Some of the Benefits of Immigration

In Immigration, International politics, Labor, Laws & Regulation, US Politics on October 26, 2006 at 10:00 am

Just this morning, Bush signed a bill:

Authorizing 700 miles of new fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, legislation that has fueled controversy over illegal immigration less than two weeks before crucial midterm elections…

By signing the bill, Bush will give GOP candidates a pre-election platform for asserting they’re tough on illegal immigration. Yet the centerpiece of his immigration policy, a guest worker program, remains stalled in Congress…

Its cost is not known, although a homeland security spending measure the president signed earlier this month makes a $1.2 billion down payment on the project. The money also can be used for access roads, vehicle barriers, lighting, high-tech equipment and other tools to secure the border…

Others have doubts about its effectiveness.

“A fence will slow people down by a minute or two, but if you don’t have the agents to stop them it does no good. We’re not talking about some impenetrable barrier,” T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, a union representing Border Patrol agents, said Wednesday.

In light of this, it would be good to look at anohter side of immigration. Amy Taylor over at the DMI blog wrote up a great piece yesterday about some of the ovelooked benefits of immigration.

She says:

High-skilled immigrant workers are crucial to our place as a competitor in the world economy. Since 1990 more than half the U.S. Nobel laureates in the sciences were foreign-born. One in five doctors are foreign-born, along with two of every five medical scientists, one of every five computer specialists, one of every six persons in engineering or science occupations, one of every four astronomers, physicists, chemical, and material scientists, and one of every six biological scientists. Since currently there is no direct route for high-skilled visa holders to stay permanently they may be pulled to other places who are actively recruiting such high-skilled workers. All of this talk of border security does not address how our economy and global competitiveness would be put at risk were we to lose our immigrants.

No one is talking about how we need immigrants to maintain our country’s economic growth either. Our economy relies on immigrants as workers, entrepreneurs, consumers and taxpayers whose taxes support our schools, hospitals and public services. Immigrants work in every sector of the economy. Immigrant consumers stimulate demand for products produced in our economy. No one is talking about what we would do in this idealized world without immigrants when the baby boom generation retires. Immigrants are, on average, younger and have more children than the native born. We will increasingly rely on them to support our aging population. We need them to keep our Social Security system robust. Immigrants are also crucial consumers in the housing market making up 12% of first-time homebuyers in 2001. Many other industrialized nations are now facing the dilemma of how they will support their own aging populations –but we are “younging” as we age, according to William H. Frey a well-known demographer, and immigrants are to thank for that. While immigrants are told daily to be grateful they are here, we are not hearing about how grateful we should be that they are.

All of this is good to think about. We often talk about immigrants doing jobs in the service industries that Americans don’t want to do, but we rarely think about them doing jobs that Americans can’t do – which is the case more often than one might think. People are so caught up in the image of the “illegal” immigrants and border hopping that they fail to see the more complex sides to the issue.


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