by Henry Oliner
The immigration debate is really several related topics.
The DACA issue is about a permanent path to citizenship for children brought here illegally, but have known no other home. Permanent status is not the same as citizenship, but it would at least remove the threat of deportation from their daily concerns.
Chain migration is simply allowing immigrants in with family already established here. This is nothing new and it was once encouraged, but this was before immigrants were entitled to welfare benefits. There is a fear on the right that chain migration is about bringing in immigrants to begin and stay on welfare. This is not supported by much evidence, although there are likely some exaggerated anecdotes used to justify the perception.
The lottery is relatively new. This seems an abdication of immigration policy. We should deliberately decide which skills we need, which countries are allowed, what mix of status we will accept. We would likely agree to allow (translate fund) proper vetting, and that we should allow extra vetting from areas with poor control to avoid criminals of various types from being pushed on us.
Shit hole countries probably provide some of the best immigrants, who wish to take advantage of our opportunities that we take for granted. Our best allies are stable countries and few of them seek to emigrate here; nobody is talking about a wall on the Canadian border.
The Republicans rightly insist that any effort to accommodate, provide a path to citizen ship, or any form of amnesty will only create an incentive if we do not control the borders first. This failure has only made previous accommodations fuel for more problems. I do not know that the wall will solve this problem, but borders and policy are worthless without the ability to enforce them. With or without the wall this will take money.
Trump is willing to make the grand compromise to create a permanent residence status for DACA immigrants in exchange for better enforced borders (including the wall) and an end to the lottery method, including chain migration. I oppose the lottery method, but not the chain. But that is the nature of compromise. This is a reasonable proposal.
As to the economics of immigration. The insistence on legal and enforceable immigration is not the same as being anti-immigration, but too many on both sides see only the liability side of the immigration balance sheet. Yes, immigrants may compete for jobs, but they also create jobs. Each one needs housing, food, clothing, transportation, and all the other consumables. They make up many of our startups and new small businesses. Often they use family members (chain migration) to provide more affordable employees.
There is another reality to face. Our road to recovery and our ability to pay down the huge debt depends on higher economic growth and restraint of entitlements. If we can grow the economy by 4% and constrict the growth in entitlements to under 2% we can reduce the debt and the deficit. As we have learned from the Hong Kong model the growth must be sustained. Growth is the priority. Stable growth is preferred.
The tax cut and the realignment of our tax policy for international business, including the repatriation of overseas earning, is quickly resulting in domestic investment and capital spending. There is also a willingness to support a weaker dollar and impose tariffs on competitive imports, which could stimulate more production short term. This is a lot of stimulus at once at a time when unemployment is at a record low. This could impede the productivity growth that should be a priority. We need productive immigrants.
I do not support tariffs and a weak dollar. Both impose higher consumer costs and tariffs could invite retribution, which could especially hurt farmers. But they do tilt the playing field more toward domestic production in the short run. I prefer the carrot- removing our roadblocks to productivity- to the stick- punishing competitors and consumers.
The point is that immigrants are important to production and stimulating more demand. They are only a liability if you assume they are all on welfare. This is a myth.
That does not mean we should have open borders or weak vetting, or that all refugees should be admitted. We should have a consistent and enforceable policy that includes even those with dreams from shit hole countries. We should avoid the myths and ignorance that precludes understanding the benefits from immigration.
I believe the wiser solution to the southern border is a diplomatic effort to help make Mexico a country that fewer people wish to leave. This no small task, but I see no long term benefit to creating a hostile and humiliated neighbor.