On Tuesday, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) sent out an email memo with talking points for opponents of immigration reform. Most of the points are based on misinterpretations of government reports, cherry-picked findings by organizations that engage in statistical chicanery, or just flat-out incorrect. These anti-immigration arguments do not advance a logical argument against immigration. Here is a point by point rebuttal of the major claims of this memo:
Claim: No immigration reform proposals will halt unauthorized immigration.
Fact: Guest worker visas are the most effective way of halting unauthorized immigration because it provides a lawful pathway for low-skilled immigrants to enter instead of overstaying a visa, running across a desert, or being smuggled in. Providing a lawful immigration pathway will funnel peaceful migrant workers into the legal system leaving immigration enforcement to deal with a much smaller pool of unlawful immigrants. Italian immigrants in 1910 did not crash boats in to the Jersey Shore to avoid Border Patrol. They entered legally through Ellis Island because there was a legal way to enter. Let’s reopen that pathway – at least partly.
Congress did open it a little bit in the 1950s which ended up cutting unauthorized immigration by over 90 percent by creating a low-skilled guest worker visa called the Bracero Program. That program later ended due to union pressure, causing unauthorized immigration to immediately skyrocket. The program was shut down after domestic unions, especially Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers, mounted a national campaign against it.
According to Stuart Anderson of the National Foundation for American Policy, a February 1958 Border Patrol document from the El Centro, California district states, “Should Public Law 78 [Bracero Program) be repealed or a restriction placed on the number of braceros allowed to enter the United States, we can look forward to a large increase in the number of illegal alien entrants into the United States.” That is exactly what happened.
The government cannot regulate immigration if much of it is illegal. Legalizing the flow of workers into the United States is a simple and cost-effective way to control the border.
Sources: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
Claim: Immigration reform will increase the budget deficit.
Fact: Immigration has a very small impact on the size of budget deficits. For what it’s worth, a Congressional Budget Office’s dynamic score of the Senate immigration reform plan found that it would reduce federal government budget deficits by about $1.2 trillion over the next 20 years. Extra growth to the economy and tax revenue from more legal immigrants more than offsets the additional cost of government benefits. Poor immigrants consume government benefits at a lower rate than poor natives and they also pay taxes. Highly skilled immigrants make a more positive contribution to government budgets. According to a survey of countries, the impact is rarely more than plus or minus 1 percent of GDP. In the U.S. case it is generally positive over the long run but the numbers are very small. In short, according to economist Robert Rowthorn, “[t]he desirability of large-scale immigration should be decided on other grounds.”