There is a fallacy being perpetuated by those opposed to immigration reform. The fallacy centers on the notion that fair and open immigration is equal to open borders. The fallacy is driven by those opposed to immigration in part, but for the most part by those afraid of the changing cultural and language face of the United States. As I discussed yesterday, it comes down to the fear of the rise of the Spanish language and Mexican-centric culture in the US.
The fact is that the US is dependent on immigrant labor. Nativists argue that immigrants are a drain on the US economy and detrimental to US jobs. However, the true reality is that the US agricultural sector, the construction industry, and the services jobs, like hotels and restaurants, would be devastated without immigrant labor.
There are many studies from respectable nonprofits and governmental investigators that support this reality but the nativists dismiss them all as bipartisan, propaganda or political. Regardless, a simple review of the empirical evidence clearly demonstrates this reality.
In June 2016, News Week produced a map showing the economies of the US states comparing them to countries by GDP. Per News Week, the largest state economy in the US is California. Texas ranks number two by GDP. New York follows Texas at the number three spot. Florida is number four and is followed by Illinois at number four. The top five is rounded out by Pennsylvania.
Now let us compare these states with their immigration populations.
The Migration Policy Institute produces reports of immigrant populations. It’s latest immigrant figures is from 2013.
California has an immigrant population mix of 27% immigrants vs US born citizens. Mexico is the largest immigrant contributor to California, followed by the Philippines. Texas has an immigration population mix of 16% with Mexico being the largest contributor of immigrants. New York has an immigrant population mix of 22%, with the Dominican Republic being the largest immigrant contributor to New York. Mexico was third, behind China in the immigrant population mix for New York. Florida has an immigrant population mix of 19%, with Cuba being the largest immigrant population contributor. Mexico, again came in third, behind Haiti, as Florida’s immigrant population contributor.
Illinois’ immigrant population mix is 14% and it is led by Mexican immigrants. Pennsylvania has a 6% immigrant population mix compared to US born residents. Mexico is the second largest immigrant population contributor, after India.
Now let us look at the three worst US states by GDP. Per the Business Insider, in 2014, the worst state by GDP is Mississippi. Mississippi was followed by West Virginia, and Alabama rounds out the top three worst US states by GDP. Now let’s compare the three worst-performing states against their immigration populations.
Mississippi has a 2% immigration population in their midst. It is led by Mexican immigrants. West Virginia has an immigrant population mix of 1%, again led by Mexicans. Alabama has a 4% immigrant population mix, again led by Mexicans.
As you can see, there is a nexus between the immigrant population mix and a state’s productivity.
However, the most interesting aspect of the comparison between the GDP for each state and their respective immigrant populations is the undocumented workers in each of the states. A 2009 Homeland Security report estimates that the top five US states with undocumented immigrant populations, ranked from highest to lower are California, Texas, Florida, Illinois and New York.
Did you notice the correlation between highest productivity and undocumented immigrant populations?
The nativist is likely to argue that this correlation is immaterial or that it demonstrates the pressures immigrants impose on national salaries. The fact remains, though, that the largest producing US states have the highest immigrant populations along with the highest undocumented immigrants residing in the states with the best economies.
These are important facts and it brings us to the issue of fair immigration reform.
Once the US population, especially the nativists, understand that immigrants are vital to the US economy then they will understand that immigrants must be allowed a fair and open pathway to do the jobs that make the country more productive. A productive country benefits every citizen in the US.
An open and fair immigration system recognizes that immigrants are vital to the country while ensuring that security is ensured. Basing immigration reform on this basic tenet would create a free-flow of labor between countries where the immigrant workers not only empower the country but they, themselves, ensure drug dealers and terrorists do not ruin their ability to work freely in the US.
That is the fundamental truth to open immigration, so stop trying to corollate open borders with fair immigration reform.