Friday, June 22, 2007

Immigration a net plus


The White House's Council of Economic Advisors has -- unsurprisingly, given the White House's support for some sort of guest-worker program -- come out with a report that shows immigration provides net benefits to the United States and its citizens.

Among other things, they say immigrants don't depress the wages of native-born citizens, have a lower crime rate than native-born citizens, are more likely to be entrepreneurial, assimilate quickly and boost the solvency of entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, because immigrants tend to be young (and illegal immigrants contribute but will never collect).

Some of the data is striking, such as the observation that while 72% of first-generation Latino immigrants speak Spanish as their first language, only 7% of their kids do. This supports what I've often said, that judging assimilation requires a generational view and by that measure is quite robust.

But beyond broad observations like that -- and obvious macroeconomic principles like the fact that our aging workforce and growing retiree population benefits from an influx of young workers -- the conclusions of the report require a big grain of salt as far as how it applies to the immigration debate.

That's because it lumps legal and illegal immigrants together. Which is fair when discussing the net effect of immigration. But the immigration debate tends to revolve around illegal immigration; outside of extreme nativists and xenophobes, most people agree that legal immigration is one of our strengths.

This report not only fails to address that distinction, it distorts the picture because legal immigrants tend to have higher incomes, more education and be more likely to assimilate than illegal immigrants -- many of whom are poor, poorly educated and have no legal avenue to become citizens and thus limited incentive to assimilate.

What it does do, however, is show that a big part of any immigration reform must include a sharply higher quota of legal immigrants.

#1, we have the room; a recent piece on NPR noted that if the United States had the same population density as England, our entire population would fit in Texas.

#2, as this report demonstrates, legal immigrants strongly benefit the country.

And #3, offering would-be immigrants a realistic chance of entering the United States legally will cut down on the incentives to try to enter illegally.



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1 Comments:

Blogger Becky said...

To stay up to date on Immigration Reform Legislation, visit: Congressional Votes on Immigration Reform

For more information please visit Project Vote Smart or call our hotline at 1-888-VOTE-SMART.

6/22/2007 4:14 PM  

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