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Editorial: We Don’t Need to Restrict Immigration

Mat Adler, Staff Writer

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For decades, the United States has focused a large portion of its foreign policy around immigration.

Bill Clinton celebrated the diversity added by immigrants, Bush wanted more migrant workers, and Obama provided pathways to citizenship for over six million immigrants. But these provisions have always come at a cost: Clinton beefed up the US-Mexico border, Bush created the notorious human rightsabusing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Obama deported record numbers of immigrants. Across this time, the rhetoric surrounding immigration has usually amounted to much of the same: that we should accept productive people who will make our nation richer, while keeping out those who would weigh down the economy or bring crime. Both of these attitudes are in some way racist; the former because it assumes that people have to work well to earn a place, and the latter because it inevitably ends in generalizing entire peoples as their lowest stereotypes.

The simple fact is that there’s a clear solution to our immigration debate, and it’s necessary to accept the fact that we need immigrants. We need a steady influx of people coming to the United States, and it needs to be easy for them to become citizens. There are clear moral reasons to support this, but the basic fact that immigrants are vital to the existence of our nation is a good one for the morally bankrupt.

Any given population needs to have a fertility rate (births per woman) of at least 2.0 to avoiding shrinking. Several Western nations are below that, most notably Japan and Germany, who are both experiencing massive labor shortages. Despite a comparable native fertility rate, the United States has avoiding this problem entirely due to a consistent supply of migrant workers. Without them, the US economy would be experiencing an extreme recession.

The economy isn’t just maintained by immigrants, though — it’s actually grown by them. Despite upfront costs, studies have shown that immigrants in the workforce provide substantial long-term benefits. Politicians are quick to mention the increased stress new immigrants place on government systems, but the labor and consumption of immigrants often goes overlooked. In addition, regions that receive an influx of immigrants into their workforce usually see a rise in their average wages. This runs contrary to the popular belief that immigrants take away jobs from the native population, though it is more than likely that some are hurt by competition from migrant workers. This is all explained by immigrants creating an increase in unskilled labor, which frees up more skilled workers to specialize, meaning more people get higher salaries and resulting in an increase in consumption of products, enticing more production and more hiring. In fact, immigrants are more productive than native workers on average. And there’s no reason to doubt that the economy would grow even more if migrant workers were allowed citizenship so their labor could be regulated, curbing the abuses of the immigrant-dominated southern farms.

Of course, there are non-economics-related reasons to allow easy immigration. Immigrants add diversity and culture to our society, and quickly assimilate into the population. They’re less likely to become criminals than natural-born citizens. Most of all, it’s our moral obligation to accept them. We’ve been born into a country where even the poorest people are still better off than half of the world. We obviously did nothing to earn this privilege, and as such there’s no real reason to demand that prospective immigrants earn it themselves. (This is not to say that those whose backgrounds raise red flags should be allowed in, just that those who are clean should not have to jump through an absurd amount of hoops to earn citizenship.) Privilege is a subject that even the wealthiest Americans have difficulty talking about, in large part due to a culture that exalts rugged individualism and being “self-made”. But, if we don’t acknowledge our privilege, we can’t help those in need. People born into horrible situations and looking to improve their lives deserve the opportunity to do so.

In addition, slower and more restrictive immigration policies cost the government more than quicker ones. As prospective immigrants are held while awaiting approval, the government is paying for their detention and losing their contributions to the workforce and impeding their assimilation into society. The US government often does not want to pay for that, however, outsourcing the job to private prisons, resulting in countless human rights abuses towards detained immigrants. And measures taken to prevent immigration, such as the establishment of one of the most militarized borders in the world, only add to the bill that starts and too often ends with human life.

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