouraged immigrants. Mexicans, who for years have been the largest group of immigrants to the U.S., are no longer coming in vast numbers. Last year, net immigration from Mexico fell to zero for the first time since the Great Depression. And those immigrants already here are choosing to have far fewer children. The overall American birthrate fell by 8 percent between 2007 and 2010, but the birthrate among Mexican immigrant women fell by 23 percent.
The decision by immigrant women to have fewer children is not only rational during an economic downturn, it is a sign of their assimilation to American norms. They are emulating the decisions of American women to have smaller families to invest more in raising each child. The solution to the problem of declining birthrates is not to encourage the women already living here to have more babies, but to boost our population size by admitting more working-age, productive immigrants.
Without a continued influx of such immigrants, America will become poorer, not richer. Not only will millions of hard-working people be denied the opportunity to make their lives better, but Americans will lose out on the benefits of a growing economy.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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