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Advantages Of Illegal Immigration Research Papers

There are few subjects that evoke as much emotion as immigration reform, especially since future laws could result in a path to citizenship for over 11 million illegal immigrants.

When analyzed from the vantage point of information derived from reputable, nonpartisan sources (the Pew Research Center, USDA, United States Department of Labor, and leading economists and researchers) then one can obtain a clearer view of this muddled discussion. The truth of the matter is that illegal immigrants are important to the U.S. economy, as well as vital to certain industries like agriculture.

According to the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project, there were 8.4 million unauthorized immigrants employed in the U.S.; representing 5.2 percent of the U.S. labor force (an increase from 3.8 percent in 2000). Their importance was highlighted in a report by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs that stated, “Without the undocumented population, Texas’ work force would decrease by 6.3 percent” and Texas’ gross state product would decrease by 2.1 percent.  Furthermore, certain segments of the U.S. economy, like agriculture, are entirely dependent upon illegal immigrants.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that, “about half of the hired workers employed in U.S. crop agriculture were unauthorized, with the overwhelming majority of these workers coming from Mexico.” The USDA has also warned that, “any potential immigration reform could have significant impacts on the U.S. fruit and vegetable industry.” From the perspective of National Milk Producers Federation in 2009, retail milk prices would increase by 61 percent if its immigrant labor force were to be eliminated. 

Echoing the Department of Labor, the USDA, and the National Milk Producers Federation, agricultural labor economist James S. Holt made the following statement to Congress in 2007: “The reality, however, is that if we deported a substantial number of undocumented farm workers, there would be a tremendous labor shortage.”

In terms of overall numbers, The Department of Labor reports that of the 2.5 million farm workers in the U.S., over half (53 percent) are illegal immigrants. Growers and labor unions put this figure at 70 percent.

But what about the immense strain on social services and money spent on welfare for these law breakers? The Congressional Budget Office in 2007 answered this question in the following manner: “Over the past two decades, most efforts to estimate the fiscal impact of immigration in the United States have concluded that, in aggregate and over the long term, tax revenues of all types generated by immigrants—both legal and unauthorized—exceed the cost of the services they use.”  According to the New York Times, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration claims that undocumented workers have contributed close to 10% ($300 billion) of the Social Security Trust Fund.

Finally, the aggregate economic impact of illegal immigration is debatable, but any claim that they’ve ruined the country doesn’t correlate to the views of any notable economist. An open letter to President George W. Bush in 2006, signed by around five hundred economists (including five Nobel laureates) stated the following:  “While a small percentage of native-born Americans may be harmed by immigration, vastly more Americans benefit from the contributions that immigrants make to our economy, including lower consumer prices.”

Although Harvard economist Jorge Borjas has stated that illegal immigrants from 1980-2000 have reduced the wages of high school dropouts in the U.S, he also states that the average American’s wealth has increased by 1 percent because of illegal immigration. In an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times, UC Davis economist Giovanni Peri stated that new laws are needed to meet demands within industries like construction, agriculture, and hospitality: “In recent decades, the high demand for these services and the pressure for keeping their cost low and prices competitive have generated incentives to hire undocumented workers.”

Some people claim that illegal immigrants represent an assault on our sovereignty. If this is true, then it might be the first time in world history that a country has employed its invaders. When illegal immigrants cross the border, there’s a citizen waiting to hire them and benefit in some manner from their labor. The sooner our country realizes that immigration reform should be based upon the views of economists and nonpartisan academic researchers, rather than think tanks and radio show hosts, then Congress will finally be able to help solve this national dilemma.  

Goodman is an author and journalist.

This ideological schism has shaped the current presidential election as well as ongoing congressional debates. Democrats have become increasingly pro-immigration while Republican voters and many members of Congress generally stand in opposition. It is this split that lies at the core of the contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Clinton described the principles underlying her position on immigration in a speech she gave in North Las Vegas last year:

If we claim we are for family, then we have to pull together and resolve the outstanding issues around our broken immigration system. The American people support comprehensive immigration reform not just because it’s the right thing to do — and it is — but because they know it strengthens families, strengthens our economy, and strengthens our country.

The principles underlying Trump’s position are diametrically opposed to those of Clinton. On his website, Trump declares:

When politicians talk about “immigration reform” they mean: amnesty, cheap labor and open borders. The Schumer-Rubio immigration bill was nothing more than a giveaway to the corporate patrons who run both parties. Real immigration reform puts the needs of working people first – not wealthy globetrotting donors. We are the only country in the world whose immigration system puts the needs of other nations ahead of our own.

Trump supporters, who are 87 percent white, are substantially more hostile to immigrants than the general public. A Pew study in August found that two thirds of Trump loyalists describe immigration as a “very big problem.” Half of Trump voters believe immigrants “are more likely than American citizens to commit serious crimes,” a figure that rises to 59 percent among his strongest supporters. In terms of work, 35 percent of Trump voters say immigrants take jobs from Americans, compared with 24 percent of all voters.

A March 2016 Pew poll found that a majority of all voters, 57 percent, said immigrants strengthen the country through hard work, compared with 20 percent of Trump voters. Thirty-five percent of all voters said immigrants burden the country “by taking jobs, housing and health care,” compared with 69 percent of Trump supporters.

The accompanying chart from the book “Polarized America” by the political scientists Nolan McCarty, Keith T. Poole and Howard Rosenthal illustrates the linkage between immigration and political polarization. The chart shows that over the period from 1879 to 2013, divisions between House Democrats and Republicans rose when the level of immigration was high and dropped when the level fell.

The intensity of the conflict over immigration is on view in the contrasting arguments of pro- and anti- immigration forces on a relatively obscure issue, remittances sent by immigrants to their families in their native countries.

Conservative organizations seeking to reduce immigration levels argue that remittances are a drain on the American economy. Limits To Growth, for example, describes remittances as money “strip-mined from the United States by foreign workers” that could have been used for productive investment in this country.

The academy’s report disputes that claim, citing studies showing that very small adverse economic consequences result from remittances, and numerous benefits, including

having a substantial and important role in moving funds from rich to poor countries, which is needed to speed up global growth and reduce cross-country inequality and possibly also international migration.

The views of Pia Orrenius, vice president and senior economist at the Dallas Federal Reserve, reveal the complications of the politics of immigration. Orrenius served on the National Academy of Sciences panel that produced the report and she makes the case that the “Benefits of Immigration Outweigh the Costs:”

Immigration fuels the economy. When immigrants enter the labor force, they increase the productive capacity of the economy and raise GDP.” In addition, she continued, “immigrants grease the wheels of the labor market by flowing into industries and areas where there is a relative need for workers — where bottlenecks or shortages might otherwise damp growth. When immigrants enter the labor force, they increase the productive capacity of the economy and raise GDP.

But, Orrenius acknowledges there are downsides. Immigration

lowers the wages of competing workers, while raising the return to capital and the wages of complementary workers. In other words, the immigration surplus does not accrue equally to everyone. It goes primarily to the owners of capital, which includes business and landowners and investors.

Orrenius points out where the disadvantages of immigration primarily accrue:

Competing workers’ wages fall, at least in the initial transition period as the economy adjusts to the new labor inflow. Research suggests that previous immigrants suffer more of the adverse wage effects than do natives. Research also suggests any negative wage effects are concentrated among low-skilled — not high-skilled — workers.

This conclusion, which is supported by many of the empirical studies included in the report, goes to the heart of a Democratic dilemma, which the party rarely addresses publicly.

On one hand, support for liberalized immigration policies, including a path to legal status and citizenship for the undocumented, is crucial to winning support from Hispanic voters. A majority of Latino voters have relatives, friends and co-workers who are in this country illegally and who live in fear of deportation.

Among Democrats of all ethnicities and races, support for immigration and immigrants has risen steadily.

Pew Research found in August that 78 percent of Democrats agreed with the statement that immigrants “strengthen the country through hard work,” a view shared by 35 percent of Republicans. 88 percent of Democrats said undocumented immigrants should be granted legal status to stay in the United States.

At the same time, however, the costs of liberal immigration policies are borne most heavily by two key Democratic constituencies. Both are current targets of voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives: recent immigrants to this county and all workers without high school degrees, a group that is majority minority, 29.5 percent African-American and 35.2 percent Hispanic.

The economic winners from rising immigration levels are closely associated with the establishment wing of the Republican Party: “businesses and landowners and investors,” as Orrenius noted. It is just this wing that Trump ran against during the primaries.

The National Academy notes the tension between winners and losers throughout the report:

The arrival of immigrants raises the overall income of the native population that absorbs them: the immigration surplus. This surplus is directly related to the degree to which immigration changes wages and returns to capital. In the simplest models, the more wages decline, the larger the surplus.

There is, however, no agreement on the scope or size of the lost wages resulting from immigration.

Jennifer Hunt, a professor of economics at Rutgers and a member of the academy panel, wrote in an email that “what we did not come to a consensus about was a number for the wage decrease experienced by native high school dropouts.”

Not only was there no consensus on the academy panel on the size of the wage loss among native-born high school graduates, among immigration scholars there is a sharp debate over whether there is any loss at all.

George Borjas, an economist at Harvard and also a member of the academy panel, is a leading proponent of the argument that immigration produces substantial wage losses for native-born American workers, especially high school dropouts.

In a 2007 paper, “The Evolution of the Mexican-born Workforce in the United States,” Borjas, writing with Lawrence Katz, also a professor of economics at Harvard, argued that:

Economic theory implies that immigration should lower the wage of competing workers and increase the wage of complementary workers. For example, an influx of foreign-born laborers reduces the economic opportunities for laborers — all laborers now face stiffer competition in the labor market. At the same time, high-skill natives may gain substantially. They pay less for the services that laborers provide, such as painting the house and mowing the lawn, and natives who hire these laborers can now specialize in producing the goods and services that better suit their skills.

Borjas separately concluded that all high-school dropouts experience a substantial wage loss from immigration of 6.3 percent in the short run and 3.1 percent over the long haul as labor markets adjust to the increased number of workers.

Katz said in an email exchange that his more recent work with Claudia Goldin, also a Harvard economist, has convinced him “that immigration is at most a small contributor to the awful real and relative wage performance of U.S. high school dropouts,” whose relative wages “fell by 40 percent compared to college graduates” from 1980 to the early 2000s.

Katz’s bottom line:

The effects of immigration range from 0 to a few percentage points and are swamped by the impacts of slowdown in U.S. education supplies, technological change, and eroding labor market institutions (unions, minimum wages, rising outsourcing/fissuring of the workplace).

David Card, an economist at the University of California-Berkeley, disputes Borjas’s argument and contends that immigration inflicts little or no wage penalty on American workers and may in fact boost wages.

In an email exchange, Card wrote that his own research suggests that the effect of immigration on native-born workers without high school degrees “is zero.”

While the most common assumption is that a larger work force drives down wages, in practice, “when you look at the evidence, larger population normally increases productivity,” Card wrote.

For the immediate future, this and other issues involving immigration will not be resolved within academia, but litigated in the political arena. Governments everywhere will be challenged to better steer the transnational flow of populations. Still, I believe the future direction of immigration is clear.

If the anti-immigration forces gain ground in this election, such victories will prove short-lived. For one thing, the rise in global trade and financial transactions has been steady over the past 35 years.

Robert Shiller, the Nobel Prize-winning economist at Yale, maps out the probable future in his Sept. 19 essay, “The Coming Anti-National Revolution”:

For the past several centuries, the world has experienced a sequence of intellectual revolutions against oppression of one sort or another. These revolutions operate in the minds of humans and are spread – eventually to most of the world – not by war (which tends to involve multiple causes), but by language and communications technology. Ultimately, the ideas they advance – unlike the causes of war – become noncontroversial.

“As technology reduces the cost of transportation and communications to near the vanishing point, achieving this equalization is increasingly feasible. But getting there requires removing old barriers and preventing the erection of new ones,” Shiller writes, concluding that

Ultimately, the next revolution will likely stem from daily interactions on computer monitors with foreigners whom we can see are intelligent, decent people – people who happen, through no choice of their own, to be living in poverty.

Before we get there, though, this year’s candidates have made irreconcilable proposals on immigration.

Trump, in “Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again”:

I want good people to come here from all over the world, but I want them to do so legally. We can expedite the process, we can reward achievement and excellence, but we have to respect the legal process. And those people who take advantage of the system and come here illegally should never enjoy the benefits of being a resident — or citizen — of this nation. So I am against any path to citizenship for undocumented workers or anyone else who is in this country illegally. They should — and need to — go home and get in line.

Clinton was more succinct:

If you work hard, if you love this country, if you contribute to it, and want nothing more than to build a good future for yourselves and your children, we should give you a way to come forward and become a citizen. And you know what? The majority of Americans agree. They know it’s the right thing to do.

The outcome on Nov. 8 will not settle this dispute, but it will give us some indication of where those who support what they see as enlightened immigration policies stand as they face those who seek to restore a lost past.

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