NumbersUSA has bipartisan support in its effort to balance immigration numbers
NumbersUSA is a leading grassroots immigration-reduction organization which advocates for returning legal immigration numbers in the United States towards historical levels. The group was founded in 1996 by journalist Roy Beck based on the findings of two congressional committees, the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and President Clinton’s Task Force on Population and Consumption.
These commissions found that admitting the right number of legal immigrants to the country each year was crucial to preserving the standard of living of existing citizens. After taking into account the economic and environmental effect of U.S. immigration policies, they recommended lowering immigration numbers to more traditional, sustainable levels.
NumbersUSA bills itself as in favor of immigration, but at levels that are more conducive to the country’s interests. While the organization takes an immigration reduction stance, it is against xenophobia of any type. The group believes immigrants, in the right numbers, are an asset to the U.S.
NumbersUSA is a non-partisan organization, featuring members from both sides of the political spectrum.
The organization has devoted itself to educating policymakers, thought leaders and the public at large on the challenges caused by excessive levels of immigration. These include environmental and quality of life issues.
NumbersUSA supports immigration levels significantly below the annual average numbers seen since 1990. By the late 2000s, the group was referred to in the press as one of the leading grassroots organizations standing in opposition to high levels of immigration.
Why Numbers USA Supports Immigration Reform
The group’s website details the reasons behind its support of immigration reform. These include:
- Approximately 18 million American workers who would like one being unable to find a full-time job. While this impacts people in high-paying jobs, low-paying jobs and everything in between, on a disproportionate basis Americans looking for lower skilled jobs find that those jobs are predominately filled by foreign workers.
- Wages for millions of American and immigrant workers are at such low levels that they are poverty-stricken. More and more occupations pay only poverty or close-to-poverty level wages. Such fields are overrun with foreign workers. This includes occupations like meatpacking, dry-walling, and work in the construction and hospitality sectors that at one time offered incomes that could be classified as decent or very good. NumbersUSA contends that the importation of hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers to join those occupations in America constitutes a “profound policy of injustice” to American workers already working in those jobs.
The NumbersUSA website cites as foundational to its outlook the conclusions of The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform headed by former Congresswoman and Civil Rights pioneer Barbara Jordan and Roy Beck’s book The Case Against Immigration, which was released around the same time as the Jordan Commission’s recommendations were delivered. The commission focused on studying the effects of immigration following two landmark immigration related laws, the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act and the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
The group’s website cites the followed conclusions reached by Roy Beck’s book and the Jordan Commission:
- Millions of Americans can’t find jobs, including those officially considered unemployed, people working part-time jobs who would prefer to work full-time, and those who have just dropped from the ranks of the officially unemployed.
- Millions of American and immigrant workers earn such low wages that they live in poverty.
- Current immigration flows are wildly higher than the U.S. immigration tradition that nurtured America during most of its history. Historically, about 250,000 people a year immigrated to the country up to 1976, while since 1990 around 1 million legal and in excess of 1 million illegal immigrants permanently move to America per year.
- Most immigrants are allowed in with no consideration of how they fit in the country’s job market.
- Black underclass still exists. Decades after Congress passed legislation to support the full assimilation of black Americans, there remains a marked lack of job opportunities for this demographic group.
- Large numbers of American cities are choking on sprawl and congestion. With almost 90% of U.S. population growth due to new immigrants and births by immigrants, issues of overcrowding and inadequate infrastructure are more difficult to solve.
NumbersUSA’s Values and Goals
At the heart of NumbersUSA’s values is the contention that efforts by the U.S. government to improve the quality of life for American citizens are impeded by excessive immigration levels. The group’s focus is purely numerical – it is against immigrant-bashing in any form and strongly opposes xenophobia, nativism, and any other type of hostility to immigrants. NumbersUSA is in favor of treating all Americans on a basis of equality, no matter where they were born. The group considers itself in favor of immigration (within a sustainable numerical range), and pro immigrant.
NumbersUSA lists its values on its website. They can be summarized as follows:
- The yearly immigration number is the single most vital factor in federal immigration policy.
- The immigration policy pursued by the United States should be designed to support the national interest. Priority should be given to admitting spouses and minor children along with extraordinarily skilled workers and a fair proportion of asylum seekers and refugees.
- The level of immigration on a yearly basis should be targeted at levels that serve to stabilize the population of the United States in order to promote the desired quality of life for Americans in the long run and to conserve natural habitats.
- The immigration policy of the country should focus on supporting American workers, with a priority on protecting the most vulnerable from wage suppression and unfair competition.
- Congress, in the form of legislation, and the Executive branch, via enforcement of immigration law, must take responsibility for correcting issues linked to the nation’s immigration policy.
- Immigrant bashing, xenophobia, nativism, and racism are not acceptable reactions to immigration policy failures by the federal government. There is no role for race and ethnicity in establishing immigration policy.
- NumbersUSA strives to achieve the goal of fairness from an economic standpoint and a stable quality of life for every American through the reduction of immigration numbers to a level that is sustainable long-term.
The NumbersUSA website also lists the group’s five main legislative goals:
- End Chain Migration: Over 60% of legal immigration into the U.S. stems from family connections rather than to meet the country’s employment needs. NumbersUSA advocates restricting immigration based on family ties to only spouses and minor children.
- Mandate E-Verify: Pass legislation to require all employers in the United States to utilize E-Verify to make sure that newly hired workers are legally authorized to work in the country.
- End the Visa Lottery: According to NumbersUSA, 50,000 greencards are supplied to immigrants each year without considering whether their skills are a good match for the country’s economic needs.
- End Birthright Citizenship: Only one other developed nation in the entire world offers automatic citizenship to anyone born in the country. NumbersUSA advocates for legislation requiring at least one parent to be a citizen or legal permanent resident of the U.S. in order to grant citizenship at birth.
- Increase Interior Enforcement: Because of the federal government’s inability to adequately carry out enforcement of immigration laws in the nation’s interior, over 11 million illegal aliens currently reside in the U.S., according to the NumbersUSA website. The group proposes that instead of granting amnesty to people staying in the country illegally, Attrition Through Enforcement is used to eliminate incentives that motivate illegal immigration.
Who is Roy Beck?
NumbersUSA founder Roy Beck worked as a journalist at a number of newspapers across five states until turning his full attention to policy analysis in the 1990s. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. As one of the country’s first reporters on the environment, he covered Congress on behalf of the Booth Newspapers chain as head of their Washington Bureau.
Over his career, Beck was awarded more than two dozen awards for his work reporting on religious, business and environmental topics. His articles have run in a wide variety of publications, including The Washington Post, New York Newsday, The New York Times, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, and The Journal of Policy History.
Beck has written four books on the topics of immigration, ethics, religion and population. He has also been the co-author of books on urban sprawl and its impact on farmland and wildlife habitat.
His founding of NumbersUSA in 1996 was spurred by the desire to advance the policy recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, and President Clinton’s Task Force on Population and Consumption. The first commission was chaired by Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, the second was chaired by Senator Tim Wirth.
NumbersUSA Action relies on its contacts of millions of individuals on email and Facebook to send out “Action Alerts” to members informing them what they can do to communicate with elected officials and policymakers to back the group’s policies on immigration. According to NumbersUSA, these policies are in the interest of Americans of all stripes, both natural-born and naturalized citizens.
The NumbersUSA Education and Research Foundation functions as a forum to spark discussion and as a platform providing education on how unsustainable immigration affects society and the environment.
Educational activities include:
- Analysis pertaining to immigration legislation, regulation and enforcement
- Interactive maps
- Social media posts
- Interfacing with broadcast, print and online journalists
- Member emails
- Public appearances
- Meetings with public officials
NumbersUSA maintains a government relations division on Capitol Hill, while its main office is located in Arlington, Virginia.
The group has successfully delivered its message via the Facebook Share button, which enables followers to spread the word about NumbersUSA’s position on the dangers of excessive immigration to their contacts. As it has become better known, the organization has seen its revenue increase substantially in recent years. This has allowed NumbersUSA to spend millions on advertising to further spread its message.
Given its ability to enable wide sharing of messages without advertising costs, Facebook remains a prime medium for delivering the group’s message. “We can reach tens of millions of people by Facebook without spending any money,” Beck said in an interview with McClatchy DC Bureau. “They distribute these things on their own.”
According to Beck, NumbersUSA receives much of its funding through its email subscribers, of which there are an estimated 1.5 million. In FY 2017, the organization’s lobbying arm received around $1.2 million in donations and other revenue, while its charitable division raised an additional $7.5 million.
In addition to getting the word out via Facebook and email, NumbersUSA has purchased media ads to extend its ability to spread its message. It has run ads on publications such as Politico, National Review, and the Hill, as well as others. The group has also run adds on Fox News and CNN.
While NumbersUSA doesn’t provide specific endorsements for individual politicians, it does identify how members of the House and Senate stand with regard to its preferred policies. The group puts out election guides that rate members of Congress with letter grades based on their voting record pertaining to immigration.
In the past, NumbersUSA has seen its fundraising revenue rise during times when major immigration bills are pending before Congress. In 2006, for instance, IRS filings scanned by ProPublica reveal that the group’s lobbying take grew more than fourfold from FY 2006 to FY 2007, from below $300,000 to $1.2 million, upon the introduction of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. That bill, which offered 12 million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, did not make it through the Senate.
According to the McClatchy article, the NumbersUSA Education and Research Foundation also experienced an increase in contributions after 2007. NumbersUSA Education and Research Foundation saw its contributions double to $8 million prior to the election of 2008 and closed in on $10 million in the midst of the 2013 debate over immigration issues.
NumbersUSA Education and Research Foundation has received significant grants from the Colcom Foundation. Based in Pittsburgh, the charity organization was founded by Cordelia Scaife May in the mid-1990s. May, who is a descendant of the founders of Mellon bank, was mainly concerned with the impact of overpopulation on environmental sustainability.
According to Beck, his controversial “gumballs” video of 1996, aimed at debunking the idea that bringing impoverished immigrants to America can significantly impact the problem of global poverty, and the book he released the same year, “The Case Against Immigration,” attracted May’s interest, ultimately leading to her decision to provide funds to ERF. While May passed away in 2005, Colcom continued to donate substantial sums to the organization. The foundation’s donation of $6.78 million in FY 2016 amounted to greater than half of NumbersUSA Education and Research Foundation’s revenue for that year.
Beck described the numbers of the group’s members as a key part of its ability to achieve its mission. In the interview with McClatchy DC Bureau, he stated: “In the end, groups like ours which are public interest groups have the advantage of having lots of members. You leverage that kind of goodwill among the public, that really magnifies every dollar that’s spent.”
Beck added. “The more that Congress is dealing with immigration, the higher the funding.”
The Gumballs Video
Beck’s famous gumballs video illustrates the impact of the migration of poor people from around the world to the United States. Using gumballs to represent the influx of these immigrants to America, Beck makes the point that high levels of immigration to the United States can have a deleterious effect on the country’s environment and the ability of its citizens to earn a living.
At the same time, Beck shows in the video that the U.S. admitting immigrants from poor countries is only a drop in the bucket compared to the number of those living in poverty worldwide. He illustrates this by showing the overwhelming number of gumballs remaining even after 1 million immigrants are allowed into the U.S on a yearly basis. The conclusion Beck draws is that it’s better to fight global poverty by helping people in the countries where they reside, rather than negatively impacting our own economy and environment without achieving any measurable impact on world poverty.
NumbersUSA and the Border Crisis
Given the current crisis occurring on the country’s southern border, the NumbersUSA message appears as relevant as ever. With the Biden administration admitting unaccompanied minors on a large scale, the federal government is finding its resources stretched to the limit as it tries to care for them.
Additionally, the tremendous increase in illegal aliens caused by the administration’s lenient enforcement policies has only served to attract more border crossers. This dynamic, where the federal government’s failure to effectively carry out the country’s stated immigration policy has, as predicted by NumbersUSA, acted as a magnet in attracting more illegal immigration.
With no end to the border crisis in sight, NumbersUSA’s position as a leading immigration-reduction organization makes it likely the group will continue to play a major role in informing the public and policymakers about the benefits of pursuing an immigration policy that works in the interest of the United States and its legal residents.