Legal and Illegal Immigration in the US
For more than a decade, America has remained a continent characterized by its cultural, social, technological and financial autonomy, which has positioned it as the world’s leading economic power. To this end, it has become the target of a very large migratory flow of foreigners from various countries of the world. This migratory movement is most often motivated by the search for a job and the prospect of a better quality of life.
Today, the administration of the current regime evokes more and more irregularities concerning its immigrants, who are, for the most part, illegal immigrants. However, beyond these irregularities, it goes without saying that legal and illegal immigration both have a significant impact in the current American society. If the United States is the nation of immigration par excellence, the history of the country is also made of multiple attempts to control the flow of newcomers, legal or illegal. In this respect, the migration policy advocated by the Republican President Donald Trump is only the recovery pushed to the extreme and without qualms, of the traditional speech dear to the supporters of the closing of the borders.
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According to the so-called nativist policy advocated by the Republican president, immigration is seen today as a burden for American society and immigrants as competitors for American workers (Issitt, Micah L.Walter, Andrew, 2013). But in fact, what is the real impact of immigration on the economy, employment, wages, and growth of America? A first observation is needed despite the restrictive legislation put in place in the 1980s to stifle the phenomenon. The United States has had one of the highest waves of immigration in history in recent decades. In 2016, there were nearly 45 million ‘foreign-born’ ie – born abroad – out of 324 million inhabitants, or 14% of the population, according to a source from the US Department of Homeland. This figure is more than twice that of 1990, to which must be added the migrants who have entered the United States illegally, whose estimated number varies between 6 and 11 million.
I think the other major point is the geographical origin of these migrants, mostly from North America (Latin America), Asia, Europe, and Africa. They represent an important workforce that should not be neglected. This young, low-skilled labor force, which accepts low-wage, low-paid jobs in the agricultural, construction, or service sector, and sometimes pays little attention to working conditions, is essential to the functioning of the US economy. By their consumption, their work, the taxes they pay, the migrants are obviously involved in American growth. In addition, a study by the American Institute of Enterprise had shown that immigrant entrepreneurs contribute to the creation of at least two jobs that benefit native Americans. Without ignoring the essential role of highly graduated foreigners – engineers, analysts, financiers, computer scientists, without whom American prosperity would not be what it is.
In view of all the above, I strongly believe that immigration would even be a cure for all the ills of the American economy. Immigrants will settle for example the crisis of the real estate market. One of the main reasons for the continued weakness in prices and sales in the US housing market is simply that there are too many homes for sale. The national association of promoters said that in July 2016, there were 3.98 million homes on the market or 12.5 months of demand at the current pace. This is an abnormally high number because the market usually works with six months of housing stock.
Until hundreds of thousands of homes are sold, the market will remain depressed. Let’s open the door to immigrants who promise to buy a home! Every year, tens of thousands of people apply for the highly sought after H-1B visa (highly skilled workers). These workers are generally very well trained and competent. They must be given more H-1B visas on the condition that they buy a home. These newcomers can quickly change the face of a saturated real estate market. Immigrants are needed to replenish the American workforce. Even though the US labor force continues to grow, the pace of growth has been steadily slowing down for decades. According to US Labor Office projections, labor market growth will be only 0.4% per year by 2020 and 0.3% from 2030 (Spetz, Joanne, 2015). This is particularly related to the retirement of the baby boom generation and the decline in the birth rate. If there are not enough Americans to fill the vacancies, they will have to be occupied by immigrants. This is already happening.
In recent years, much of the growth in the labor force has come from legal and illegal immigration. In California, for example, one in three workers was born abroad. A flow of Continuous immigration is needed to support growth and enable the social security system to remain solvent. Immigrants improve the quality of the economy. Not only the study of the Federal Reserve San Francisco, written quite rightly by an Italian economist, Giovanni Peri who shows that immigrants do not harm the economy, but he also develops the argument that immigrants enrich American citizens (Peri, Giovanni, 2009). More specifically, this study highlights that ‘immigration to the United States from 1990 to 2007 is responsible for 6.6 points of growth on the 9.9% increase in net income per worker over this period’. How to explain it? Firstly, because companies are increasing their production capacity to adjust to the increase in the population.
However, the least skilled immigrants and the most skilled immigrants are moving to different sectors from those chosen by their US-born counterparts. For example, writes Peri, ‘among the most qualified, those born in the United States tend to be cadres, teachers and nurses, while immigrants are rather engineers, scientists, and doctors.’ I think this specialization improves productivity and therefore growth. But is it really so simple to say open borders and our problems will be solved? Not really! For one reason: the scale of population transfers is important. Most arguments in favor of immigration point to the differences between having one million new immigrants per year or none at all. The positive effects will not necessarily be the same if we move to ten million immigrants a year.
In addition, the supporters of immigration do not respond to the arguments put forward by the opponents of immigration, such as the burden that illegal immigrants would impose on the taxpayer and public finances through their use of public services. I would like to emphasize here that illegal immigrants can not directly be a burden to the American government because most of these illegal immigrants do things that are paid for directly without going through a bank. Since every medal has a setback, legal immigration and illegal immigration are two sides of the same coin. He is aware that this medal is tainted by some irregularities such as the sale and uncontrolled consumption of cannabis by young people, terrorism, and a large majority of immigrants who benefit from social services set up by the government. The task of the American government is to properly structure its immigration policy because any migratory flow is always accompanied by its positive and negative effects.
The political viability of the case for immigration depends to a great extent on the questions you seek to answer. But the public debate in the United States is content with sensationalist questions like ‘Should we accept to pay the dialysis of 38 illegal immigrants?’ Or ‘Mexicans are a dangerous fifth column whose objective is to take control of the United States?’. It would be much better if political actors emphasized much more in-depth study of the economic impact of immigration.
- Issitt, Micah L.Walter, Andrew. “Immigration Restrictions: Overview.” Points of View, 2013.
- Peri, Giovanni. “The Effect of Immigration on Productivity: Evidence from U.S. States.”
- Review of Economics & Statistics, vol. 94, no. 1, Feb. 2012, pp. 348–358. Spetz, Joanne, et al. “WORKFORCE. Future Demand For Long-Term Care Workers Will Be Influenced By Demographic And Utilization Changes.” Health Affairs, vol. 34, no. 6, June 2015, pp. 936–945.