About Roy Beck

Roy Beck

Author and lecturer Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, has been one of the most visible chroniclers and spokesmen on the effects of mass immigration on quality of life issues in the United States. The Houston Chronicle labeled him “one of the five leading thinkers in the national immigration debate.” The prestigious Foreign Affairs journal stated that nobody has made a more persuasive case for cutting current high levels of immigration. “All sides can learn from Roy Beck,” said Business Week magazine.

His investigative report, “Ordeal of Immigration in Wausau,” published in The Atlantic Monthly, inspired a 60 Minutes segment and is included as one of the five most important writings of 1994 by the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s The Annals of America. Author of four public policy books including The Case Against Immigration (W.W. Norton, 1996)—which is still used to teach an immigration course at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Beck has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, C-SPAN, as well as NPR and numerous national radio programs. He regularly briefs members of Congress on immigration issues.

A former chief Washington correspondent for the Booth Newspapers chain, Beck was a journalist for three decades before founding NumbersUSA. He was one of the nation’s first environment-beat newspaper reporters in the 1960s and won national awards for his coverage of urban expansion issues in the 1970s, including honors from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Izaak Walton League. In addition to his article for The Atlantic Monthly, Beck’s byline has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, New York Newsday, the Los Angeles Times, and the Journal of Policy History.

Lead author of a series of sprawl studies, Beck’s most recent study, Outsmarting Smart Growth: Population Growth, Immigration, and the Problem of Sprawl, is based on data from the Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Last fall, he presented his findings to the national conventions of the Society for Environmental Journalists and the California Chapter of the American Planning Association. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have relied upon and cited his sprawl studies.

In His Own Words: “About Me”

Gumballs Video
Roy presents famous “Gumballs Video”

As a journalist by training, disposition and past experience, I'm always interested in the principles and personal backgrounds that drive an organization. So it is fair enough for you to expect to know something about me. We all are parts of individual subgroups of Americans. Here are some of my subgroups:

Like former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, I'm the son of a Missouri milk man. I grew up floating the rivers and exploring the caves near my small Ozarks home town, but have lived nearly all of my adult life near the downtowns of large cities. I'm a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, a 1972 recipient of the U.S. Army Commendation Medal (for non-combat service), a husband of a pediatric physical therapist, a father of an actor and a research analyst, a long-time Sunday School teacher of Methodist teenagers, and my major non-vocational project for 15 years has been to lead annual Habitat for Humanity work trips for high school students in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

In His Own Words: “Why I operate this organization”

My motives for operating NumbersUSA are rather public, spread through 600 pages of two books—one on immigration's impact on the U.S. environment, the other on immigration's impact on the U.S. labor market and on local communities. The latter book was published in 1996 by W. W. Norton & Company and was reviewed favorably in several dozen media across the nation. As for the negative comments in the reviews… hmmmm, I seem to have misplaced them. But here are a few of the positive ones: “All sides can learn from Roy Beck,” Business Week magazine was kind enough to say. No book has made a better case for immigration reductions, according to the Foreign Affairs journal. The Houston Chronicle listed me as one of five “leading thinkers in the national immigration debate.” “Always balanced and never strident,” the Washington Post opined. “Virtually irrefutable,” the New York Post said about the book. It was affirmed by conservatives and liberals. Jack Miles, the 1996 Pulitzer-winning author wrote: “Gently and in a distinctly democratic and liberal tone of voice, Roy Beck makes the case for returning immigration to traditional levels.” And on the conservative side, Republican Lamar Smith, then chairman of the House panel on immigration, bought a box of my books for his staff and committee members as must reading.

The Case Against Immigration

As I spoke to more than 100 audiences in 1996, people constantly admonished me to create a website to help citizens use the information in the book to pressure Congress for change. In other words, it wasn't good enough to have a book to convincingly lay out the problems and propose solutions; they wanted a website that would provide monthly—even weekly—actions that could be taken by concerned readers to solve the immigration problem and create a better future for America. It took some persuading. I've spent my career as a print man (newspapers, books and magazines). I'd never even visited a website. My friends call me Low-Tech Beck. Obviously, I must rely on the expertise of a number of high-tech friends, and increasingly on an able public policy staff and research associates.

I have come to love the Internet because of the ability to constantly update information and to correct mistakes. If you find something on this website that you would challenge as to credibility, please use the e-mail link in the navigation bar at the top of each page; we will examine your suggestions carefully as we have many before.

All of this biographical background risks focusing too much on me. But I know from hundreds of interviews with reporters that the motives of people who suggest reductions in immigration numbers are often suspect. Although there is nothing that this organization or I have ever done that has suggested bad motives, it is not possible to prove there are no bad motives to somebody who is convinced that they exist. All we can offer is the years of our writings and actions. So you may find it important to know just a little bit more about the person who oversees the assembling of information found here. My career in newspapers began with a specialty in environmental journalism in the 1960s as I became one of the nation's first environmental-beat newspaper reporters. My personal love of nature was accentuated by a three-month honeymoon of backpacking and camping before the draft board found me and smaller versions of that for several more years before Multiple Sclerosis entered our family and severely limited the vigor of our participation in the outdoors. I won national environmental writing awards during the 1970s, including from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Izaak Walton League.

Nearly every measure Congress was taking to improve the American quality of life was being undermined by congressional immigration policy

I focused on business news at the Cincinnati Enquirer in the late 1970s, then moved on to specialize in religion and politics (about which I wrote two books), and finally to coverage of Congress as Chief Washington Correspondent for the Booth chain of daily newspapers. I've worked and lived in Arizona, Italy, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington D.C. I've done short-term reporting from about half of the other states and from Bolivia, Cuba, India, Korea, Nicaragua, Pakistan and Thailand. Since 1991, I have devoted full-time effort to researching, speaking and writing about immigration in books and publications such as the Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, National Review, Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor. I moved into this specialty reporting on immigration after assessing the issues I was covering in Congress. It dawned on me that most of the national problems Congress was trying to solve or at least minimize were being made worse by Congress having allowed immigration numbers to rise radically over the last 30 years. I discovered that nearly every measure Congress was taking to improve the American quality of life was being undermined by congressional immigration policy. This was no more evident than the week in 1990 when Congress passed major new regulations to decrease Americans' per capita air pollution. During that same week, Congress drastically undercut the benefits of the Clean Air Act by increasing immigration numbers so that in the next few decades there would be tens of millions more people in the country contributing to air pollution. Yet not a single Member of Congress commented on the inconsistency. As a newsman, I came to conclude that governmental—or journalistic—work on most issues was laced with futility until the country's immigration policy was brought back under control. I have learned nothing to contradict that conclusion during the succeeding years of research on the effects of immigration numbers.

My concerns for the average working man and woman in this country are driven in part by growing up around “working people.” My mother was a school secretary, my dad a Teamster. One of my grandfathers for many years was a migrant agricultural worker. I have close relatives who run the gamut from professional to janitor, motel maid, department store clerk, bank clerk and house cleaner. I look at them and others I have known who work these important but low-paid jobs, and I refuse to accept the prevailing national leadership's opinion that these people deserve to be paid so poorly and that federal policies ought to import more and more foreign labor to make sure the pay stays low. I think about the men with whom I worked earning my way for and through college—in a steel plant, farm fields, roofing, lawn care and bridge construction—and I remember how some of them taunted me, saying that once I got my degree I would totally forget about what it is like to work in their version of America. Because federal immigration decisions that are significantly responsible for wage depression “in their version of America” are largely in the clean, uncalloused hands of college-graduated officials, NumbersUSA.com seeks to give voice not only to you who work in depressed fields but also to those of you who don't but who respect your friends and relatives who do—and who desire improved lives for the foreign-born and the native Black American populations which disproportionately are in occupations depressed by high levels of immigration. I and the whole staff of NumbersUSA.com invite you to join the large number of your fellow Americans who already are in this action network to reach for these honorable goals of economic justice, community quality of life and environmental sustainability.