In the past, newcomers from around the world were eager for a second start in the United States. They nearly all worked hard, reminding American-born citizens that that they can never rest on their laurels.Immigrants honed American competition and helped to keep the nation productive.
The narrative is heard from both sides of the isle. On the conservative side here is Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, giving his thumbnail version of the re-energize immigration narrative:
Immigration is what’s made us economically strong, politically strong, militarily strong, culturally cohesive and strong.
We would not have become a global superpower without the contributions of immigrants who built the railroads and canals that opened up the west, who invented ground-breaking products that revolutionized global commerce, and who pioneered scientific, engineering, and medical advances that made America the most innovative country in the world.
As Bloomberg states, most immigrants in the past came here “with almost nothing except one thing: a desire to work -- and work and work and work -- to build a better life for themselves and their families.” And, just as in the past, we need the “work, work, work” ethic that immigrants have to keep our basic industries going.
The trouble with this argument is that it is rooted in 19th century and early 20th century realities. The immigrants who came to America knew they had to work hard to survive. Immigrants today know the U.S. is a fail-safe environment where their kids get a free education. Even undocumented immigrants get:
b). Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
c). Medicaid (primarily for "non-emergency pregnancy related care and emergency care").
d). Food stamps (for U.S. born children -- undocumented immigrants are ineligible to receive food stamps).
There’s no reason why corporations, at least big, publicly traded ones, should like hiring in a tight competitive labor market. This is especially true for Big Tech firms, which are typically asset-light and have a high level of operating costs going to labor. Most would expect that the pressure on CEOs to meet analysts’ profit estimates each quarter will trump any free-market ethos they may have every time. Why else would the industry spend billions onlobbying and public relations related to immigration? Big Tech’s message to the American public might as well be, “the free market for thee but not for me.”
Relatively low pay and perhaps a strong bias on the part of some employers to hire foreign workers seems to have pushed many American engineers out their profession.
There is no greater force for economic revitalization of depressed neighborhoods than an influx of immigrants. The reason is simple: immigrants are dreamers and risk-takers who are driven to succeed, because they know that in America, hard work and talent are rewarded like nowhere else.
The Global Detroit effort includes programs that help immigrants start small businesses, get driver’s licenses and learn English. As part of the Welcome Dayton Plan adopted last year, the Ohio city sponsors a soccer tournament for immigrant teams. Not to be outdone, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) says he wants his home town to be known as the most “immigrant-friendly city in the country.”
Between the mid-1980s and 2005, the state’s aggregate population increased by 10 million Californians, including immigrants. But that isn’t the good economic news that you might think. For one thing, 7 million of the new Californians were low-income Medicaid recipients. Further, as economist Arthur Laffer recently noted in Investor’s Business Daily, between 1992 and 2008, the number of tax-paying Californians entering California was smaller than the number leaving -- 3.5 million versus 4.4 million, for a net loss of 869,000 tax filers. Those who left were wealthier than those who arrived, with average adjusted gross incomes of $44,700, versus $38,600. Losing those 869,000 filers cost California $44 billion in tax revenue over two decades, Laffer calculated.