Some prominent conservatives like Larry Kudlow, David Bossie, and Ann Coulter have now called for a complete moratorium on immigration because of the threat of Islamic terrorism. However, they all focus on the benefits and neglect the costs of such a policy. An immigration moratorium will cost the U.S. economy about $200 billion annually on net, even if it is successful at significantly reducing terrorism.
Costs of Terrorism and the Benefits of an Immigration Moratorium
According to the New America Foundation, jihadists have killed 45 Americans on U.S. soil since 9/11. John Mueller estimates that each murder by jihadists costs about $15 million – double that of other deaths. That means the cost of jihadist terrorism on American soil, just taking in to account the loss of life, is about $50 million a year since 9/11. Let’s double that to $100 million to try and take account of other costs, excluding counter-terrorism spending.
Under the most pessimistic assumptions, 73 percent of convicted terrorists in the decade after 9/11 were foreign-born. Assuming that those 73 percent of immigrant terrorists are responsible for 73 percent of the jihadist murders since 9/11, their annual cost is $73 million. At best, assuming there are no immigrant terrorists currently in the United States, the benefits of reducing terrorism via an immigration moratorium are $73 million annually.
Costs of a Moratorium
Of course, measuring just the benefits of a moratorium is only half of the relevant calculation. We must also estimate the economic costs of a moratorium on all future immigration. Professor Benjamin Powell of Texas Tech University estimated the economic costs of a total immigration moratorium at $229 billion annually – $193 billion in rent-seeking costs and an additional loss of the conservatively estimated $36 billion annual immigration surplus. Powell’s estimate is remarkably similar to Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda’s related estimate that removing 11 million unauthorized immigrants would lower GDP over a ten period by $2.6 trillion (Powell’s ten-year cost is $2.3 trillion).