Saturday, December 25, 2010

America is a land of immigrants

America is a land of immigrants. The American Dream is about an idea: create a land where immigrants are welcome; a land where everyone is considered equal under the law, and naturalized citizens may start businesses or find jobs according to their knowledge and skillset, just as natural-born citizens do; a land where those on the bottom have a realistic chance of success, rising to the top.

More importantly, at the present time, America needs immigrants. Here's why:

  • America's population is aging; retirees are less productive and require more frequent, more expensive health care (with apologies to all retirees I know and love). Although pensions and retirement savings address much of this burden, present day workers pick up the slack.
  • America's birthrate is declining. Fewer new natural-born citizens are being created, leading to fewer workers over the long term, needing to support a larger population of seniors.
  • Medicare and Social Security both have huge predicted shortfalls as a result, and along with pensions, threaten to swamp all other expenditures at the federal and state levels.

If America is going to keep its promises to the current and near-future crop of retirees, we need a lot more workers. That means more babies, and/or more immigration. Productivity gains with existing worker levels are possible, but such exponential productivity gains are extremely unlikely.

So you can imagine my reaction when I was reading this Politico piece analyzing Republican immigration policy, and stumbled across this passage:

He won’t say when his committee plans to tackle birthright citizenship, the policy of granting citizenship to every child born in the country. He doesn’t want to talk about whether he will pursue reducing the level of legal immigration, family migration or work visas — all at the top of the wish list for anti-illegal-immigration advocates.

Anti-illegal-immigration advocates want to reduce legal immigration? Really? That is disappointing.

America needs more legal immigration. Above simple raw number increase, our immigration policies should also be adjusted to incentivize education level over family ties: college graduates before cousins.

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