U.S. Immigration Debate Defies Economic Realities

A recent Wall Street Journal column succinctly outlines the disconnect between our nation’s economic realities and the immigration debate in the U.S. and in Washington D.C., particularly in the House of Representatives. The article notes that despite a growing elderly population, declining fertility rates (now at 1.76, the lowest in 30 years), the lowest unemployment rate in 17 years, and business growth hampered by not enough workers, many in Congress want to shrink the number of legal immigrants to the U.S.

Due to Administration policies, that shrinkage is already happening. Dramatic drops in refugee admissions (only 13,000 so far this year, putting us on track to admit barely 20,000, the lowest number since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980); increased “vetting” leading to visa delays and denials for innocuous mistakes, such as not remembering to include an obsolete handle from a long-abandoned social media account; planned ejection of 1.1 million long term, working residents who have DACA and TPS status; inadequate numbers of temporary professional and seasonal worker visas meeting only a fraction of employer demand; and sharp declines in student visa approvals, to name only a few actual or planned Administration actions, have placed a stranglehold on the pipeline of immigrants to the U.S.

In contrast, some countries with similar demographics recognize that increased immigration translates into economic growth.  To counteract declining birthrates and increasing retirements, Canada has changed its laws to boost the influx of immigrants and refugees, with immigrants projected to be 30% of its population by 2036.  In Australia, some small towns have turned to immigrants to reverse population declines and revive their communities.

It is ironic that in this country built by centuries of immigration, there is not near-unanimity in Congress that if the U.S. wants a growth economy despite our demographics, continued robust immigration is key.