Immigration issue is economic issue

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By GENE H. McINTYRE

There is much in this country over which we divide ourselves.  Think guns, abortion, global warming, warring overseas, the environment, conservation, and a whole host of other matters that end-up “heating” people to the boiling point while acts of violence more and more often occur over who’s right.

One issue that could unite us is immigration.  Yes, many among us consider the conversion of so-called illegals to fast-track status, ultimately leading to citizenship, without returning to country of origin to apply for it and wait in line, is not in our best interest, while others, perhaps of “cooler” mind, see this action as a means by which assimilation can take place, as “about time.”  It is then, to some, the means by which to make the guesstimated 11 million undocumented into “whole” Americans, a victory for human dignity.

In the meantime, it is argued that increased immigration boosts the U.S. economy.  For example, Hamilton Project research has found that immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start new businesses than native-born Americans and also, among them, to secure patents.  Further, it’s reported that 25 percent of recently-established, new high-tech companies have been founded by the foreign-born, earning each in the $1 million range of sales.

Most Americans are keen on job development, motivated in their thoughts on the subject by our chronic plus or minus 8 percent unemployment.  One study by an economics professor at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, found that for every additional 100 foreign-born workers in science and technology, 252 additional jobs were made available for U.S. natives.

The labor of low-skill immigrants has been found to help significantly with the cost of food, homes and child care.  Often, too, living standards can rise as more native-born women can afford to work outside the home.

Immigrants are doing quite well at assimilating, too, with almost all the children of immigrants from Africa and Asia speaking English as more than 90 percent of the children of Latin American immigrants do.  It has been determined also that while new immigrants usually start out disproportionately in common labor and food-service work, by their second and third generations they are little different in the labor force from the native-born.

Then there’s the carry-your-own-weight concern where it’s “conventional wisdom” that the states and localities must spend precious tax dollars to educate and health care them.  This has been determined true at the beginning of their arrival; yet, ultimately, they pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits.  The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has determined that giving the current illegal immigrants a way to citizenship would increase the taxes they pay by $48 billion and increase the cost of public services they use by $23 billion, establishing a surplus amount in the $25 billion range.

Another study on a related issue by the Economic Policy Institute reports that the wages of most low-skill workers are probably not significantly affected by the immigrants.  It has been shown according to the Institute that the immigrant workers usually do not directly compete with the native-born, and often, too, enable the native-born to move up into jobs that require more communication knowledge from having been born and raised in the U.S.

Believe it or not, with the aging populations of the industrialized nations, there’s a somewhat low-key competition to win the global talent race.  Over the last decade, it has become known, more than half of the world’s nations have as national policy to increase their immigrant numbers, especially for highly skilled immigrants, many of which the U.S. now trains and educates but who are asked to leave after they graduate.

At present, we are below the successful immigrant numbers nations like Australia and Canada attract.  We are on par with France and Germany.  Our immigrant entrepreneurs are not active in high-tech startups anything like those either in Australia and Canada.

We’ve always considered ourselves superior to our neighbor to the north and that ally of ours that is a continent in its own right.  Yet, the facts lead to the conclusion that we are stagnating and need to build on our once self-proclaimed but proven-true-standing as the most dynamic economic engine in the world.  We could also do much better at tailoring immigrant intake to regional labor markets that favor high-skill workers, something Canada does exemplarily well.

In the meantime, as is the desire of those in D.C. who favor immigration reform, we need to control our borders much, much better and require our institutions, agencies, businesses, large and small, and our corporations to hire only documented workers: Conditions of entry and employment that are done so much more effectively by the vast majority of countries overseas.  Meanwhile here, if we proceed as we have done so over the past several years, doing hit –and-miss work for the most part on our borders and allowing, often without even light slaps on the wrist for violations, those who hire anyone regardless of citizenship or green card status, then we’ll continue to do what we’ve always done and thereby most likely get what we’ve always got.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)

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