Immigrants have a positive impact on the US economy: why are we trying to block them?

President Trump has spent a great deal of time railing against immigrants, and working hard to stem the flow of immigration to the US.

But when did anyone start to believe that immigration is a bad thing?

From an economic perspective, immigrants bring so much to their host countries:

  • they provide useful labor in jobs that most native first worlders do not wish to perform
  • they provide funds back to the country in which they reside
  • they add greatly to our fabric in many ways

As the latest immigration debacle unfolds, one must ask —

With unemployment rates at an 18 Year Low — when we have More Open Jobs than Unemployed Workers for the first time since the US Department of Labor began recording in 2000 — is this really the time to restrict immigration & denigrate foreign nationals?

Immigrants help our economy

In 2017 the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine put out a study called The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration.

The document – which was an update of one done in 1995- found that immigration has a positive effect on the economy.

Highlights of the study include the following:

  • While fears of immigration often include that they are “taking jobs and money away from US citizens,” the long-term impact of immigration on the wages and employment of native-born workers overall is very small.
  • Any negative impact on wages were most likely to be found for prior immigrants who had become naturalized, or native-born high school dropouts.
  • Immigration enlarges the economy while leaving the native population better off, on average.
  • Highly skilled immigrants with university degrees and specialized skills that benefit the economy through innovation and entrepreneurship drive up wages and job opportunities for both immigrants and US citizens.

Programs like DACA provide a path for immigrants to become integrated, contributing and tax paying members of our society, as well as adding to our general wellbeing.

In fact as I wrote about in another post about DACA , recent research  by the Center for American Progress shows that cancellation of DACA would reduce the gross domestic product of the US by 433 billion in ten years!

Unemployment at a record low — now is not the time to block immigration

This spring saw the unemployment rates drop to an 18-year low to below 4%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May 2018 that there are an estimated 27.4 million foreign born workers currently working in the US. Almost half of those immigrant workers are Hispanic, and are more likely to be employed in service occupations, but not managerial or professional. And the median income for foreign born workers was $730 per week, as compared to $885 per week for US citizens or second generation immigrants.

What does this mean?

Those workers are meeting a need for lower paid service and menial work. They are not “taking jobs away from Americans.”

Instead, they are filling a gap in the economy that most US citizens would not be able to handle.

At the same time, higher educated and skilled immigrants create jobs and build the economy.

The final conclusion of the Economics and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration found that “the prospects for long run economic growth in the United States would be considerably dimmed without the contributions of high-skilled immigrants.”

Immigration has always been a positive phenomenon.  Obviously we need to be aware of who we are letting into our country, but in the last 18 months, we have seen unnecessary and drastic measures taken to harm both (a) legal immigration and (b) means by which the undocumented avail themselves of proper, lawful status.

On the whole, our immigrants are an important part of our economy, let alone our cultural fabric.

Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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