It’s hard to find a touchier topic than immigration. While the United States, since before its inception, has been a destination for the world’s immigrants, the conversation surrounding the topic has taken an extremely toxic turn of late. Every year, thousands of people come to America and begin the process of becoming Americans. The problem, though, is that the process is long, difficult, and inefficient. We’ve floated ideas to streamline things, but so far, nothing fruitful has manifested in the form of a solution.
All the while, more and more people have come to America — legally, and otherwise.
Obviously, this creates some issues. While some people have used the debate around immigration to stake out rather rash policy positions, others have used it to shape a more philosophical discussion about what it means to be an American. Not just that, but we’re now wondering what America is all about, and whether the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty is more about aesthetics than any sincerely held beliefs about the American ideal.
You can get into all of that if you want, but if you’d rather get an idea as to whether or not immigration is good or bad for America, you just need to look at the numbers. And according to a new analysis, looking to shut down the system — or at least reduce the inflow of new Americans — can and will cost us all big.
Next: The $300 billion question.
Analysis: Saving America $300 billion
- Experts: Raising current immigration levels would result in $314 billion in “human capital” investment.
According to a new policy brief from the Committee for Economic Development of The Conference Board, America can save up to $314 billion in coming years with relative ease — it would just involve allowing more immigrants into the country. The brief points to “human capital” as the main avenue for these savings, which essentially means that we’re adding workers to the economy who are already educated and have jobs skills. It’s simply a matter of plugging these new workers into areas where they’re needed.
This, the brief says, should benefit everyone in the economy by creating even more opportunities for natives.
Next: Immigration in America.
The role of immigration
How do these recommendations jive with how economists traditionally view immigration?
While the average Joe may think that adding more workers to the economy sounds like a direct threat to their own jobs, most economists disagree. There may be increased competition for jobs, yes, but that also has an effect of putting upward pressure on wages and creating demand for “complementary” jobs. That’s not to say that every individual will benefit, of course, but this is how many experts view the role of immigration in developed countries.
Still, how, exactly, do immigrants help an economy grow?
Next: How do outsiders help the economy?
How immigration helps economies grow
- When foreign-born workers are willing to take on work the native population isn’t, we’re all better off.
On the most basic level, immigrants create more demand in an economy. They need places to live, restaurants to eat at, and products to buy — and more demand means more opportunities for businesses to cater to those demands. As a Wharton policy brief puts it: “A popular view is that immigrants are taking jobs from American citizens. However, although immigrants increase the supply of labor, they also spend their wages on homes, food, TVs and other goods and services and expand domestic economic demand. This increased demand, in turn, generates more jobs to build those homes, make and sell food, and transport TVs.”
This is in a general sense, of course. And yes, there can be downsides.
Next: What are the downsides?
- Sometimes, you have to take the bad with the good.
As for the negatives of increased immigration? Yes, some people face increased competition for jobs. And as we’ve seen, some companies can abuse immigration policies and programs to help artificially suppress wages. And this is just for legal immigrants — when you rope illegal immigration into the mix, then more problems arise. Even people who come to the U.S. illegally (or overstay their visas) still add to the economy, of course, but there are concerns related to taxation and social programs that bubble up, too.
Next: The hurdles choking the path.
- They start with guys like Stephen Miller, Tom Cotton, John Kelly, and Donald Trump.
While this policy brief makes the argument that America can save and prosper by opening its doors to more immigrants, there are some big political hurdles in the way. Right now, it’s mostly in the form of the Trump administration, which hasn’t been quiet in its opposition to immigrants — especially from certain parts of the world. Many people in the White House are staunchly against increasing immigration levels, and as such, we probably shouldn’t expect to see the changes recommended by the CED.
Next: The current discussion.
Walls, Dreamers, and more
- While prominent figures at the top of the government are entrenched, issues are taking the center stage.
The immigration fight is taking center stage even now, with two of the most hotly contested issues being over the renewal or preservation of the DACA program and a proposed border wall. The Dreamers, or those protected from deportation under DACA, are at the center of it all, and you’re likely to hear a lot about them in coming weeks and months. The border wall — proposed by Trump before his election — will be closely tied to the Dreamers, as Republicans and Democrats will likely end up negotiating a compromise on both.
But can Trump really permanently alter America’s affinity for immigrants?
Finally: Can we seriously expect to see dramatic drops in immigration — legal or otherwise?
The inevitability of change
Trump and many in his administration would like to put the kibosh on immigration. They may be able to do so in the short term, but after they’re gone — and even while they’re still in office — the spigot isn’t going to turn off. People are always going to find their way into the country, and even if Trump ramps up enforcement, it’s unlikely to put a lasting dent in the immigrant population. We’ll have to wait and see what happens, of course. But we know, at least according to one analysis, that slowing immigration is going to do nothing but cost America.
Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!