We Can’t Save the World with Open Borders (Part II)

On average, the lifetime fiscal impact of the average immigrant is negative $3,000, says the National Research Council. But the NRC goes on to say that descendants of the immigrant make a positive contribution of $83,000. . . . Even illegal immigration helps delay the bankruptcy of Social Security. . . . [L]et’s not forget that immigrants bring us new ideas. They invent more things than native-born Americans. Immigrants gave us Google. . . . [Ann] Coulter says that the new immigrants don’t assimilate the way Europeans did. . . . But I pointed out that immigrants from Nigeria, Jamaica and Ghana are more likely to be employed than native-born Americans and twice as likely to get a college degree.” – Why This Libertarian (And Others) Love Immigration, John Stossel, FoxNews.com, 8/12/15.

Fact Check: In the first part of this two-part series, we examined Stossel’s apparent belief that the U.S. can uplift the entire world with open borders. This part deals with his claims about immigration always offering us positive benefits.

In 1997 the National Research Council (NRC) did a study—the most extensive to date—on the costs and benefits of immigration. It concluded, as Stossel admits, that immigrant households are a net fiscal loss. That estimate was based on measurable data. The estimate of a $83,000 net benefit from immigrants’ descendants, in contrast, are essentially guesswork and speculation about the future.

Illegal aliens do pay some money into Social Security, but overall what they pay in taxes is less than what they receive in government services, as shown by a Heritage Foundation study. Furthermore, if illegal aliens get amnesty, they will have access to increased tax-paid benefits, including Social Security.

Certainly immigrants may bring new ideas, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are good ideas. Many immigrants, most particularly illegal aliens, don’t share our understanding of the importance of the rule of law. Often today they come from countries where personal favoritism and family ties trump any concerns about legality and fairness.

Stossel’s claim that immigrants “invent more things” than Americans begs for documentation—which he doesn’t provide. As for immigrants starting key U.S. companies, sometimes this only means that they are among the founders, and not the sole founders. One of Google’s two founders was native-born.

Stossel cherry picks immigrants—and statistics about them—from Nigeria, Jamaica, and Ghana to prove his point. What he leaves out is that immigrants from those countries—only 2.7 percent of the foreign-born population—are unrepresentative of immigrants as a whole. Natives of Mexico are the most numerous group (28 percent) and they are less likely than natives to work and have college degrees. Overall, immigrants don’t exceed natives in these two categories. Also, immigrants from Nigeria, Jamaica, and Ghana receive welfare at a higher rate than natives. And only the Nigerians are significantly more likely to have a college degree.

If Stossel thinks that immigrants are really assimilating, he would do well to pull his head out of the libertarian clouds and consider the reality that in many fundamental ways they are not.


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