A Long Look at Immigration

Pandemic Diary Entry # 85

“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, not between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through the human heart.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

April 19, 2021

Immigration across the world has an image problem. Many argue that there are already too many immigrants in their country, they take jobs, or immigrants come here and go on welfare. These are falsehoods that are held across the world.

The overestimates are largest among specific groups: the least educated, workers in low-skill occupations with lots of immigrants, and those on the political right. They overstate the share of immigrants who are Muslim and understate the share of Christians. They underestimate immigrants’ education and overestimate both their poverty rate and their dependence on welfare.

Immigration experts and economists from a wide spectrum of ideological views agree that increasing immigration into the US is essential to our economy.

Even looking back one can see how America benefited from immigration. Between 1850 and 1920 US counties that had a higher immigration population now have higher average incomes, less poverty, and lower unemployment.

According to a study by the London School of Economics, The less-skilled immigrants provided the labor force necessary for industrial development. “A smaller number of immigrants brought with them knowledge, skills, and know-how that were beneficial for industry and increased productivity in agriculture.”

Thanks to that beneficial combination, “immigration led to early industrial development and long-run prosperity, which continues to persist until today.”

But what about now? We have an aging baby-boomer population that has the potential to wreak havoc on the American economy. Social Security and Medicare are paid for on a pay-as-you-go basis. What that means, is that workers today are paying the bills of retired boomers. Who will pay for the next generation if the population continues to dwindle? The future of Social Security’s solvency is contingent on population growth, therefore, it’s inexorably linked to immigration.

This is a new situation for Social Security. In 1980 there were 19 Americans 65 or older for every hundred Americans between 18 and 16. It is expected that by 2030 there will be 35 retirees to each 100 of working age. That number will climb to 42 by 2061. These numbers take into account the immigration that occurred between 1990 and 2010.

According to the US Census, during those 20 years, the number of foreign-born, (documented or not), people in the US was about 40 million. Despite, what sounds like a rather large number, it was not enough to make up for the decrease in birth rates, something that has been falling in the US since the 1970s.

To replace our dying population with newborns the fertility rate needs to be around 2.1 percent. In 2017 it was only 1.76 percent. That is in contrast to the baby boomer years when it was 3.7 percent. If birth rates continue to go down the money needed to sustain our social programs will be severely lacking.

There are no real easy ways out of this financial deficit that would be acceptable to most. The first is to drastically reduce retirement benefits, but that would be extremely difficult and highly unpopular. The second option is to increase those in the working world. The problem with that solution is that starting in 2000 the employment rates have fallen from 64.9% to 60.4% and that has not taken into account COVID.

Few are aware of how much undocumented workers pay into the Social Security and Medicare funds. A good portion of undocumented workers are working off a fake Social Security card. Few states require employment to be verified by the federal government’s e-verify system. These workers are not entitled to receive these monies when they retire, they are thrown in the big pot to help prop up the system.

According to New American Economy, undocumented immigrants contributed $13 billion into the Social Security funds in 2016 and $3 billion to Medicare. Three years prior, the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration, Stephen Goss, wrote a report that estimated undocumented immigrants contributed $12 billion into Social Security.

So how to people feel on the ground? In the 1990s Lewiston, Maine opened its arm to Somalis that were fleeing civil war. A bipartisan think tank has calculated that in 2018 Maine’s African immigrant households contributed $194 million in state and local taxes. Before this migration, Lewiston was a town of boarded-up storefronts and abandoned factories.

Pulitzer Prize winner and editor of Iowa’s Storm Lake Times, Art Cullen wrote in the New York Times about how immigrants are saving Stone Lake. “These Dreamers are our vitality, our future. They want to stay here with family, unlike so many of us who push our children off to Chicago or the Twin Cities. As our neighbors, they have prospered with our embrace. In our prairie pothole, a place glaciers left with natural abundance, nine out of 10 students at the elementary school are immigrants — the schools here are a micro-city where you can hear 30 languages.”

This is playing out across the US. Small towns that were on their last breath, are being revitalized by immigrants.

Everyone pays taxes in one form or another if they live in the US. There is a lot of conversation and just as much disagreement that first-generation migrants have less education and therefore earn less, thus contributing less in taxes. However, the second generation has a better net fiscal impact. Despite what generation we are discussing, in 2019 document and undocumented immigrants paid an estimated $492.4 billion in taxes.

A 2016 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, says: “Reflecting their slightly higher educational achievement, as well as their higher wages and salaries, the second generation contributed more in taxes on a per capita basis during working ages than did their parents or other native-born Americans.”

The Bush Center found that immigration only slightly lowers the wages of competing workers while increasing the wages of complementary workers. Complementary workers are natives that hold jobs such as supervisors, translators, and immigration lawyers.

Interestingly their research shows that previous immigrants suffer more than natives from the lower wages. This same study shows that the negative wage effect occurs primarily among low-skilled workers and not skilled workers.

These facts are backed up by a large collection of empirical economic studies (first summarized by Friedberg and Hunt in 1995, and then by Longhi et al. in 2005) that have shown that immigration has, at most, a very small effect on native wages and employment at both the local and the national level.

There are some consumer benefits as well. Immigrant labor can lower the prices of some goods and services, including child care, food preparation, house cleaning and repair, and construction. Immigrants also need housing and other goods thus plowing some of their earnings back into the economy.

This is not just an American problem, many European countries are suffering an age dependency to worker ratio that is worse than the US. These statistics show that we all should be embracing immigrants.

At present, we are in a horrendous employment downturn which will leave many feeling that they could lose a job to an immigrant, causing a potentially severe anti-immigrant backlash. Education is the only way to combat this misconception.

To fix our system, to eliminate the horror on the border, and yet encourage immigration for the good of our country, we need a massive, coordinated effort among federal government institutions, state and local governments, and private entities.

We also need assistance from Mexico and Central American countries helping them to create and maintain environments that make their countries habitable so the influx of immigrants does not happen all at once.

It is a complex problem with an even more complex set of solutions. What is so disconcerting is that many members of Congress lack political bravery and humanitarian compassion to create a viable working plan.

I would be remiss if I did not explain the US Citizenship Act of 2021.

At the heart of the bill are provisions to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status and one day, citizenship. This would not happen overnight. The process would take at least 8 years.

Immigrants would have to have been present in the US on or before January 1, 2021, unless granted a waiver on humanitarian grounds.

Initially, immigrants would be able to obtain a work permit and travel abroad with the assurance that they would be permitted to reenter the US. After five years, they could apply for a green card if they pass background checks and pay taxes. The exception to this is immigrants covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and Temporary Protected Status, as well as farmworkers, who would be able to apply for green cards immediately.

After three years in possession of a green card, and further background checks the immigrant could apply for citizenship.

The bill would remove barriers to family-based immigration, including lengthy visa backlogs and employment-based green cards, which, as discussed, have been inaccessible for workers in lower-wage industries.

It would repeal Clinton-era restrictions that prevent people who have been present in the US without authorization for more than six months from reentering the country for a period of three to 10 years.

It would also strengthen protections for immigrant workers by protecting those who face workplace retaliation from deportation and would set up a commission to make improvements to the employment verification process.

It would set up new processing centers throughout the border region to register qualifying migrants as refugees and resettle them in the US. And it would reunify separated families by reinstituting the Central American Minors program — under which children can join their relatives in the US.

The bill also seeks to improve the capacity of Central American countries to process and protect asylum seekers and refugees by working with the United Nations and other nongovernmental organizations.

The bill includes the No Ban Act that prohibits discrimination based on religion and limits presidential authority to issue future bans. The bill also increases Diversity Visas to 80,000 from 55,000.

The bill provides new funding to state and local governments, private organizations, educational institutions, community-based organizations, and not-for-profit organizations to expand programs to promote integration and inclusion, increase English-language instruction, and provide assistance to individuals seeking to become citizens.

And finally, the bill would also enhance penalties for criminal gangs and drug traffickers.

According to a study by Data for Progress, voters support a variety of proposals to provide citizenship to undocumented immigrants. Voters across the ideological spectrum strongly support an eight-year pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. “Voters want and expect Democrats to move forward on these reforms — and Democratic voters say that humane, citizenship-granting immigration policy is a key reason they voted Democrat in the first place.”

The chances of this bill getting through Congress in one piece is negligible. Despite all the evidence that immigrants help America we still have some bigoted, white-centric-thinking members of Congress that will hold out, simply because they can.

Immigration is a hot button for many in our country, especially those on the southern border, but it has proven to be more beneficial to America than detrimental.

THE ECONOMIC CASE FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM

3.22 million

jobs created by 2024 if we pass immigration reform that makes it safer, faster and more efficient for prospective immigrants to enter the U.S. and begin contributing to our society.

$1.2 trillion

decrease in the federal deficit over 20 years if reforms were made to our broken immigration system.

$2.18 billion

increase a year to state and local tax revenues if the undocumented is granted legal status.

$1 trillion

added to national GDP if Dreamers were able to earn a pathway to
citizenship.

$400 to $600 billion

cost to U.S. taxpayers if our current broken immigration laws were enforced and all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States were deported.

(above statistics From FWS.us)

This is part 4 of a series. Part 1 Part 2Part 3

Trivial Things

San Francisco weather: 63 degrees and sunny

NYSE DOW compared to one year ago: +10383

COVID cases in the US: 32,404,463

Deaths from COVID in the US: 581,061

Vaccines administered in the US 205,871,913

OED word of the day: clocker -A brooding or broody hen

Days since Shelter In Place was initiated: 406

Reading: Deacon King Kong by James McBride

My Black and White Picture of the Day

Something Silly From the Internet:

My travel blog www.PassportandBaggage.com and my www.ArtandArchitecture-sf.com blog are quiet due to the Pandemic. I need to write, so here I go.