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5 Ways Higher Immigration Helps Everyone

Contrary to all the fearmongering, increased migration is a massive net benefit.
Dreamers

By Josh Leach on February 21, 2024

These days, there seems to be only one thing politicians in Washington can agree on: bashing immigration. President Biden went before the cameras last month to call on Congress to grant him unprecedented authority to suspend asylum processing. Senators of both major parties recently negotiated a bill that would have gutted asylum protections for many people fleeing danger. (Fortunately, this proposal failed—but not because politicians chose to protect asylum. Rather, it was because far-right politicians preferred to leave the status quo unchanged, so they could campaign for even crueler measures!) 

Yet, for all of this negative hype about “the border,” the real evidence shows that immigration brings tremendous benefits. These include not only new opportunities and increased safety for immigrants themselves, but gains for everyone else in society too. Here are just some of the ways that immigration helps us all: 

  • Immigration fuels economic growth. When the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released their latest economic projections, they estimated that higher immigration levels, if they continue through at least 2026, will “add […] about 0.2 percentage points to the annual growth rate of real GDP” over the next 10 years. That translates to $7 trillion of increased national prosperity
  • Immigration lowers inflation. More people accessing asylum and parole has eased inflation, in part because immigration helps address labor shortages. And as price pressures have dropped, real wages have gone up. This means that the actual purchasing power of everyone’s take-home pay has increased too, thanks in part to immigration. 
  • Immigration addresses our (i) demographic and (ii) budgetary problems. Despite the widespread belief that “too many people” are coming to the border, the nation actually needs immigration to keep its population stable. Immigration also thereby ensures there are enough working-age adults paying social security taxes. This helps keep the federal government solvent, in the face of an otherwise aging population. 
  • Immigration lets us live up to the best of U.S. values. The U.S. population has been formed in part through waves of mass migration—some forced, some voluntary—that have made us into what Frederick Douglass called a “composite nation.” This diversity has been a source of national strength through many challenges. Being a haven and a place of opportunity for new arrivals is core to the best of who we are—and can continue to be such if we do not turn our back on our national ideals.

To be sure, the many societal benefits of immigration do not mean the current system is working well. Politicians of both major parties are right to point to the pressures facing the asylum system; and many mayors and city officials are justifiably concerned about their ability to provide shelter for growing numbers of asylum-seekers under current budgetary constraints. 

The solution to these problems, however, is not to decrease migration, but to encourage it. Processing backlogs in the asylum system are due in part to the fact that so few alternative pathways exist for immigrants to work in the United States. Opening up new migration channels would help alleviate some of the system’s administrative burden. 

Likewise, the shelter capacity challenges facing American cities could be alleviated by removing the cruel and unjust restrictions that asylum-seekers face on their ability to work in the United States. Most asylum-seekers, after all, would not need or want to rely on city shelters, if current U.S. law did not perversely block them from obtaining work permits. The Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act (ASWA), which UUSC and our partners support, would address this problem in part by enabling asylum-seekers to join the workforce within a month of their arrival. You can take action to support this critically-needed bill here

Too often, when politicians are confronted for backing anti-immigrant policies, they defend themselves by saying they are just reflecting U.S. public opinion. But public opinion does not grow in a vacuum. It comes in part from the stories we tell about migration and the ways we frame the issue. 

It’s time, then, for a major reframe of the way we talk about migration. The real-world evidence is clear enough by this point: immigration is not a threat; it’s an opportunity.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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