Column: Immigration issue requires closer look at benefits and drawbacks

Increasing immigration may jumpstart economy but also strain existing problems

With over 11 million undocumented workers currently residing in the United States and many others searching for ways to get inside our borders, there is no doubt that American immigration policies need to be reviewed. Now, it is simply a question of how best to overcome the current situation with the greatest benefits for all parties present. Ideologically, we are a nation of immigrants, founded upon immigrants and fueled by immigrants. Historically, periods of boom in American society coincide with open immigration laws, and periods of bust and stagnation come from very tight and regulated immigration quotas.

In 1882, President Arthur passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, a comprehensive bill that all but prohibited Chinese immigration, affecting California especially. Despite being seen as a positive, the per capita income in California steadily decreased for 100 years after the implementation of the act. In 1880, the price-adjusted income per capita was 166, although that number fell steadily to 108 in 1980, with no climbs in between, according to The Journal of Economic History. Conversely, the Hart-Celler Act of 1965 removed the racial restrictions in immigration and opened up traditional preferences for those looking to migrate into the United States. In the first few years directly following this legislation, the American economy reached a low of 3.8% unemployment and a real growth of 9%. Unfortunately, international oil crises and foreign developments couldn’t maintain a strong economy, but the influx of immigrants helped jumpstart it initially. These examples can be seen as strong indications of the benefits of immigration to the American economy.

Especially with the economy still not recovered from the crash in 2008, we need to examine every possible avenue to incite another period of boom, with immigration being one of those areas. All this said, it would seem as if we should open up our borders and allow easy immigration into the U.S. This would help the economy, as more workers would enter the market to take up jobs that other Americans would refuse to do. Additionally, they would pay their fair share of taxes, sending more money back into circulation while not taking much out, since undocumented workers already utilize tax-payer services when they receive aid from health services, the police force, firefighters, etc. Integrating them into American society puts more money into the system without adding an additional economic burden that isn’t already present.

On the flip side, however, opening up American borders adds to a growing number of internal and external problems that may not make the net result positive. Internally, we add more number to social programs that are already at the brink. The coffer for Social Security is already beginning to run dry, and public education already can afford only one teacher for a classroom of 40 students. Furthermore, the current unemployment rate of 7.2% will be inflated with more members in our society, as more people will go jobless while markets get more difficult in competition, especially if many uneducated workers are entering. However, as we’ve seen in the past, putting limitations and quotas on where immigrants come from and their personal backgrounds does not always stem from noble grounds and cannot be seen as the moral and ethical action to take.

Externally, increasing immigration in America puts strain on home countries that are losing vital members of their societies. Money is being taken out of their system, as the emigrant who would be buying goods in the home country is now using their purchasing power in America. Additionally, those who do leave for education often never return, depleting underdeveloped nations of an educated and powerful class of leaders, miring them in stagnation and aversion to growth. There is no clear-cut solution to the growth of immigration in the United States, and yet it is not a new problem either. When fixing this problem, legislators need to keep in mind the ramifications that will ensue, both domestically and internationally.