As Immigrants Move In, Americans Move Up
by Daniel T. Griswold - July 27, 2009
Daniel T. Griswold is the director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute.
Critics warn that immigration reform would bring in its wake rising rates of poverty, higher government welfare expenditures, and a rise in crime. A new Cato paper says that Congress should not reject market-oriented immigration reform because of misguided fears about "importing poverty."
Based on recent experience, a policy that allows more low-skilled workers to enter the United States legally would not necessarily expand the number of people living in poverty or the number of low-skilled households demanding government services. It would not impose significant costs on American society in the form of welfare spending or crime abatement.
As Cato research has shown elsewhere, strong, positive arguments remain for pursuing a policy of expanding legal immigration for low-skilled workers. Comprehensive immigration reform that included a robust temporary worker program would boost economic output and create new middle-class job opportunities for native-born Americans. It would reduce the inflow of illegal workers across the border, allowing enforcement resources to be redeployed more effectively to interdict terrorists and real criminals. It would restore the rule of law to U.S. immigration policy, while reducing calls for enforcement measures such as a national ID card or a centralized employment verification system, which compromise the freedom and civil liberties of American citizens.
Along with those major benefits, immigration reform would enhance the incentives for native-born Americans up and down the income ladder to acquire the education and skills they need to prosper in a dynamic economy.
Read the full version of Free Trade Bulletin No. 38