“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Let them in: My take on immigration

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for parts of Trump’s travel ban — the Court will hear arguments this October before making a final decision. Effective immediately, foreign nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen will be banned from entering the United States for 90 days — refugees for 120 days. The Court created an exception for anyone who has “a credible claim of a bon fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

Setting aside the ethical implications of the ban, it’s important that we recognize that Trump will have been successful regardless of what the Court inevitably decides. By distracting us with a xenophobic travel ban and his U.S.-Mexico border wall, Trump has practically ruined any chance of meaningful immigration reform in the near future.

We’re missing the point

The United States hasn’t had comprehensive immigration reform since 1986. That year, a Republican Senate and a Democratic House imposed a requirement on all U.S. employers to verify that new employees were authorized U.S. workers. However, the law failed to end illegal immigration because immigrants can easily obtain fake social security cards, and employers aren’t required to verify the authenticity of documents. In some cases, employers like Case Farms actually exploited this loophole by selling immigrant workers fake I.D.s and threatened them with deportation if they didn’t toe the line.

Three facts regarding the U.S. undocumented population:

  • Today, 11 million unauthorized immigrants live in the United States, and nearly 75% of them are part of the civilian workforce — contributing about $12 billion in taxes and another $13 billion to social security every year.
  • While illegal immigration costs U.S. taxpayers upwards of $100 billion/year, they contribute approximately 3% to private sector GDP annually, which amounts to $5 trillion over a 10-year period.
  • Contrary to Trump’s claims that immigrants pose a threat to public safety, immigrants are actually less likely to commit crimes that people born in the United States.

Three things that comprehensive immigration reform could accomplish:

Give amnesty to illegal-immigrant workers

Granting amnesty to illegal immigrant workers would increase economic productivity and boost GDP growth. How is this possible, don’t immigrants compete with American citizens for jobs? The short answer: No.

The vast majority of undocumented immigrants are concentrated in low-skilled, low-paying jobs that most Americans don’t want to do. Today, undocumented immigrants are employed in roughly 26 percent of all farming jobs, 17 percent of all cleaning and maintenance jobs and 14 percent of all construction jobs. Additionally, a Pew Research report found that the states whose labor forces have the highest shares of unauthorized immigrants are Nevada (10.2% in 2012), California (9.4%) and Texas (8.9%). Mass deportations of these immigrants would devastate these economies — reducing cumulative GDP by nearly $5 trillion over ten years and resulting in $900 billion in lost tax revenue.

Amnesty would be a more sensible immigration policy. Not only would these immigrants become more productive workers, but they would make higher wages, which would translate into more economic growth and higher government revenues. When President Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to undocumented workers in 1986, the wages of those workers rose by 15% in less than six years.

Reinforce the Entrepreneurship Rule and issue more H-1B visas

It turns out that immigrants are much more entrepreneurial than their native-born counterparts — they are nearly twice as likely to start new businesses. Moreover, according to the National Foundation for American Policy, immigrants have started at least half of America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion dollars or more. It’s ironic then that the Trump administration has threatened to scrap The International Entrepreneurship Rule, an Obama era policy meant to give foreign entrepreneurs an opportunity to live in the U.S. and grow their businesses.

Additionally, the conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation, calculated that the United States would generate tens of billions of dollars in new tax revenue if it expanded the H-1B visa program to allow more highly skilled immigrants to work in the U.S. Tech companies especially, are in desperate need of more high skilled labor to drive their projected growth. Under existing policy, U.S. employers are permitted to hire up to 85,000 skilled guest workers each year, but this number is dwarfed by the nearly 200,000 applications submitted each year. Unfortunately, Trump is threatening to undermine this program as well. In April, he signed an executive order to direct U.S. agencies to be more selective when awarding H-1B visas.

Ensure a better standard of living for all

President Trump’s latest budget proposal makes the assumption that U.S. economic growth will reach 3 percent — it currently stands at 1.9 percent. This goal is highly unlikely, however, without comprehensive immigration reform that would allow more immigrants to live and work in America. The evidence shows us that immigrants rarely compete for the same jobs as native-born workers, they contribute more to economic growth and productivity than they take away in government services, and they raise the standard of living for the vast majority of Americans. Why then, is the Trump administration threatening to end the very programs that would help immigrants contribute more to U.S. economic growth and prosperity?

Trump, and his policy advisers are motivated by nationalistic rather than economic concerns. The White House Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, is the chief architect behind Trump’s immigration ban and is a proponent of restricting the H-1B visa program. According to an analysis conducted by The Washington Post, Bannon has argued that “countries should protect their citizens and their essence by reducing immigration, legal and illegal, and pulling back from multinational agreements.” Furthermore, when Bannon was still at the right-wing news organization Breitbart, he told the listeners of his radio show that the United States and the Western world are engaged in a global existential war with Islam. It’s notable that the immigration ban omitted Saudi Arabia, the home country of most of the 9/11 attackers. Furthermore, no foreigner from the seven countries included in Trump’s original executive order has committed a deadly act of terrorism in the U.S. since 2001. The justification for this ban — to protect Americans from terrorism — is completely baseless given these facts.

Comprehensive immigration reform appears to be out of reach for the foreseeable future. As long as our country is governed by individuals with a nationalist agenda, there’s little hope for immigration reform that will boost economic growth, stimulate entrepreneurship, and produce prosperity for all Americans. However, that shouldn’t deter us from seeking out the truth, exposing our government leaders for peddling lies, and becoming more involved in the democratic process.

Follow me on twitter to keep up with my latest activity @pmnouhan