Public Displeasure With Immigration Misses Benefits That Newcomers Bring

By | Immigration Policy, News & Press | No Comments

Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans are dissatisfied with the nation’s immigration levels. A majority of those who are dissatisfied call for a decrease in immigration levels. Concerns over immigration levels in the United States usually focus on the purported negative impact immigrants have on the nation’s labor market and entitlement programs. Plenty of evidence, however, points to the exact opposite reality.

The latest Gallup Poll shows that 60 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with immigration levels in this country. That figure is up six percentage points from 2014, but lower than the high-water mark of 72 percent, which was set in 2008.

The timing of the record dissatisfaction level is telling. In 2008, the nation sank into its worst recession since the Great Depression, with unemployment swelling, businesses failing and a swooning stock market battering retirement savings. As a result, advocates for reduced immigration frequently repeat that immigrants (supposedly) flood a weak labor market and thus make it harder for Americans to find work. They also claim that immigration booms depress wages, and that immigrants lean heavily on social services such as welfare.

There may be a limited truth to effects on the labor market and social services, but the impact is decidedly short-term. The longer-term impact of cutting immigration levels would be much greater — and overwhelmingly negative. According to the White House, the U.S. economy would lose $80 billion in economic output, the nation’s deficits would grow by $40 billion over the next 10 years, and the Social Security Trust Fund would be shortchanged $50 billion if the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants are not granted a path to citizenship.

By contrast, a 2013 Center for American Progress study concluded that providing legal status to undocumented immigrants living in the United States would increase the gross domestic product by $832 billion over 10 years. In addition, researchers predicted that the total personal income of all Americans would increase by $470 billion during the same period.

Especially now that the U.S. economy has revived, with unemployment levels dropping to pre-recession levels, the increasing demand for labor has not always been satisfied. The agricultural sector, with its heavy reliance on immigrant farm workers, and the technology sector, with its demand for highly skilled foreign-born workers, are two notably hard-hit industries.

But perhaps the biggest argument for immigration concerns the long-term need to keep the nation’s entitlement programs financially sound. A shrinking labor pool is bad enough, but one that is aging at the same time is even worse. The U.S. population itself is aging, but the nation has been very good at attracting young immigrants to help balance the labor market, to increase payments to entitlement programs such as Social Security and to keep retirement ages from being raised even more than they already have been.

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In Wake of Executive Action, Focus Falls on Arrests for Immigration Offenses

By | Immigration Policy, News & Press | No Comments

In November, President Obama announced that he was taking executive action to defer the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants. His decision may have set a new direction for immigration policy in the United States. And if it is allowed to stand, it will be interesting to see how the president’s measures impacts federal law enforcement efforts to deal with immigration offenses.

Judging by the most recent available statistics, any departure from current policy on deportations would be significant. The latest Justice Department analysis shows that immigration offenses made up almost exactly half of all federal arrests made in 2012. More specifically, out of a total of 172,248 suspects who were arrested for a federal offense, 85,458 (or 49.6 percent) were booked for immigration offenses, such as illegal entry, illegal re-entry, alien smuggling and visa fraud.

The newest, preliminary data suggest that the pace of arrests did not slow in either 2013 or 2014. Indeed, the newer figures show that arrests for illegal entry and illegal re-entry picked up over the last two years. The number of arrests for immigration offenses have been on a steady upward trajectory since 8,777 federal immigration arrests were recorded in 1994. And the previous high was set in 2009, when 84,749 people were booked.

According to the philosophy that the White House shared when the president announced his executive action on immigration, the administration would be targeting “felons, not families” for deportation, shielding up to five million undocumented immigrants from an expedited exit from the United States. And it is probably safe to say that those who would be considered families are heavily concentrated among the 60 percent of undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States for 10 years or longer.

If put into action, the decision to defer deportations could translate into a measurable drop in federal convictions. Immigration offenses have fueled the bulk of growth in the total number of felons sentenced in courts — 48 percent, as opposed to the second leading contributing factor, convictions for drug offenses, which were responsible for 22 percent of the growth.

But a significant drop in in the number of deportation proceedings could have perhaps its biggest and most beneficial impact on the Treasury. Estimates claim that it costs $8,318 to deport an immigrant. Multiply that figure by the conservative number of four million undocumented immigrants whose deportation would be deferred under the president’s measures, and one would be talking about some serious savings — $33.272 billion, to be exact.

And going one major step further, if none of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants were deported from the United States, the country would save $91.498 billion, which is quite a tidy sum, indeed.

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