Do immigrants help the economy? Yes! Here’s how

  • The United States is one of the greatest countries in the world, and in no small part from its long history of immigration. This country was built by immigrants, and immigrants continue to enrich our country on a yearly basis. This past year the United States had a total of 44,788,044 immigrants. While that may sound like a lot, it only represents 13.6% of the total population. 

    From an economic perspective, immigrants bring so much to the United States:

    • 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
    • they pay 492.4B in taxes
    • and they bring $1.3T in spending power to the table

    As the latest immigration debacle unfolds, one must ask —

    At a current rate of 3.6%,  unemployment rates are still at an 18 Year Low — while we continue to have More Open Jobs than Unemployed Workers since the US Department of Labor began recording in 2000 — it seems clear that continuing to ease legal immigration into the US is the path forward.

    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 a report done in 1995- found that immigration has a very 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 was 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!

    The Latest Fortune 500 list is full of immigrants

    Immigrants are not only filling lower income jobs that many Americans don’t want, they are also creating jobs, businesses, and wealth at the top tier. According to the latest Fortune 500 list, 1 in 5 Fortune 500 companies were started by an immigrant. If you include the children of immigrants, the list swells to represent over 40% of all Fortune 500 companies.

    Each of these companies was found to employ an average of 67,580 workers per company – and new immigrant companies employed an average of 20% more employees than non immigrant companies, in over 68 different fields.

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

    Since 2019,  the unemployment rates have dropped to an 18-year low  – 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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