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Coming to America


Last Updated: 08/13/2013 3:40 pm

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As Price points out, the options for the desperate immigrant are staying home “and nearly starving in appalling economic conditions” or trying to cross into the US, where if they can evade the Border Patrol, their prospects will immediately improve. It’s hardly surprising that up to 30 million people have made that trip successfully, and many others have failed yet keep on trying.

Betsy Hartmann, director of the population and development program at Hampshire College, says, “If we’re going to have a big population because of immigration, then we should take it as a chance to reduce individual consumption and carbon footprints. Instead of a one-child policy, we should encourage a one-car policy.”

Hartmann claims that sprawl is caused largely by “poor zoning, planning, transport, and taxation policies.” She supports a massive US investment in green technology. Hartmann also hopes that India and China—both of which are increasing their per capita global warming emissions—can leapfrog over the West’s oil obsession and go directly to cleaner energy sources. That’s obviously a worthy goal, but when profit is the key motivation, the investment often goes elsewhere.

The obstacle is to get countries around the world to focus on eradicating hunger, infant mortality and poverty. A major hurdle would be limiting births through universal access to family planning and maternal health programs. In 1994, 179 countries met in Cairo, Egypt, for the International Conference of Population and Development (ICPD), with the goal of forging an international commitment. The conference issued a 20-year plan known as the “Cairo Agenda” that included:

• Universal access to reproductive services and family planning
programs by 2015;
• Full participation of women in political and public life;
• A consensus target of .7 percent of Gross National Product per donor country for international development assistance.

This agenda has languished. The 1994 call was for $17 billion annual commitment for population and reproductive health programs by 2000, and $21 billion by 2015. By 2004, less than $10 billion per year was committed, and the Bush Administration—which opposes abortion and, in many cases, family planning—has failed to meet the need. By contrast, the administration’s Iraq War has already cost American taxpayers more than $500 billion, and bills are now running $275 million per day. The same funds strategically applied could have gone a long way toward ending world poverty.

According to Zonny Woods, an international consultant on reproductive health issues, “The Bush Administration’s reinstatement of the Global Gag rule [which prohibits U.S. funds from going to groups that in any way aid abortion] has had a severe impact on organizations that have rejected it. Not only are they no longer able to receive USAID funds, they are unable to receive much-needed USAID-donated contraceptives.”

Nevertheless, Thoraya Ahmed, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), says that the ICPD process offers the best hope for reducing migration pressures. “To address migration, the growing poverty and demographic divide between rich and poor countries must be addressed,” she says.

Echoing this theme is Tom Barry of CIP. “A comprehensive US immigration policy should support job creation and development programs,” he says. “That, unfortunately, is not happening, because the economic policies of countries like Mexico are complicated by economic ‘liberalization’ programs like NAFTA, which support US interests and are not connected to job creation.” The status quo shortchanges Mexicans looking for work.

Taught by TV

More family planning clinics may not be the answer. Bill Ryerson, president of the Vermont-based Population Media Center (PMC), analyzed 50 demographic and health surveys carried out in the last few decades and found that the predominant reasons women in developing countries give for not using birth control are: 1) fear of side effects; 2) male opposition; 3) religious opposition or the belief that family planning is not morally appropriate; and 4) fatalism—it’s up to God. “Lack of access to services is cited by less than two percent of respondents; in many countries it is less than one percent,” Ryerson says. The evidence suggests that family planning education is as important as opening clinics.

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