Want a strong economy and less crime? Then we should be welcoming immigrants
with a lot more warmth than we presently do.
Thomas Jefferson, like the country he helped found, was of two minds on
immigration. In his 1785 "Notes on the State of Virginia," he
feared that immigrants, rather than assimilating, would "bring with
them the principles of the governments they leave" and render the
young nation "a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass."
By 1801, though, his tune had changed. In his First Annual Message to
Congress, Jefferson asked, "Shall oppressed humanity find no asylum
on this globe?" "The general character and capabilities of a
citizen," he thought, could be "safely communicated to everyone
manifesting a bona fide purpose of embarking his life and fortunes"
in the immigrant nation.
Add a dose of terrorism and gang-violence fear to the Jefferson of 1785
and you would essentially have the present-day argument of the American
right. Add in some focus-group buzzwords like "dreamers" to
the Jefferson of 1801 and you would not be far afield from the present-day
American left. Neither side, though, has a coherent argument or plan for
In the end, Jefferson was right to approach the issue from both perspectives,
even if it took him 16 years to do so. Since 1801 the issue has only become
more complicated. Immigration is still a social issue to be sure, but
the economics of immigration have largely taken center stage. And here,
there shouldn't be much confusion.
The oft-heard arguments in favor of restricting entry to the United States
are that immigrants take American jobs, draw on public resources and do
not contribute to the nation's tax base. Immigrants do, in fact, strive
to work in the United States, but the notion that they do so at the expense
of American workers is not terribly compelling. They take a good number
of entry-level jobs that American citizens show little interest in holding,
but there is a much larger picture here to consider: immigrant entrepreneurship.
Many immigrants move to the United States in search of the opportunity
to start their own businesses, and this aspect of the immigrant character
has paid staggering dividends for the country.
Forty percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants.
Among these are
Capital One and
Kohl's. Together, just these nine companies are worth almost $3 trillion and
employ almost 1 million people. For perspective, the Pew Research Center
estimates that there are
8 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. workforce, earning an average of
$30,000per family. That puts total annual earnings by all illegal immigrants in
the U.S. somewhere in the range of $150 billion to $240 billion. The total
value created by just nine immigrant entrepreneurs exceeds the total wages
paid to all illegal immigrants over at least the past decade.
But the dividends don't end there. Among small U.S. businesses, almost
20 percent were founded by immigrants. That means that immigrant small businesses
are responsible for
10 million jobs. Assuming that immigrant founders are responsible for the same fraction
of large businesses as they are for Fortune 500 businesses, immigrants
and children of immigrants are directly responsible for a total of more than
50 million U.S. jobs. That's around 40 percent of all American jobs attributable
to less than
14 percent of the U.S. population. Immigrants create far more American jobs than
But what about all those social services immigrants use without contributing
to the tax base? Legal immigrants pay taxes like the rest of us. Illegal
immigrants pay property taxes, sales taxes and excise taxes. According
to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, illegal immigrants pay almost
$12 billion in state and local taxes annually. For immigrants who work under the table,
paying income and payroll taxes is problematic, but even here, the facts
run counter to common perceptions. The Social Security Administration
estimates that illegal immigrants and their employers contributed
$13 billion in payroll taxes in 2010 alone through the use of fraudulent Social Security
numbers or Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers. As fraudulent Social
Security numbers can't be traced back to the actual workers, and as
ITIN users aren't eligible for Social Security benefits, that $13
billion per year is pure profit for the Social Security trust fund. It
is money that illegal immigrants pay into the system that they will never
receive back in benefits.
The economics of the matter clearly indicate that we should be welcoming
immigrants with a lot more warmth than we presently do.
But what of the social side? The complaints here are familiar: Immigrants
do not assimilate the way they once did, and they bring a fair amount
of crime with them.
Assimilation is tricky business, but it has been more a native issue than
an immigrant one. The expectation that immigrants would come to the United
States, adopt the customs and language and get on with the business of
living their lives has come under significant fire for at least the last
40 years. First came multiculturalism, which discouraged immigrants from
participating in our shared culture. Then came concern over "cultural
appropriation," which discouraged natives from participating in immigrant
cultures. Together, concerns about multiculturalism and cultural appropriation
built a wall between natives and immigrants. E Pluribus Unum gave way
to a form of cultural ghettoization, and everyone is worse for it.
Crime is more straightforward. From 1971 through 1991, violent crime rates nearly
doubled in the United States. Over that same period, the immigrant population
(legal and illegal), as a fraction of the U.S. population, rose almost
70 percent. This correlation was presented as causation, and the sobering effects
of that lives on to the present. What most people do not know, and what
politicians will not admit, is that in 1992, U.S. crime rates started
falling precipitously – both nationwide and in each of the five
states with the largest immigrant populations. And they continued to fall
all the way down to 1960s levels.
Over this same period, the immigrant population continued to grow at about
the same rate as before. Either something happened in 1992 to change dramatically
the type of people immigrating to this country, or the dramatic rise in
crime rates from 1971 to 1991 had nothing to do with immigrants. Although
1990s legislation bolstered deportation rules for criminal aliens, subsequent
research found that legislation did not markedly change crime rates among the immigrant
population. Incarceration rates for immigrants consistently hovered around
one-fifth that for non-immigrants. If reducing crime is the goal, the
data suggest that we'd be better off deporting natives than deporting
The Jefferson of 1801 had it right. The American way of life can be "safely
communicated" to the immigrants who arrive on our shores. But as
the economics of immigration prove, we don't really have to communicate
much. The immigrants who choose to quit their homes and come to ours already
exhibit the American spirit to a greater degree than many who had the
good fortune to be born here. The best thing we can do for them and for
ourselves is to open the doors and leave them be.
REVILLA LAW FIRM, P.A.
Full-Service Immigration Law Firm located in Miami, FL.
We handle all immigration matters. Contact our Miami immigration law firm
today to schedule a free in-office consulation with Antonio G. Revilla
III. Mr. Revilla is a Former U.S. Immigration Prosecutor and a Miami immigration
attorney with over 25 years of legal experience.
As always, we will fight to keep you in the United States. Although our
immigration law firm is located in Miami, our attorneys can represent
you anywhere in the United States.
Call today to have your immigration case evaluated during a free in-office
consulation. Telephone consultations are also available for a small fee.
(305) 858-2323 or toll free (877) 854-2323