Cato: Restricting Access to Asylum and More Walls Likely to Lead to Increased Border Deaths

The Cato Institute has issued a new analysis of government data indicating that as more miles of wall were constructed along the U.S.-Mexico, there was an increase in deaths of those trying to seek safety or opportunity in the U.S.

The report notes that in recent years, deaths have declined as the population trying to enter the U.S. has increasingly been individuals fleeing violence in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.  They have tended to seek out, rather than evade, Border Patrol officials to ask for asylum.

(T)he evidence indicates that border fences have made the journey far more dangerous—even deadly—and that asylum made the border safer.

In fact, asylum and other humanitarian relief programs appear to have already saved about 1,300 lives along the border since 2013. By contrast, increased enforcement—including the fence—appears to have resulted in about 4,600 more deaths from 1999 to 2019.

Given that the number of southern border apprehensions in recent years are far lower than they were for decades, and that the majority of the undocumented in the U.S. today entered the U.S. legally through airports and other ports of entry with temporary visas but failed to leave, the case for the border wall is thin.

Crafting meaningful immigration reforms that respect of our country’s tradition and legal obligation to offer protection to those seeking safety,  that meet the needs of employers and families, and that reduce processing backlogs which can stretch for years, would be far more effective than continued fighting over the wall.

Separating Fact from Fiction-Immigration Issues in 2018

The Cato Institute has produced a recap of the many research papers, data compilations, and other reports or posts it produced in 2018 relevant to actual and proposed changes in the U.S. immigration landscape under the Trump administration.

These reports cut through myths and rhetoric by citing to facts and data. MeBIC has cited to many of them previously when posting on particular immigration topics.  While Cato sometimes draws conclusions with which MeBIC disagrees, they engage in honest debate and their work product is always worth a read.

The recap breaks down their reports by topic for ease of reference.  You can find it here.


U.S.’s Undocumented Population Is Lowest in over a Decade

A new report from the Pew Research Center gives an updated portrait of the undocumented population in the U.S., which stood at 10.7 million people in 2016, down 13% from a high of 12.2 million in 2007, and the lowest number since 2004.    In 2016, unauthorized immigrants represented 24% of the foreign born in the U.S., compared to 30% in 2007.

The population of individuals lacking legal authorization to be in the U.S. would actually be about 9.7 million, since Pew included in its count the approximately 700,000 individuals with work permission and temporary status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as well as the over 300,000 persons with work permission who have Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

The report finds that the drop is largely attributable to a decrease  in undocumented immigrants from Mexico, while the number increased of those from Central America,  particularly El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, countries where gangs, violence, and political unrest have caused people to flee.

Two-thirds of 10.7 million population that Pew studied had lived in the U.S. for more than a decade, typically for nearly fifteen years, with 43% of them having U.S. citizen children.  Only 18% had lived in the U.S. for five or fewer years.

Two-thirds of the undocumented population also were of the prime working  ages of 18 to 44, compared to about one-third of native U.S. citizens.  As of 2016, undocumented men aged 18-65 had high labor force participation: 91% compared to 79% for native born men.  Undocumented women were less likely to be in the labor force, 61% compared to 73% for native born women, largely due to being more likely to have young children at home.

While the undocumented population represented about 5% of the labor force in 2016, they were over-represented in certain industries, including agriculture, construction, leisure/hospitality, among others, all of which are critical components of Maine’s economy.

For more details, you can find the report here.






Immigrants Founded 55% of U.S.’s Billion-Dollar Start-ups

A column in Forbes reports on a study of 91 of the nation’s  start-up companies valued at over $1 billion as of October 2018 (think Uber, Avant, SpaceX, etc.) which found that 50 of them (55%) of them have at least one immigrant founder.

Twenty-two percent of these companies were founded by individuals who came to the U.S. as international students, with six of them founded by former refugees.  The immigrant-founded businesses have a collective value of $248 billion, and have created an average of 1200 jobs per company.

The column goes on to highlight troubling policy directions from the current administration that raise barriers  to or discourage international graduate students and high tech professionals from coming to and staying in the U.S.  In addition, drastic cuts to refugee admissions, and a proposed rule that, if enacted, would slash immediate family immigration, would deprive the nation of the new energy that immigrants of all types bring to the U.S.

We should think long and hard about whether the administration’s moves to restrict immigration of all kinds, from foreign professionals, to refugees, immediate family immigrants, and asylum seekers at the southern border, represent our nation’s values, or even, our economic interests.

Primers to Learn the Basics about Refugees and Immigrants in the U.S.

Immigration is in the news every day, it seems, not to mention pervading social media.  But for those whose work does not involve daily contact with immigration law and policy, understanding context and sorting fact from fiction in order to understand what is happening currently can be a challenge.

Two resources are available to provide baseline information to help you parse what you read and hear about refugees, immigrants, and immigration to the U.S., as well as about current U.S. policies on these issues.

The Pew Research Center has developed a series of five mini-lessons on past and current immigration data and policies, delivered to your in-box each day.  Each email takes only a couple of minutes to read.  You can learn more about the lessons here.

The Urban Institute issued Bringing Evidence to the Refugee Integration Debate, which includes background information on who refugees are, how they get to the U.S., recent policy changes under the Trump Administration, and information about their social and economic integration into and contributions to U.S. communities and the economy.   You can find the report here.

Brookings: 12 Facts about Immigration

A Dozen Facts about Immigration, new report by the Hamilton Project of the Brookings Institution, provides “a set of economic facts about the role of immigration in the U.S. economy.”

The summary notes that the

facts suggest that immigrants are taking on a larger role in the U.S. economy…. immigrants generally have positive impacts on both government finances and the innovation that leads to productivity growth.

See the full report here, or view a summary of it here.

Report: Immigrants’ Wages Converge with Native-Born over Time

Immigrants to the U.S. are often starting over from scratch.  Even highly skilled immigrants such as doctors and lawyers may have to take jobs far below their skill and education levels due to licensure barriers and language limitations.  It is unsurprising that immigrants often start at the bottom rung of the wage ladder when they first arrive in the U.S.

A report from the Cato Institute confirms that new immigrants, including those with and without legal status, have wages lower than their native-U.S. born counterparts, but finds that within 20 years, the wage gap diminishes or disappears entirely.   The report notes that undocumented immigrants experience a far greater wage penalty, likely due to their lack of legal authorization to work.  The report surmises that convergence of immigrant and native-born wages would occur more quickly if undocumented immigrants had a path to legal status.

You can find the report here.

Portland Benefits from Immigrants’ Economic Activity

A September 2018 report by MeBIC partner New American Economy details the economic contributions of immigrants in Portland.  The report was the product of a collaboration including the City of Portland’s Office of Economic Opportunity and the Greater Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce as part of the Gateways for Growth Challenge.

Among the highlights of the report:

  • In 2016, metro-Portland’s immigrants contribute $1.2 billion to the region’s GDP.
  • In 2016, metro-Portland’s immigrants paid $195 million in federal, state and local taxes as well as $72 million towards Social Security and Medicare.
  • They outperform their numbers in entrepreneurship and in their participation in the labor force.
  • Nearly 37% of metro-Portland’s immigrants have bachelors or advanced degrees (compared to 30% for U.S. born Mainers), and over 56% are homeowners.
  • Over 75% of population growth in Portland and surrounding cities from 2011 to 2016 was due to immigrants.

Read the full report here.

New Report Highlights Economic Benefits of Immigration – and the “Perception Disconnect”

Migration and the Economy: Economic Realities, Social Impacts, & Political Choices is a September 2018 report by Citi GPS and the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford.    The 172 page report looks at the impact of “immigration on advanced economies”, drawing the overall conclusion that immigration is vital for economic growth.  The report also attempts to “throw light on the growing disconnect between public perceptions regarding migration and the actual trends.”

Some of the report’s key findings (paraphrased from the executive summary) include:

The stock of migrants has grown materially worldwide since 1990 but still accounts for only around 3% of the global population.  As the earth’s population has grown, the number of immigrants has too, but as a percentage, the number of immigrants remains the same as a century ago.

Skilled migration is especially concentrated in certain countries and urban centers.   The 34 member countries (including the U.S.) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) absorb about two-thirds of high-skilled immigrants worldwide, but the U.S. is the destination country for nearly half of those, and for nearly a third of high-skilled immigrants worldwide.  Immigrants also cluster in certain “dynamic” urban areas, with policy implications.

Even at times of acute crisis, evidence indicates most people do not emigrate, and data rebuts nationalist rhetoric “portraying migration as an unstoppable tsunami.”  The report examined countries with periods of sustained financial crisis, and found that most people prefer to stay put where they could rely on family and friends for support.

Migration will be essential to alleviate demographic headwinds.  Worldwide, the population of people over 60 is expected to more than double by 2050, while over half of all countries (the U.S. included) now have fertility rates that are below replacement level.  Meanwhile, in 2017, three-quarters of the world’s immigrants were of working age, compared to only 57 percent of the global population.  Ironically, some of the countries with the worst demographic challenges are currently the most opposed to immigration.

Overall, immigration is conducive to native and aggregate prosperity, especially over the long term. For example, the report finds that from 1990-2014, economic growth in the U.S. would have been 15% lower without immigration – enough to cancel out the post-recession economic gains.

The fiscal impacts of immigration are positive, with some “small, short-lived and localized” costs.   Overall, immigrants consume fewer benefits than natives, and make up for any costs through their tax contributions over time.

Immigration drives innovation.  The report finds that ideas and innovation are stimulated by increases in highly educated workers and by diverse workplaces, both of which immigration generates.  In the U.S., the industries accounting for the highest economic and productivity growth have high concentrations of immigrants.  Over 40% of global patents are filed by immigrants.

Public attitudes towards immigration relate to factors other than reality. Factors such as solidarity of social values, that can inspire nationalism, and the belief that resources are scarce, influence public attitudes.  The greater the nationalistic outlook and belief in scarce resources, the greater the likelihood that a person will oppose immigration.  Multiple polls show that the public often believes there are far more immigrants in their country, and that they use far more public benefits, than is truly the case, compounding the problem.

The report goes on to note that the “growing politicization of migration on a value basis, rather than an economic one, is …. making it difficult to properly highlight the economic case for migration,”  which in turn will harm the economies that have benefited from immigration.   It urges that “balance and perspective” be restored to the debate around immigration.

Among many recommendations, the report notes that academia, government, communities and national policy makers have important roles to play to stem the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment that is disconnected from reality and threatens continued growth of the nations that have long benefited from immigration.

The report includes the business community in its recommendations, noting that businesses must “(b)e more vocal in articulating their needs and the overall benefits of migration.”

You can find the full report here.

Reports: Immigration Benefits Rural U.S., and Immigrants’ Tax and Spending Power

Two recent reports highlight specific impacts of immigration in the U.S.

Revival and Opportunity: Immigrants in Rural America is a September 2018 report examining how immigrants have helped stave off or reduce population decline in rural areas,  and have revitalized communities that were experiencing the detrimental effects of population loss.  It also looks at the challenges of integrating newcomers into insular communities.  Citing to several towns as examples,  it notes how proactive responses from policy makers and community members can facilitate integration, benefiting new immigrants and long term native residents alike.

Another September 2018 report, Immigrants as Economic Contributors:  Immigrant Tax Contributions and Spending Power outlines the enormous positive fiscal impact of U.S. immigrants, including the undocumented and refugees.  The report finds that in 2014, immigrants paid over $328 billion in federal, state and local taxes, and  their after-tax spending power was $927 billion.  Immigrants who arrived between 2011 and 2015 had higher levels of education than earlier immigrants, with over half having a bachelor’s degree, and are expected to earn higher incomes and contribute even more in taxes and consumption over their working lifetimes than their predecessors.

This report also looks at the contributions of undocumented immigrants, finding that they paid $11.7 billion in state and local taxes, and would pay an estimated $2.2 billion more if Congress created a pathway for them to apply for permanent residency.  Conversely, if the undocumented were no longer part of the economy, the resultant labor shortages would cause private sector economic output to shrink by as much as an estimated $623 billion.

Finally, the report also analyzes refugees’ economic impact.  Unlike immigrants, refugees get short-term government aid when they first arrive in the U.S. to help them restart their lives after having to leave everything behind.   The report cites to various studies, including a federal report that the current administration chose not to officially release,  finding that refugees contribute more in tax revenues than they receive in benefits and services, and produce a net gain for the country’s coffers.  Refugees also have spending power, estimated at $56 billion in 2015.

Taken together, the two reports recognize that while there can be challenges to absorbing new immigrants, overall, the country benefits greatly.  These reports join a growing body of literature and data that overwhelmingly reaches similar conclusions.