The New York Times: “Actually, the Numbers Show That We Need More Immigration, Not Less.”

by Joseph McKeown


That America is being overwhelmed by a flood of immigrants has become conventional wisdom for some. Remarking on undocumented immigration and border security President Trump claimed last November that, among many other negatives, “Illegal immigration hurts American workers; burdens American taxpayers; and undermines public safety.” Many immigration experts and analysts, including Shikha Dalmia, a senior analyst at Reason Foundation, argue however that the idea that America is experiencing mass immigration is a myth. In America today, there are about 44 million foreign-born people who now constitute about 13.7 percent of the population, according to the Pew Research Foundation. Recent United Nations figures show that the United States netted five new immigrants (documented and undocumented) per 1,000 people from 2015 to 2017. Comparatively, Canada let in eight per every 1,000, and Australia fourteen. All in all, the foreign-born are about 13.7 percent in the United States as compared to over twenty percent  of the population in Canada and 28.2 percent of Australia’s. 

The reality is that maintaining a healthy pace of immigration sustains a country’s work force and economic health, Dalmia writes in the New York Times. Canada’s immigration minister, Ahmed Hussen, who originally migrated to Canada as a Somali refugee, says: "Immigrants and their descendants have made immeasurable contributions to Canada, and our future success depends on continuing to ensure they are welcomed and well-integrated." Indeed, Hussen is responsible for the 2018 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration which states: "Growing immigration levels, particularly in the Economic Class, will help us sustain our labor force, support economic growth and spur innovation.” In the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2018, Canada ranked 12th overall, with a perfect score of 100 for macroeconomic stability, as well as among the top countries with the most diverse workforces.

At the current rate that America is admitting immigrants, the total work force is projected to grow only 0.3 percent per year, Dalmia writes. Jack Goldstone, a political demographer at George Mason University points out that unless American birthrates suddenly increase and expand the workforce or the productivity of current workforce is doubled, the United States will face real G.D.P. growth of less than 1.6 percent per year in less than a decade. (The ideal GDP growth rate is two to three percent). Realistically, America should be admitting a million more immigrants per year, Dalmia argues. Even if the US admitted more than a million immigrants per year, she says, this would still not add up to so-called “mass immigration” because it would put America’s foreign-born population at around twenty-six percent per year, still less than Australia’s.

While the government continues its partial shutdown as the debate on the border wall continues, Treb Allen, a professor of economics, and his colleagues at Stanford University recently published a report that speaks directly to that debate. The report found the total effect of wall expansion on the US/Mexico border between 2007 and 2010 reduced the number of Mexican citizens living in the United States by 0.6 percent, or roughly 82,600 people. Allen says this decrease in migration negatively impacts the US economy. “There’s no evidence that we find in the data that even the small reduction of the number of Mexican workers living in the U.S. has a large positive impact on the wages of U.S. workers,” he writes. Given the current 13.7 percent foreign-born in America figure, a figure that is lower than Canada and Australia,  Dalmia argues: “If it were indeed a tipping point, countries would regularly experience a backlash once the immigrant population approached that level. That is far from the case.”