Immigration has become a hot topic. A hot topic at dinner, a hot topic on the news and in the opinion pages, a hot topic at the water cooler, and a hot topic for the voting public. Bloggers and talking heads are having a hay-day with it, and there’s no shortage of opinions out there, nor is there any shortage of the variety of opinions.
As this tumult of words grows, and I have no doubt that it will increase, at least up until the November elections if not beyond then, I have begun to wonder how much information is rooted in the opinions. A good friend of mine is fond of pointing out that we live in a republic precisely because there just isn’t enough time for all of us to get all the information necessary for a functioning democracy. Perhaps immigration has become an example of that shortage of information, or at least shortage of informed voters, a shortage that makes informed and effective decision-making difficult. Elected officials, the policy makers, are caught between pandering to their electorates and creating good policy. Electorates are manipulated by talk show demagogues or a complete gap in information altogether. And in the middle are the immigrants and their employers–here because they want a better life.
This point was driven home to me last night when a speaker at an event I was attending–ostensibly, a lobbyist for a company that never ceases to raise the ire of the press in the town where I live–stated that the best way to win an argument, or a policy discussion, is with education. When people have accurate facts, they tend to make better choices.
With this in mind, I’ve started to gather some of the relevant facts about immigration so that I can make an informed decision, or at least so that I can inform policy makers with accurate information. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned in recent days:
- although immigration will not substantially arrest the aging of the American population, openness to immigration means that the United States will face fewer of the economic and social pressures that will mount as a growing number of Americans retire and are supported by a smaller working-age population
- over the years, immigration has brought the United States an inordinate level of the world’s talent and education as a higher standard of living and economic opportunity has brought skilled individuals here
- targeted and focused border and immigration measures can make the US less vulnerable to another major terrorist attack; however, if these same measures disrupt the flow of talented immigrants to the US or significantly disrupt legitimate cross-border travel or commerce, America’s economic and military strength will be weakened.
- immigrants provide a valuable language and cultural recruiting pool important to 21st century conflicts and in short supply among Americans.
- one of the most successful forms of US public diplomacy to project a positive image abroad has been to allow non-Americans to travel to the United States
- how we handle immigration policy speaks to America’s core values. We have a right to determine who will live here and to enforce those rules, but those who violate them must be treated with respect and decency and fairness
- Serious criminals, even if here legally but not a citizen, can and should be deported. This should include for felony level crimes, and should discriminate from more minor offenses and allow for flexibility for extenuating circumstance
- economic development in developing countries is the best way to discourage immigration, and one of the best ways to encourage development is through open immigration policies in the US
- there is little evidence that immigrants come to America to go on welfare, rather than to work, flee persecution or join family members in the United States. [CATO]
- With the exception of refugees, eligibility for programs usually requires immigrants to have been in the United States for 5 years or more in a lawful immigrant status. [CATO]
- If immigrants have been seeking states with lenient benefit eligibility, then they’re not doing a good job. Author and Wall Street Journaleditorial writer Jason Riley notes many states with recent large increases in their immigrant populations, such as Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Georgia, are primarily states with low and below average social spending. [CATO]
- Congress enacted a complete ban on supplemental security income for non-citizens who enter the United States after August 22, 1996.
- Immigrant men, ages 18 to 64, are more likely to work than native-born Americans. According to 2004 Census data analyzed by the Pew Hispanic Center, the labor force participation rate for legal immigrant males in that age group is 86 percent, compared to 83 percent for native-born males. The rate is even higher-92 percent-for illegal immigrant males. Immigrant women are more likely to be married and have children, according to Census data, and this leads to a lower labor force participation rate-64 percent for legal immigrant women vs. 73 percent for native-born women.
And that’s just a few. Are there any others you would like to add to it? I’m sure I will add more in the coming weeks and months.
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- State-By-State Immigration Policy Changes Ahead (npr.org)
- Analysts: ‘No Appetite’ for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (newsy.com)
- Arizona’s Message To Washington On Immigration (forbes.com)
- Immigration Innumeracy: How Well Informed Are People About Immigration? (psychologytoday.com)
- Illegal Immigrants Boost Social Security with Billions (theroot.com)
- Immigration and Crime (theagitator.com)
- Which U.S. State Has the Most Immigrants? (livescience.com)
- Immigration Myths — By: Mark Krikorian (corner.nationalreview.com)