Day 35

Economics of Immigration

Late last year I heard a fascinating talk by Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute.  Below is some of what he had to say.  More food for thought here.

We would see $30 – $90 TRILLION growth in GDP if all global immigration barriers were eliminated.  Sure, that’s impractical for many reasons, yet it goes to show how the more we open up our borders the better off we would ALL be economically.  More workers, more businesses, more consumers equal increases in production possibilities.

Immigration reform would allow for an increase in the labor supply with little labor market competition.  More legal immigration opportunities would push up lower-skilled Americans, resulting in an overall positive impact on wages for Americans.  Immigrants are twice as likely to start companies.  Immigrants consume a lot of real estate.  Capital owners, property owners, complementary workers, consumers, and producers would all benefit from increased immigration opportunities.

What happens to the sending countries?  Well, they benefit from $530 billion in remittances!  This amount dwarfs the government and humanitarian aid provided to foreign countries.  And it goes directly to those who need it, spending it on necessities and capital such as businesses and education.  Immigrants who spend several years in the U.S. and then return home go back with new ideas, capital, creativity, and remake their societies.

What about other externalities, such as welfare or crime?  Poor immigrants are less likely to use welfare than poor citizens.  In fact, they are ineligible either permanently or for 5 years.  The monetary value is less for immigrants, and the welfare rolls are homegrown not imported.  U.S. welfare is designed to help the sick, elderly, and women.  Immigrants are typically healthy, young, and men.  Welfare in the U.S. for the elderly far surpasses that for immigrants and the poor.  Nowrasteh and the Cato Institute suggest that a better solution than building walls to keep immigrants out is to build a higher wall around welfare, especially for Social Security and Medicare.

As for crime, well, immigrants are 1/5 less likely to commit crime.  The undocumented are 1/10 less likely!  There have been only 37 deportation cases on terrorism grounds since 9/11.  Finding terrorists is like finding a “needle in a haystack”, so those national security efforts should be where our money goes in the fight against terrorism inside our borders.  Not spending $2 billion a year locking up survivors of torture, asylum seekers, victims of trafficking, families with small children, the elderly, individuals with serious medical and mental health conditions, and lawful permanent residents with longstanding family and community ties who are facing deportation because of old or minor crimes.  *see also Immigration Detention

Immigrants are good for our economy.  They actually make us safer and wealthier as a whole society.  Let’s use both our hearts and our heads to get our nation’s leaders to actually lead us all into a much more prosperous place. No matter where you come from, we are all better together.  

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