Archive for September, 2011

September 2, 2011

The Economics of Illegal Immigration

The subject of illegal immigration has been a hot topic for many years. Some, such as Presidents Bush and Obama advocate an amnesty system whereby illegal immigrants currently in the country can stay and are given a path to citizenship provided they do not commit crimes. Others are against any form of amnesty and would spend billions to build a double concrete wall along the southern border topped with electrified barbed wire. They would also deport all persons in the country illegally. Why? Because “illegals” drive up the crime rate, take American jobs and are a drain on the economy. This is the common wisdom regarding “illegals.” Everybody knows this.

Everybody is wrong

Illegal immigrants actually commit fewer crimes than citizens because they will be deported for even the slightest infraction. The sacrifice to get here was too high to risk that. Regarding taking jobs from Americans, I often tell people that if an uneducated person who cannot speak the language, has no support system, no money, own only the clothes on their back and cannot possibly assimilate into society can take your job –

it’s your own fault.

Unfortunately for legal and illegal citizens, the common wisdom on this subject lacks an appreciation of the real economic impact, a complex issue which should be more broadly understood before spending money we don’t have to fix a problem that does not exist.

Because more students in the U.S. are graduating high school than in years past, workers with low levels of schooling are progressively difficult to find. These workers are an essential element of the economy. They harvest crops, build homes, clean offices, prepare food and are willing to take monotonous factory jobs. Illegal immigrants provide the economy with employees who are in inadequate supply.

Illegal immigration generates additional income for the economy. By increasing the labor supply, the presence of illegal immigrants acts to raise the resource productivity which increase overall labor efficiency. In other words, more unskilled workers allow land and natural resources to be utilized more efficiently.

Economists predict that if illegal immigrant workers were not available, many jobs might not be done at all. Strict immigration reform will raises wages for blue-collar workers which will stop the average American from employing household help. It will also stop the manufacturing, construction and farming industry from hiring as well.

Apathy and racism

The benefits of illegal immigration are profound and relatively easy to research. So why are so many so hostile to the thought of “illegals” crossing the southern border? The answer boils down to two reasons, apathy and racism. Some have bought into the fear based rhetoric of those who are opposed to ‘brown people’ in their neighborhood regardless of the benefit.

“Illegals” are desperately poor, more so than most Americans can imagine. Can’t the richest nation in the world re-arrange our priorities in order to help the poor of both Mexico and America? People have migrated to better circumstances since the beginnings of mankind. We should embrace not oppose it.

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