In Defense of Immigration

In an immigration debate that has grown incendiary, it’s rare to find a cooler, bipartisan take. Now, research from the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank started by former senators from both parties—Tom Daschle, Bob Dole, Howard Baker, and George Mitchell—carefully ticks off the economic benefits of immigration reform.

The report argues that boosting immigration levels will benefit, not hurt, economic growth, citing a Congressional Budget Office scoring of the 2013 Senate Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, which showed that boosting immigration by 16 million people from 2013 to 2033 would increase total U.S. economic output by 5.4% over the span. The center found that granting legal status to eight million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. would cut the deficit by $1.2 trillion over 20 years under the bill.

One of America’s thorniest issues is its aging population. The population of those age 65 and above will more than double by 2060, underscoring the need for working-age adults to pick up the slack. One solution: the population of foreign-born individuals, which is growing at a faster rate than that of the natives. One downside: a possible rise in federal benefits to immigrants, though that depends on future legislation.

The think tank also looks at the effect of immigration on Social Security, says Kenneth Megan, a senior policy analyst and lead author of the report. Megan’s team “found that comprehensive immigration reform would increase trust fund solvency by two years.” That isn’t a solution to the problem, but at least it is moving in the right direction.

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By BARRON’S ASIA
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