Cutting Legal Immigration Is a Splendid Idea

Donald Trump’s immigration is a grab bag of just every idea floated over the past decade by conservative opponents of immigration. But there’s one especially toxic idea in the mix. . . . [H]e also opposes legal immigration. . . . What could be wrong with ‘moderation,’ or even a ‘pause?’. . . . On the contrary, immigrants boost the U.S. economy. . . . They’re twice as likely as native-born Americans to start businesses. The dot-com boom of the 1980s and ’90 would never have happened without immigrants. . . . They accounted for . . . a quarter of the entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. – Donald Trump’s Single Worst Idea: . . . He Would Severely Restrict Legal Immigration, Tamar Jacoby, New York Daily News, 8/19/15

Fact Check: She claims in her article that Trump would “severely restrict” legal immigration and that he “opposes” it. Yet she quotes Trump endorsement of “immigration moderation” and his statement that we should have a “pause” in legal immigration until more unemployed Americans can get jobs. Evidently, she thinks that any restriction of immigration for any purpose is “severe.”

But if there were ever an immigration in need of moderation, it is surely what we have now. Specifically, it is the highest sustained level of legal immigration in our history. Since 1990, it has averaged around one million immigrants a year, a level much higher than illegal immigration. Currently our foreign-born population is 42 million, or one of seven U.S. residents. The resulting “diversity” is weakening the social and cultural ties that bind our communities and country together.

Jacoby claims that immigrants are people with special talents. Some are indeed talented, but in general not nearly so much as she suggests. Her claim that they are twice as likely as natives to be entrepreneurs simply isn’t true. According to the Census Bureau, natives and immigrants have about the same rate of self-employment. And the figures for Silicon Valley are often exaggerated by counting firms with just one immigrant partner, among others, as immigrant-founded.

In any case, is it really true that we desperately need more and more talented foreigners to save us? Is our current population of 320 million not sufficient to provide the talent we need? Between 1920 and 1970, an era of low immigration and a much smaller population than now, our nation achieved its greatest technological and economic feats.

Since 1970, when mass immigration began taking off, our economy declined in many significant ways, and the American Dream has become more difficult to achieve. If immigration is really the economic elixir that Jacoby claims, one would think that the greatest wave of it in our history would have left us better off than we are now.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that we do in fact need a steady stream of foreign geniuses to keep us afloat. Does their small number justify the massive level of other immigrants? Under current policy most legal immigrants are admitted on the basis of family ties to relatives already living in the U.S.—and not because they possess special abilities and skills.

Many in fact are unskilled and poor, so much so that one researcher has stated that we have an immigration policy which “imports poverty.” Legal immigrant households are more likely than those of native-born Americans to receive welfare and other public assistance. Poor immigrants compete with poor Americans for jobs and depress their wages.

Despite what Jacoby claims, Donald Trump has not proposed any deep and permanent cuts in legal immigration. But he would do our country a great favor if he did.



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