Some supporters of President Donald Trump argue that his restrictionist agenda only targets illegal immigration, but that idea has now been decisively disproven. Many of the Central Americans now being detained by the Trump administration are legally seeking asylum rather than people trying to enter the country without permission. But during a recent briefing, the president declared:
Our country is full. Our area is full. The sector is full … Can’t take you anymore. I’m sorry, turn around, that’s the way it is.
The president’s actions show that he’s serious. He has initiated a purge of officials in the Department of Homeland Security whom he perceives to be insufficiently tough on immigrants, and said that hardline adviser Stephen Miller is now “in charge” of immigration policy. That could indicate that Trump is planning to renew his contentious family separation policy, close the Mexican border, try to curtail birthright citizenship or enact any other number of harsh nativist policies.
But what about Trump’s central contention that the U.S. is “full”? Is that true? Although there’s no widely accepted definition of what it means for a country to be full, the answer is probably no.
First, although the U.S. has a higher population density than Canada or Australia, it is still sparsely populated compared to most other developed countries:
Of course, population density by itself doesn’t really tell whether a country can accommodate more people. Much of Canada and Russia, for example, is not ideal for human habitation (though global warming may change this). Australia, meanwhile, doesn’t have much land for growing crops.
The U.S., in contrast, has plenty of land available for farming — 16.6 percent, compared to 12.7 percent in China, a country with four times the population and about the same land area. Thanks to its natural bounty, the U.S. is one of the world’s top food producers, and easily the world’s leading food exporter. It would have no trouble feeding a much larger population.
An equally important natural resource is water, especially as climate change begins to bite. Here the U.S. again comes out looking better than most other developed countries:
And of course, with recent advances in hydraulic fracturing, the U.S. is self-sufficient in energy too.