International migration has always existed. Since the current theory is that human beings originated in East Africa, every other part of the world is the product of immigration. All of us are either immigrants or descended from immigrants. The United States is a nation of immigrants, as reflected in its motto e pluribus unum—from many, one. American forefathers left another country to begin anew in the United States.
Why People Immigrate?
Migrations are such a part of history that the need to move must be ingrained in the human condition. People frequently believe that life must be better somewhere other than in their native land. Sometimes it is ambition, at times adventure, often simply desperation. But, as current events indicate, it is the injustice, poverty, and violence in their own lands that generally make people move to save themselves and to ensure a better future for their children. One need only look at the situations in Haiti, Cambodia, Croatia, or Cuba to understand this. For humanitarian reasons immigration should not be restricted. The United States was founded on Christian beliefs. Christianity demands hospitality to the alien or stranger.
A policy of open immigration will advance the economic well-being of all Americans. Immigration is vital to American economic growth. The theory is simple: energetic workers increase the supply of goods and services with their labor, and increase the demand for other goods and services by spending their wages. A circle of growth occurs. The immigrants’ new spending creates demand for housing, groceries and other necessities, and their employers invest their expanding profits in new machinery and jobs. “It is called competitive capitalism,” says Tony Carnevale of the American Society for Training and Development, “and it works. It’s how America got rich.” Two hundred years of U.S. history seem to confirm this theory. All major recent studies of immigrants indicate that they have a high labor force participation, are entrepreneurial, and tend to have specialized skills that allow them to enter under-served markets. Studies have also shown that the main benefits to the economy come at both ends of the labour market–at the bottom as well as the top. In America’s top six immigration states, not only were three-quarters of all the tailors and more than half the cooks, taxi drivers and farm workers born overseas, but so were 40% of the physics and political-science teachers and more than a quarter of the physicians, chemists and economists.
Foreigners determined to achieve the American dream often leave their corporate jobs to start companies. That creates wealth and thousands of jobs for the less venturesome. There are numerous examples of Immigrants playing an important role in starting great American businesses. Scotsman Andrew Carnegie did it in steel more than a century ago. Frenchman du Pont founded a family fortune that exists to this day. More recently, immigrants have made their mark in high tech. Hungarian-born Andrew Grove started Intel Corp. Immigrant engineers founded or co-founded Sun Microsystems, Cirrus Logic, Oracle, Solectron and Lam Research. Together these five immigrant companies alone have created some $45 billion in wealth and 32,000 jobs. Immigrant-run companies account for 23 of this year’s 200 Best Small Companies. For example, German-born H. Tom Buelter of On Assignment, a $174 million (market cap) temporary agency for scientists; Israeli Dan Avida of $1.8 billion Electronics for Imaging, which makes computer servers for color printing; British-born Christopher Conway of $671 million medical equipment maker Mentor; and Shanghai native Cyrus Tsui of $673 million Lattice Semiconductor. One in four new businesses in Silicon Valley is started by someone of Indian or Chinese origin. There are more than enough high-tech jobs to go around–some 346,000 positions are open today, according to the Information Technology Association of America. There will be an additional 1.3 million such jobs to fill during the next decade–enough for foreign-born as well as American-born talent.
Immigration brings brainpower that enriches the whole society. Almost one-third of all Americans who hold advanced engineering or computer sciences degrees are immigrant. According to the National Science Foundation, non-U.S. citizens currently account for 42%, or about 30,000, of all engineering graduate students at U.S. schools and almost half of all electrical engineering and computer science grad students. Are they crowding out Native-born Americans? That’s doubtful. If a qualified native-born American wants an engineering degree, he can get it.
By and large, the foreign students end up enriching the pool of American engineers. Surveys have found that almost half of the foreigners who earn doctorates in science and engineering at American universities stay in the U.S. to work. A good number eventually become citizens.
A common misconception that immigrants “take jobs away from native-born Americans,” this does not appear to be true. The U.S. Department of Labor reviewed nearly 100 studies on the relationship between immigration and unemployment and concluded that “neither U.S. workers nor most minority workers appear adversely affected by immigration.”
Indeed, most studies show that immigrants actually lead to an increase in the number of jobs available.
Immigrants produce jobs in several ways:
- They expand the demand for goods and services through their own consumption;
- They bring savings with them that contribute to overall investment and productivity;
- They are more highly entrepreneurial than native-born Americans and create jobs through the businesses they start;
- They fill gaps in the low and high ends of the labor markets, producing subsidiary jobs for American workers;
- Low-wage immigrants may enable threatened American businesses to survive competition from low-wage businesses abroad.
Contrary to stereotypes, there is no evidence that immigrants come to this country to receive welfare. Indeed, most studies show that immigrants actually use welfare at lower rates than do native-born Americans. For example, a study of welfare recipients in New York City found that only 7.7% of immigrants were receiving welfare compared to 13.3% for the population as a whole. Likewise, a nationwide study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 12.8% of immigrants were receiving welfare benefits, compared to 13.9% of the general population. Some recent studies indicate that the rate of welfare usage may now be equalizing between immigrants and native-born Americans, but, clearly, most immigrants are not on welfare. Some fear that immigration is a drag on the economy. Though there are short-term costs of immigration, Michael Boskin, formerly chief economist to George Bush, states “but in the long run, immigrants are still great news for our economy.” In the long run, the recent immigrants are expected to contribute more in taxes to the federal government than they receive in services.
Freedom of movement should be the new common sense. People are not goods or capital and they should be free to move. The attempt to limit this basic freedom leads to some of the worst abuses of human rights which exist in the world today. The abolition of immigration controls would mean a vast increase in freedom and prosperity for all of us.
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