Immigration is a hot-button issue, to be sure. But at the end of the day, the dollars and cents of immigration reform — sometimes called “amnesty” — mean that it would benefit everyone to pass meaningful changes to the system in the interest of economic growth.
The details of border security are important to some, and the “path to citizenship” idea is anathema to others who see reforms as a reward to those who got here illegally. These are fair points of debate, yes, but at the end of the day I believe the economic benefits tip the scales clearly in favor of reform despite other concerns.
Here are five reasons why:
Immigration Saves Social Security: Even the conservative editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal call immigration reform “A $4.6 Trillion Opportunity,” and state that “higher post-reform levels of immigration would mean an extra $600 billion into the [Social Security] trust fund to about $4.6 trillion over 75 years.” Critics warn of the drag on government programs, but creating a system that causes them to pay into the tax coffers prevents them from being a drag on the system — and helps fix the demographic problem of too many older retirees and not enough workers to support them via Social Security taxes.
Immigration Grows U.S. GDP: The Congressional Budget Office estimates the current Senate immigration reform bill will increase real GDP relative to current projections by 3.3% in 2023 and 5.4% in 2033 — adding roughly $700 billion in 2023 and $1.4 trillion in 2033 in today’s dollars. That’s a lot of productivity.
Immigration Doesn’t Steal Jobs: According to a 2010 report by the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan group focused on immigration and emigration trends worldwide, “there is only very limited evidence of crowding-out of natives in the workforce by immigrants. In the short run (one to two years) the results imply a small negative effect on native employment, but the estimates are not significantly different from zero.”
Immigration Actually Makes Natives Wealthier: Furthermore, in addition to having a neutral short-term affect, it’s actually good for native workers over time. MPI states that “immigration has a positive long-run effect on the average income of native workers” and that over 10 years “a net inflow of immigrants equal to 1 percent of employment increase income per worker by 0.26 percent.”
It’s the Right Thing to Do: We are a nation of immigrants and a plural society. That’s why America is great. While it’s uncomfortable for some white males to think of themselves as part of a declining demographic group that will ultimately lose political and cultural influence … it’s a reality whether we pass immigration or not.
Let’s send the right message by forging a future that works for everyone rather than just clinging to the models of decades and centuries past. As former President George W. Bush said recently, “I hope, during the debate, we keep a benevolent spirit in mind, and we understand the contributions immigrants make to our country.”
We can and should debate various parts of this bill, and if the House has tweaks, that’s fine by me. But failure or obstructionism due to politicking is a bad result for the economy — regardless of what you think about immigrants and immigration.
- Immigration reform is headed for a “slow death …” but is Boehner pushing the bill behind closed doors to his colleagues? (Politico)
- “The Impact of Immigrants in Recession and Economic Expansion,” a great in-depth report. (Migration Policy Institute)
- From the Executive Office of the President, a report on “The Economic Benefit of Fixing Our Broken Immigration System.” (WhiteHouse.gov)
- On the other side: a Republican Congressman makes the case for why the current bill is a bad idea. (MSNBC)
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com and the author of “The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks.” Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP.