Donald Trump’s newly released position paper on immigration is the precise mix of fantasy and ignorance that one has come to expect from the recently self-described Republican. Specifically, his position paper reads like an outline of this April op-ed by Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Trump is still a candidate in the GOP primary supported mainly by older white men who are not particularly conservative. Although the electorate has never been more supportive of expanding legal immigration, Trump has never been more opposed.
Trump’s position paper attempts to lay the foundation for his immigration policy as president. Below, I review how his ideas measure up. Quotes from his paper are in quotes, my responses follow.
Here are the three core principles of real immigration reform:
- A nation without borders is not a nation. There must be a wall across the southern border.
- A nation without laws is not a nation. Laws passed in accordance with our Constitutional system of government must be enforced.
- A nation that does not serve its own citizens is not a nation. Any immigration plan must improve jobs, wages and security for all Americans.
The first sentence is true by definition, but assumes that for a border to be real, it must have a wall around it. Whether a wall is warranted should depend on the circumstances at the border, which are vastly more safe than Trump claims.
The last two principles are vague enough that they could support any immigration policy from a total ban on immigration to open borders. The rest of his position paper narrows their focus.
U.S. taxpayers have been asked to pick up hundreds of billions in healthcare costs, housing costs, education costs, welfare costs, etc. Indeed, the annual cost of free tax credits alone paid to illegal immigrants quadrupled to $4.2 billion in 2011.
This analysis factors in only fiscal costs, which will always lead to negative fiscal outcomes. It ignores the fiscal benefits that come from a larger economy. The fact remains that poor immigrants use less welfare than poor Americans. They contribute mightily to Social Security, Medicare, and other portions of the U.S budget. Over time, immigration’s impact on the U.S. taxpayer is about a net-zero. In other words, immigrants and their descendants pay for themselves.
Immigration can turn fiscally positive by further restricting welfare access. Right now illegal immigrants do not have access to means tested welfare programs, but their American born children do. However, their benefit levels are adjusted downwards to account for the non-eligible members of their households. Short of lowering welfare benefit levels for everybody, which would be a positive move, the government cannot deny citizens access based on who their parents are. However, Congress can deny all non-citizens access to welfare. Cato has published the only guide of how to do that. Removing the Earned Income Tax Credit for unauthorized or other categories of non-citizens would also be easy.
The position paper doesn’t factor in the estimated $400 to $600 billion government cost of removing all unauthorized immigrants as well as the lost tax revenue from the subsequently smaller economy. Doing so reveals how fiscally damaging this immigration plan would be if it ever became law.
The effects on jobseekers have also been disastrous …
The influx of foreign workers holds down salaries, keeps unemployment high, and makes it difficult for poor and working class Americans – including immigrants themselves and their children – to earn a middle class wage.
There is a lot of research on whether immigrants displace Americans in the job market – and the general finding is that immigrants displace very few American workers.