May 1, 2021

On Immigration: It’s Complicated.

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

Or is it?

It’s really not so complicated. Immigration has been and continues to be essential to the continued growth and prosperity of the United States. That isn’t just an opinion; that’s a fact. It is, unfortunately, also a fact that no issue has been demagogued by scurrilous politicians more than immigration.  

In all times and all places, immigration has always been or has always become a political hot button. Many people, it seems, really do not welcome the stranger, especially if the stranger looks different or sounds different to them. It has always been politically convenient to attribute all manner of economic and social problems to the presence of the immigrant.

Everyone understands that the situation at the border is unacceptable and untenable. The more we slash legal immigration, however, the more people will be drawn to immigrate illegally. Given the previous guy’s pronouncements that he intended to reduce legal immigration by 62%, and by election day last year, had even slashed the number of green-card entries and non-immigrant visas by nearly 12 million, is it any wonder masses began gathering at our border?

Yes, of course, we have to have an immigration process that stops or greatly reduces the inflow of criminals or those who intend to do us harm. And yes, there will be some bad actors among those who want to immigrate to the United States, just as some very bad actors are among our native born. Incidentally, our native-born produce more bad actors (criminals) than those who have immigrated to America.

Let’s stipulate, as the lawyers like to say, that the situation at our southern border is untenable and that we have to maintain and enforce an immigration policy based on our immigration laws. However, no one should delude themselves or allow self-serving politicians to deceive them into thinking that the less immigration we have, the better off we will be or that immigration is something we must, charitably, tolerate. Understand this; America needs a generous immigration policy. Immigration serves our country incredibly well, and it always has.

Immigrants fuel our economic growth. Without immigration the United States would have a seriously declining birthrate, and a seriously declining birthrate portends a seriously declining society. Immigrants do not cause a net decrease in jobs for native-born Americans. In fact, immigrants do a pretty good job of creating new jobs. They start new companies at twice the rate of native-born Americans. Immigrants also come to America to do work that Americans are happy to have them do because most Americans generally choose not to work in the fields, or in meat processing plants to bring food to American dinner tables, or in many other labor-intensive, often unpleasant, entry-level endeavors.

Immigrants add to American growth and productivity. According to the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, immigrants add more than $2 trillion to America’s Gross Domestic Product and, in 2018, forked out another half-trillion dollars in taxes. And after paying those taxes, those immigrants were left with an estimated $1.2 trillion in spending power with which they purchased various goods and services and fueled the American economy just like the rest of us.

Immigration is a resource. It is not a threat. In addition to those who come to do the work that Americans generally choose not to do, many immigrants come who are well-educated and can contribute handsomely to the nation’s productivity. Nearly half of recently-arrived family and diversity-based immigrants (immigrants from countries with relatively low immigration levels to the United States) are well educated, with roughly half having college degrees, compared to about 30% of native-born Americans.

Thirty percent of new entrepreneurs are immigrants, even though they make up only 13% of our population. Consider this, nearly half of the nation’s Fortune 500 Companies were founded by immigrants or their children, and they employ nearly 14 million men and women in America., a non-partisan group of business and high-tech leaders including Bill Gates (Microsoft founder), Drew Houston (co-founder and CEO of Dropbox), and other high-tech pioneers, claim that a cut of 50% in legal immigration (remember the previous guy proposed a 62% cut in legal immigration) would cost the Social Security Trust Fund about $1.5 trillion over the balance of this century.

Almost everything opponents to immigration infer or say is either misleading or simply untrue. Immigrants contribute an estimated half-trillion dollars to state, local, and federal taxes, and this includes undocumented immigrants who contribute an estimated $12 billion a year in state and local taxes, including about $7 billion in sales taxes, $3.6 billion in property taxes and over a billion in personal income taxes. These funds ultimately flow to schools, hospitals, emergency response services, highways, and various other essential services. And by the way, these revenues would, it is estimated, increase by another $2+ billion a year if undocumented immigrants were given legal status as part of an immigration reform package.

Ironically, many undocumented workers contribute substantially to the solvency of Social Security and Medicare, even though they will never draw benefits from those programs. While they are often working under assumed names, they have Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld, even though they are not eligible to ever claim benefits from those programs. The government holds these funds in what are known as Earnings Suspension Files which now provide about $15 billion to the solvency of Social Security.

Worried about Main Street? Then worry about politicians who want to demonize immigrants. Listen to Tom Jawetz, Deputy General Counsel U.S. Department of Homeland Security and formerly Vice President for Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress. “Immigrants own more than 1 in 5 small businesses and are more than 20 percent more likely to own such a business than a native-born person. Beyond the direct economic benefits of these businesses and the jobs they create, it’s important to talk about what it means to a community to have a thriving Main Street. Immigrants own more than 60 percent of all gas stations, 58 percent of all dry cleaners, 53 percent of all grocery stores, 45 percent of all nail salons, and 38 percent of all restaurants. These businesses represent the life and vitality of local communities.” And, of course, these gas stations, dry-cleaners, grocery stores, salons, and restaurants, all directly or indirectly, create jobs.

Oh, and by the way, while most of the nation was staying home to avoid the Coronavirus, the American Medical Association says that approximately 30,000 of those healthcare workers who were working to keep the rest of us safe were, you guessed it, Dreamers or DACA recipients (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).

So, why in the world would we want to cut legal immigration at all, let alone 62%, as urged by the previous guy and his steadfast followers?

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

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8 responses to “On Immigration: It’s Complicated.”

  1. Perry says:

    Ending legal immigration is hardly the problem. The problem lies with illegal immigration. Can you honestly believe that
    unaccompanied minors are coming in with skills that are needed?It is true that many small businesses are being developed by
    recent immigrants it is also true that we have raised a class of
    people incapable or work or be being productive to society.
    Whose fault is this.? Education? Government? or Parental?

  2. susan duman says:

    Perry, no plan is perfect.
    Immigration is critical to our social, intellectual, and emotional growth.

  3. robin stonehill says:

    Excellent Piece

  4. Steve Hardy says:

    Good essay Hal. Also, we need more people who want to live in the U.S. to counteract the many young native-born who have been taught to hate the U.S.

  5. Shirley Nasoff says:

    As usual, Hal, another great essay.

  6. Michael Gong says:

    Let’s say it like it is: the main reason the previous guy and his followers opposed immigration is that they see immigrants as non-white. That in itself is the threat.

  7. Leslie Usow says:

    Best explanation about immigration I’ve heard in a long time. Outstanding research and information for me to pass on. Thank you

  8. Ray Galante says:

    Must upgrade immigration process. Major issue requires additional funding, like it or not. Millions will continue to try. It will never let up. The U.S. is too tempting. Get with it, Congress. Major funding required to upgrade the process.

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