An Amer­ica First im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy Amer­ica ben­e­fits from a steady flow of im­mi­grants, un­der the right cir­cum­stances

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Stephen Moore

There’s a lot right in Don­ald Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion vi­sion and a few things that are mis­guided. It’s worth re­view­ing which is which. I was priv­i­leged to learn my im­mi­gra­tion eco­nomics and his­tory from the very best, Ju­lian Si­mon. I was re­search as­sis­tant for his clas­sic book “The Eco­nomic Con­se­quences of Im­mi­gra­tion,” which, 30 years af­ter pub­li­ca­tion, re­mains the best tu­to­rial out there for any­one who wants to un­der­stand how im­mi­grants af­fect our jobs and our pock­et­books.

Every pol­icy maker work­ing on the is­sue to­day would be the wiser if they went back and read it.

The big pic­ture starts with this: Amer­ica greatly ben­e­fits eco­nom­i­cally from a steady flow of im­mi­grants (cur­rently about one mil­lion new le­gal ar­rivals each year).Al­ways has and hope­fully al­ways will. It’s not a cliche, that we im­port the best and bright­est and hardest work­ing from all over the world.

One of the big­gest ben­e­fits from im­mi­grants is their age pro­file. They tend to come to the United States when they are young — be­tween the ages of 1635. They are ed­u­cated in China, or Mex­ico, or Ger­many, or Ire­land, and then Amer­ica gets most or all of the ben­e­fits of their la­bor and the public re­turn on the ed­u­ca­tion.

This is one of the great­est wealth trans­fers in the his­tory of the world. It is worth tril­lions of dol­lars to Amer­i­can cit­i­zens. Not every im­mi­grant turns out to be an as­set — and, yes, there are bad ap­ples — but Amer­ica’s abil­ity to im­port hu­man cap­i­tal at vir­tu­ally no cost is ar­guably one of our great­est com­par­a­tive ad­van­tages in the global econ­omy.

Im­mi­grants are es­pe­cially ben­e­fi­cial now be­cause of our un­fa­vor­able de­mo­graphic sit­u­a­tion. We have some 75 mil­lion baby boomers who are re­tir­ing at the pace of 10,000 a day, and there aren’t enough young peo­ple to fill the gaps. Im­mi­grants can and hope­fully will, or else So­cial Se­cu­rity and Medi­care will go belly-up much faster than any­one imag­ines.

So what are the cen­tral com­po­nents of an Amer­ica First im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy:

• Build the wall but make sure it has big gates. Get­ting tough on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion makes sense, but we should not cut back on the num­ber of le­gal im­mi­grant visas. We need them.

• Pres­i­dent Trump is right that we should move to a merit-based im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem. While most im­mi­grants give more than they re­ceive, it is in­con­tro­vert­ible that the fis­cal and eco­nomic ben­e­fits of im­mi­grants are di­rectly cor­re­lated to their skills, spe­cial tal­ents, knowl­edge of English, ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment and en­tre­pre­neur­ial abil­i­ties.

• Since there is such a high global de­mand for en­try into the U.S. — we should set a price on th­ese visas at per­haps $25,000 or even $50,000. We could raise about $20 bil­lion a year to re­duce the bud­get deficit. There would be no short­age of peo­ple lin­ing up to pay the en­try fee in ex­change for the most valu­able re­source in the world — an Amer­i­can pass­port.

• Is­sue work visas for farm and other sea­sonal work­ers. Th­ese should be tem­po­rary visas that au­tho­rize th­ese mi­grants to work and re­side here. Amer­i­cans aren’t go­ing to work in the fields. Pe­riod.

• End the visa fam­ily cat­e­gory for par­ents of im­mi­grants. There is no ben­e­fit to bring­ing in peo­ple over the age of 60 — they are likely to use SSI and Med­i­caid ben­e­fits with lit­tle taxes paid.

• Im­mi­gra­tion yes, wel­fare no. Im­mi­grants should not be el­i­gi­ble for any non­med­i­cal wel­fare ben­e­fits. The cur­rent re­stric­tions on food stamps, hous­ing ben­e­fits, SSI, dis­abil­ity and so on have been un­en­forced for years.

Im­mi­grants who need fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance should get it from their spon­sors, churches, char­i­ties or rel­a­tives, not Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers. We need E-ver­ify not at work­places, but in wel­fare of­fices. Im­mi­grants who do go on wel­fare should have their visas sus­pended.

Un­der th­ese con­di­tions, it’s hard to imag­ine that mil­lions of bright, hard work­ing and free­dom-seek­ing im­mi­grants would not want to come to the United States. The most valu­able as­set in the world is a U.S. Pass­port and we should stop giv­ing it away for free.

Amer­ica’s abil­ity to im­port hu­man cap­i­tal at vir­tu­ally no cost is ar­guably one of our great­est com­par­a­tive ad­van­tages in the global econ­omy.

Stephen Moore is a se­nior fel­low at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion and an eco­nomic con­sul­tant with Free­dom Works.


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