You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Commentary: Immigration restrictions hurt Americans, too


Americans living along the Mexican border have begun to receive notices that their property will be condemned by the government in order to build President Donald Trump’s border wall. The greatest damage likely to be inflicted by the Trump administration’s severely restrictionist approach to immigration will probably fall on immigrants themselves. Trump advocates drastic cuts in legal and illegal migration alike. But the wall takings are a reminder that American citizens will suffer, too.

The most obvious harm is economic. Immigration restrictions interfere with the free market more than almost any other U.S. government policy. They literally prevent millions of people from freely seeking jobs and engaging in other market transactions. Free migration throughout the world could potentially double world gross domestic product and grow the economy more than almost any other policy change.

Many of those economic benefits will accrue to native-born Americans who hire immigrants, buy the goods they produce, or engage in other transactions with them. Many products we purchase every day are cheaper or have better quality because of immigrants’ work. Many would not even exist at all without them.

On average, immigrants are more likely to start businesses than native-born citizens, which creates many potential benefits for the latter. Over 80 percent of the highest-achieving high school science students in the U.S. are immigrants or children of immigrants — many of whose parents came to the U.S. on H1B visas that Trump seeks to curb.

Immigration restrictionism also threatens the liberty and property rights of Americans. Most obviously, it curtails their freedom to work and otherwise associate with immigrants. If, like many conservatives, you believe government cannot be trusted to decide what types of food we should eat or what kind of health insurance we should buy, you have reason for skepticism about giving it the power to determine which potential immigrants we should be allowed to interact with.

There is no way to deport large numbers of undocumented immigrants — as the administration seeks to do — without also imperiling the civil liberties of natives. Under the Obama administration, the Department of Homeland Security concluded that immigration enforcement requires large-scale use of racial profiling in areas where some two-thirds of the U.S. population lives.

In practice, that subjects many Americans to racial discrimination by law enforcement agencies merely because they happen to look like they belong to the same ethnic or racial group as undocumented immigrants. Increasing deportation efforts likely means increasing the extent and severity of racial profiling.

As many U.S. police chiefs have noted, the fear created by deportations makes Hispanic communities less willing to cooperate with law enforcement, thereby potentially increasing crime. By contrast, immigration itself actually reduces the crime rate, since immigrants – contrary to the assertions about Mexicans by Trump — actually have lower violent crime rates than natives.

Building Trump’s border wall would require using eminent domain to seize property of many more Americans. The condemnations that have already begun are just the tip of the iceberg.

Though Immigration can occasionally have negative side effects on natives, most are either overblown or can be addressed by less draconian measures than restrictions and deportation. Contrary to critics’ fears, increased immigration does not actually lead to higher welfare state spending per capita. Even if it did, the right solution is not to build a wall across the border but to build a wall limiting access to welfare benefits. This is just one of many “keyhole solutions” that can mitigate potential risks of immigration without barring immigrants. Similar points apply to other common concerns about immigration, including fears that immigrants will vote for bad public policies, fail to assimilate or increase the risk of terrorism.

The world is not a zero-sum game where natives must lose out in order for immigrants to gain — or vice versa. If we truly want to make America great again, we must remember the many ways that immigrants and natives benefit each other. That is a big part of what made the nation great in the first place.

Somin is Professor of Law at George Mason University and author of “Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Herman: Proposal to require Texas lawmakers OK for state statue moves
Herman: Proposal to require Texas lawmakers OK for state statue moves

The battle over the University of Texas’ Jefferson Davis statue is over. So now we move on to the battle over the battle. And we all know where those are fought. Let’s say it all together: “Our State Capitol.” Quick background: The statue of the Confederate president stood (proudly in the eyes of some, disgracefully in the eyes...
John Young: Resistant to facts on climate? Wait – we have pictures
John Young: Resistant to facts on climate? Wait – we have pictures

The word is that Donald Trump isn’t much of a reader. Former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Taran Killam affirms this — that then-candidate Trump “struggled to read” when preparing for a dismal guest-hosting of SNL last year. That’s OK, Mr. President. Research finds a broad swath of our population, up to...
Commentary: Funds for Texas Gulf restoration are finally flowing
Commentary: Funds for Texas Gulf restoration are finally flowing

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded almost seven long years ago, but this month marks the first time the Gulf states —including Texas — will receive money from BP’s Deepwater Horizon 2016 settlement. In total, the state will ultimately receive nearly $1 billion that can be used for Gulf coast restoration from all the different...
Commentary: Overhaul to Texas bail bond system would burden taxpayers
Commentary: Overhaul to Texas bail bond system would burden taxpayers

I am a bail bondsman. Let me give you a peek at my life’s work, which in 2017 suddenly is endangered by the Texas Legislature. I am in a business where I put my dollars at risk. I also put my safety at risk. I do work vital to the Texas judicial system. Friends who are judges and law enforcement officers agree. If I didn’t do this work...
Letters to the editor: April 25, 2017
Letters to the editor: April 25, 2017

Almost two-thirds of the population in our country’s jails have a mental illness. This means that jails are currently our largest provider of mental health care. Most of us know someone living with a mental illness and see the distress it causes in one’s life. When incarcerated, not only will a person’s symptoms likely worsen, but...
More Stories