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Why immigration could help America

By Suzy Khimm

The U.S. birth rate has hit a record low, falling for the second year since its peak in 2007, according to the National Bureau of Health Statistics. Demographers mostly blame the economy for the drop, as recession-hit families have been more cautious about having children and fewer immigrants have been coming. Daily Intel sums up the findings.

There were 13.5 births for every 1,000 people last year, a 2.6 percent drop from the year before, and the lowest birth rate in decades. It looks like the number of babies, like the housing market, peaked in 2007. "When the economy is bad and people are uncomfortable about their financial future, they tend to postpone having children," says Andrew Cherlin, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University.

The concern is that the U.S. fertility rate might not recover if the country fails to pull itself out of an economic slump. That's precisely what happened to Japan, where a negative birth rate brought on by the country's financial contraction and rapidly aging population has exacerbated its ability to pull out of a decades-long recession.

Far from spelling economic doom, America's immigrant population could help ensure enough young workers to drive the labor pool and support the growing ranks of retirees. Immigrant families tend to have more children than the native population, and the Latino birth rate is higher than that of other ethnic groups. Restrictionists often use such figures to argue that immigrants are a drain on public resources, and the right-wing crusade against "anchor babies" evoked a fear of overpopulation via excessive immigrant fecundity. But immigrants, as a landmark 1997 National Research Council study showed, immigrants overall have contributed more in taxes than they've taken in public services, particularly as they become more socially mobile. In the long term, a policy that encourages healthy levels of immigration could serve as a bulwark against decades of Japan-style stagnation.

Suzy Khimm is a political reporter in the Washington bureau of Mother Jones.

By Suzy Khimm  |  August 27, 2010; 5:49 PM ET
 
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Comments

Washington has also been closing doors to the professional immigrants, if nothing else then by pushing a lot of uncertainty in to their lives during the stay (through lousy H1/H4 visa programs). These are usually medium to high wage workers contributing to the US taxes (and in case of H1's, not taking benefits from social security system in many cases). This has led to:

1. Reluctance in students coming in as they find it difficult to get H1s later

2. 'Reverse brain drain' of H1s back to native countries, taking some more US jobs with them

Short sighted policies that are harming the US. America is still a 'dream' for so many people. What is needed is a smooth stay for the temporary workers, and if they wish, a smooth passage to permanent immigration for them.

Posted by: suvikas | August 27, 2010 9:08 PM | Report abuse

Look at the wonderful way the U.S. Department of State handles immigration and you know health care reform (or DeathCare, as it's referred to where I come from) is going to be twice as fabulous.

But, I digress.

Khimm nicely captures the collectivist mindset. We should favor immigration, not because immigrants are great people, highly principled, freedom loving, hard working, personally responsible, and respecting of their fellow's right, etc., but because they will "help ensure enough young workers to drive the labor pool and support the growing ranks of retirees."

I mean, that's why *my* ancestors came to America, right? To become cogs in re-distributive social justice machines. That was the American dream, for all those years. And now it's been ruined by all those nasty people who keep trying to draw distinctions between legal and illegal and the attractions of the welfare state.

...

Plainly, the State Department is not up to the job of processing immigration requests, probably its most basic function. Nor are the bureaucrats there able to enforce the terms of the visas that it does manage to emit.

Further, and plainly, the Executive branch in general is not up to the job of enforcing the existing laws respecting our borders, one of its most basic, ostensibly legitimate, functions.

Equally plainly, the U.S. welfare state has at least *some* attraction to those willing to violate our legal borders, even if, as Khimm makes sure to point out, "immigrants overall have contributed more in taxes than they've taken in public services, particularly as they become more socially mobile." What the caveat is about, is anyone's guess. But that's yer old lefty straw man, too, because people on the right have long been noting that immigrants, both legal and illegal, are mostly hard working people. What gets various ires up is the rule of law thing. Do the laws mean anything, or don't they? Khimm doesn't care, as long as there are enough workers for the government to bleed in service to its various power mongering schemes.

I say, open the borders, shutter the vast incompetent bureaus at the State Department, and stop offering the umpteen varieties of public assistance, all the way from food stamps to "free" government educations and health care. If people want to come to America, they'll be wanting to come for all the right reasons, and at their own speed. And it won't cost hundreds of billions, and people won't have to wait in stupid lines for years on end, or ride locked in box cars at risk of their lives.

But then the re-distributive collectivist dreams of people like Khimm might not have a platform to run on.

Posted by: msoja | August 27, 2010 10:10 PM | Report abuse

A negative birth rate is a good thing, if you want a real solution for climate change.

Posted by: Jenga918 | August 28, 2010 1:13 AM | Report abuse

Health care (transformation) is one of the best issues this current administration has done thus far. With this change individuals will have the opportunity to seek professional and quality health care services. Who would want to return to the days of the horse and buggy, b/w tv sets, manual typewriters, pac man, you get the point? That's about how old the health care system was in the USA. Each day the news is filled with social tragedies in which lives are taken at the hands of known acquaintences and/or family members. Our society is stricken with the institutions of white collar crime permeating throughout this great nation and greed which tends to strike at the very fabric of our country. If you are looking for affordable health insurance check out http://bit.ly/9fDY7U . I hope everyone will soon recognize and use the resources made by this transformation to seek professional medical attention as the need arises rather than turning to illegal and criminal activities to resolve their issues.


Posted by: markusjone28 | August 28, 2010 3:22 AM | Report abuse

ILLEGALS get AMNESTY -- right after the Kennedys become middle-class. NOT BEFORE.

Posted by: russpoter | August 28, 2010 4:55 AM | Report abuse

Two separate issues - failure of Hillary and Obama to crack the State Department in shape to streamline the existing immigration process without impacting the number of people admitted in USA and immigration policy. As like Bush and earlier Clinton government, Obama government is one more addition to a long list of inept American Governments who do not bring the 'bureaucracy' of immigration in shape. Once again the 'execution' mantra of Hillary and Obama does not stand up to the scrutiny.

Next as far as the policy, allowing more immigrants in the country - any takers here? You had Beck rally in DC yesterday. Can any one dare to talk these extremists? Sen. Reid foolishly killed cliamte control support of Sen. Graham for the sake of talking 'rubbish' on immigration. If you cannot deliver why did you talk about that and even killed the possibility of getting something else passed?

Truth is Immigration issue is completely owned by Republicans - in a negative sense. Let Dems keep getting votes, but nothing on this issue can be passed in Congress unless GOP initiates the bills or supports those; whether they are in majority and minority. Do we Dem knuckle heads get that? So let us move to our regular programming once we are swatted one more time on this issue.

Posted by: umesh409 | August 28, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

LOL..so we should be using birthrates as a criteria for admitting immigrants? What planet does Ms Khimm live on? (Clearly not earth, with all the threats of of global climate change)

I agree with several of the other posters, that we should have as a priority in our immigration policy the admittance of those with skills which America needs. We need to streamline the immigration process for those folks, and adequately staff and resource the agencies which oversee this process. If the cost of putting in place adequate resources is an issue, raise the fees (many of which are paid by corporations eager to hire these immigrants).

Posted by: Beagle1 | August 28, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

This opinion piece might make sense if we actually had a problem with shrinking population. But we do not. A truly professional Demographics analysis looks beyond a year or two to the long term trends. Like over 20 years. If you look at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report on workers per age group you will see that the total USA population of the twenty years that comprise the Baby Boomer age group (45 to 64) includes 79 million people. The age group that is twenty years younger, the so called “baby bust” group (25 to 44) actually includes 81 million people. This age group is LARGER than the Baby Boomer group. And people under 25 have a higher average population per age than does the 25 to 44 age group. In the grand sweep of time there is no problem in the USA with a shrinking population. In fact, but for the last two years our population is still growing WITHOUT more immigration.

We get a false impression of a problem because People 65 and over, the Depression/World War II generation, number only 38 million because that was one of those periods when childbirth was delayed due to economic troubles and war. There will be no long term decline in population as the Baby Boomers run out of years. They are simply a larger age group that those who retired before them.

Posted by: Norski | August 29, 2010 2:36 AM | Report abuse

There are 21 million unemployed Americans (per U.S. Gov. Statistics) versus 7.5 million working Illegal Immigrants (per Pew Center Statistics). These same statistics show that the majority of unemployed Americans work in the same job markets as working Illegal Immigrants. With almost three Unemployed Americans for every working Illegal Immigrant, it does not take a Rocket Scientist to see how Illegal Immigrants are hurting Americans and how wrong the theory is that Illegal Immigration is a net tax benefit to the USA.

It was recently estimated that working Illegal Immigrants contribute an estimated $9 billion per year to Social Security and Tax collections. Per U.S. Gov. Statistics unemployment pays the equivalent of $7.00 to $13.00 per hour depending on State ($14,000 and $26,000 per year). Add in a government estimated average of about $2,700 welfare payments, multiply by 7.5 million, then assuming that only two thirds of the unemployed who could be working but for the employment of Illegal Immigrants get this support, and the net cost to the U.S. Taxpayer is over $100 billion per year. That means that Illegal Immigration constitutes at least a $91 billion annual drain in our tax resources.

And now Americans who are looking for jobs taken by Illegal Immigrants are begging to have unemployment extended to 126 weeks or face starvation. And Illegal Immigrants do not take the jobs with them when they are deported. Where is the compassion for the poor out of work Americans?

Posted by: Norski | August 29, 2010 2:45 AM | Report abuse

There are 21 million unemployed Americans (per U.S. Gov. Statistics) versus 7.5 million working Illegal Immigrants (per Pew Center Statistics). These same statistics show that the majority of unemployed Americans work in the same job markets as working Illegal Immigrants. With almost three Unemployed Americans for every working Illegal Immigrant, it does not take a Rocket Scientist to see how Illegal Immigrants are hurting Americans and how wrong the theory is that Illegal Immigration is a net tax benefit to the USA.

It was recently estimated that working Illegal Immigrants contribute an estimated $9 billion per year to Social Security and Tax collections. Per U.S. Gov. Statistics unemployment pays the equivalent of $7.00 to $13.00 per hour depending on State ($14,000 and $26,000 per year). Add in a government estimated average of about $2,700 welfare payments, multiply by 7.5 million, then assuming that only two thirds of the unemployed who could be working but for the employment of Illegal Immigrants get this support, and the net cost to the U.S. Taxpayer is over $100 billion per year. That means that Illegal Immigration constitutes at least a $91 billion annual drain in our tax resources.

And now Americans who are looking for jobs taken by Illegal Immigrants are begging to have unemployment extended to 126 weeks or face starvation. And Illegal Immigrants do not take the jobs with them when they are deported. Where is the compassion for the poor out of work Americans?

Posted by: Norski | August 29, 2010 2:48 AM | Report abuse

What's so hard to understand?

Legal immigration of the skilled: Great! Just look at how Canada is doing it. The skilled create more jobs than the one they take.

Legal immigration of the unskilled: Good over the long haul for the country, though it definitely creates some winners and losers (who then deserve a helping hand).

Illegal immigration of any sort: Bad. Unfair. Unjust. Unnecessary. Unwelcome. Send them home, fine their employers into oblivion, and increase legal immigration instead.

Posted by: brickcha | August 29, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Current immigration policies of this administration reflect several issues: the administrations inability to halt illegal immigration, the claimed need for low wage workers while removing jobs, resources and hope for the American worker who has footed the bill. As someone with roots in this country prior to it's inception send the illegal immigrants home. Many of us would rather see our fellow citizens paid a decent living wage employed and healthy than asked to pay for those who do not honor the same laws of this land while asked to make a personal sacrifice to do so. There is something so heinous about politicians who promote the current immigration policies and ask for amnesty while outsourcing jobs overseas that it is unacceptable for these things to continue as so many people are unemployed and so many homes are being foreclosed. It is analogous to the Potato famine in Ireland of the 19th century where the overlords ignored the cries of the people...

Posted by: Tinker4 | August 29, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Current immigration policies of this administration reflect several issues: the administrations inability to halt illegal immigration, the claimed need for low wage workers while removing jobs, resources and hope for the American worker who has footed the bill. As someone with roots in this country prior to it's inception send the illegal immigrants home. Many of us would rather see our fellow citizens paid a decent living wage employed and healthy than asked to pay for those who do not honor the same laws of this land while asked to make a personal sacrifice to do so. There is something so heinous about politicians who promote the current immigration policies and ask for amnesty while outsourcing jobs overseas that it is unacceptable for these things to continue as so many people are unemployed and so many homes are being foreclosed. It is analogous to the Potato Famine in Ireland of the 19th century where the overlords ignored the cries of the people...

Posted by: Tinker4 | August 29, 2010 9:32 PM | Report abuse

The idea that the only thing that will cause economic growth is an increase in population is an error in thinking often trotted out by organizations who make money from population growth. I would sure like it if people like Miss Khimm would think a little about sustainability, productivity and what really constitutes gains in 'quality of life.'

Posted by: WashingtonpvlPost | August 30, 2010 12:37 AM | Report abuse

Despite the author's concerns over our declining population, it's not necessarily a bad thing. As many other commenters have pointed out, an increase in human population is unfavorable. The root of all environmental concern stems from the fact that the global population continues to increase exponentially without any signs of stoppage. In this case, any decline in the population of the US (the leading country in terms of carbon footprint) is ultimately beneficial.
As for Khimm's views regarding our immigration policies, there is some validity in her warnings. However, considering the rising unemployment rate, I don't believe that allowing an influx of immigrants is the answer. To be economically beneficial, immigrants require jobs that we can't spare and support from public programs funded by the taxpayers' money. Not all immigration is harmful but there needs to be strict limitations to maintain a healthy balance.

Posted by: sgong | August 30, 2010 2:57 AM | Report abuse

The matter of the fact is that Khimm is right on the spot. However, she should have expanded her comments putting on the table several issues supporting her claim in regard to the demographic situation of the US facing the future lack of enough young people.
In several countries, where the median age of the population is increasing, the government has stablished program to respond to what Khimm states.
Without overextending my comments, I would mention that one of the main concerns of White America is that they are afraid of being surrounded by brown skinned individuals.
Racism and discrimination is well and healthy here, and camouflages itself in every way it could; from the KKK to Glenn Beck and many people in between who believe the immigrants (legal or not legal) endanger their jobs' security.
The lies put outthere by the extreme right has created misconceptions that are polarizing this country into whites vs. everyone else. And this is being done on purpose.
Deporting 12 million people is impossible, unless people like Beck become able to convince the government to open concentration camps.
I would recommend people to read Mother Jones without the fear of becoming "contaminated".

Posted by: albertorparedes | August 30, 2010 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Norski,
You need to consider that the American workers do not want to go to Arizona, California, Colorado, etc. to pick grapes, apples, lettuce, and work 12 hrs. under 100 degrees temperature for $ 5/hrs.
The real reason for having 25 million unemployed workers in the US, is that the global economy took the factory jobs overseas, and the unemployed have not the skills to find new employment. Flipping burgers, making beds in motels, filling burritos, sweeping floors, and doing laundry is not something American workers like to do for a living. Therefore, do not compare apples to tomatoes.

Posted by: albertorparedes | August 30, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Immigration policy has never been without controversy since the first Irish arrived in Massachusetts to find a very chilly reception by the locals -- who burned to the ground a nunnery that took in orphans.

With American dependence on foreign workers with advanced skills in the technological demands of modern industry we would be out of luck were Indian and Chinese engineers turned away. American young people on college campuses persist in preferring political science or English lit to engineering and so our dependence will continue. Close the doors tightly and we will be out of luck in our economy. That's reality.

crowesq

Posted by: crowesq | August 30, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

One commenter wrote:
"The idea that the only thing that will cause economic growth is an increase in population is an error in thinking often trotted out by organizations who make money from population growth. I would sure like it if people like Miss Khimm would think a little about sustainability, productivity and what really constitutes gains in 'quality of life.'"

I agree. The assumption that more is better reeks too much of a pyramid scheme: more and more poorly paid laborers to support our (maybe too indulgent?) middle-class lifestyles. So our legal residents are not breeding enough to support this? Maybe this is just an instinctive, common-sense leveling off of the birth rate, a desire to maintain the quality and the tenor of life in (US) America.

Khimm talks of some recession in Japan. Is that not really just a leveling off of their economy, along with a very practical leveling off of the birth rate? There is still no more prosperous country in the world than Japan. The same goes with Western Europe. Five years ago Germans were all upset about prognoses of a future lack of workers to create "wealth" or maintain nursing homes for the aging population. Since then, they've realized they will just deal with it, tighten the belt a notch, rather than fill their country with people who have neither respect nor a desire to learn about the culture of the land they are occupying.

Posted by: JH87 | August 30, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

What Suzy Khimm and all the other pro-immigration folks forget is that the immigrations restrictionists as she calls them are mostly against that part of illegal immigration which is actually illegal. You know, those folks who over stay their visas or those who simply can't stand in line and just walk across the border. Both major political parties for decades have ignored the problem until now something has to be done. Amnesty was already tried and you see what a mess we have. So, let's enforce our laws and punish the employers who hire the illegals so much that you remove the economical benefits of hiring the illegals. Without jobs, the illegals will go home on their own accord.

Posted by: gfafblifr | August 30, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Re Albertorparedes: "I would mention that one of the main concerns of White America is that they are afraid of being surrounded by brown skinned individuals."

Maybe some are. But some liberals (like me) are simply afraid of being surrounded by people who have little to do but hang out on street corners.

I may add, "white" Europe is afraid of being surrounded by brown skinned individuals as well, especially those who slaughter cows and goats in their back yards, scale balconies to pry open windows, force their young girls to wear scarves, kill their teenage girls who dare to date "whites" ...

Granted, in comparison, Hispanics are pretty well behaved. That's not the issue, though. It's the sheer number of illegals (the vast majority are Hispanic?), and the threat of this doubling, tripling, or more in the next generation. Should we set up Colorado as a Latin Americans' work colony?

Posted by: JH87 | August 30, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

LEGAL Immigration could help America.
Not ILLEGAL Immigration.
We have to close our borders like any other sane country, and know who is chosen to come in.

Posted by: joanz3 | August 30, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I read your article and do not agree with your findings !! First you used a study that was done in 1997 before the invasion started maybe just maybe the illegals paid more taxes than they used in public services (MAYBE)!!! Second : When you use the term immigrants are you talking all immigrants legal and illegal or are you only using legal immigrants??!! Third : Today with the economy trashed and unemployment at 9 1/2 to 10% I would like to see you use today's numbers and I'm sure there are way more immigrants of both categories collecting Social services benefits than the amount of taxes payed !! The number is around 130 Billion dollars payed by OUR taxes not theirs !!!
Fourth : Get real and jump into 2010 you are in for a big surprise !!!

Posted by: Klimax | August 30, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

This is for JH87 People say the "Americans" are racist but after reading your comment I believe it is the "Brown Skinned Wet Backs" who are racist!! If you don't like the way we do business in the USA "GET OUT" we do not need you or your Bull...... !!!!
Please take the rest of the "Brown Skinned" people you know with you !!!!!

Posted by: Klimax | August 30, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

To albertorparedes - So you are going to blame the universal bogeyman of outsourcing for our unemployment and illegal immigration problems? The reality of our unemployment statistics and job markets does not support this conclusion.

The best top level proof that outsourcing is NOT a justification for Illegal Immigration is to look at the jobs where Illegal Immigrant Workers are most prevalent. They are Farming, Construction, Transportation and Material Moving, Food Service, and Cleaning occupations. Because of the nature of this work NONE of these occupations can be out-sourced to places like China or India.

For example, try out-sourcing the construction of buildings to China. Buildings are really hard to air or ocean ship once they are built. Imagine shipping a fourteen story apartment building by boat, driving it through the streets to its destination, then lifting it into place, basement and all. Or try harvesting American crops, mining American ore, preparing American food, cleaning American buildings, or moving goods in America with workers living in China or India or even Mexico. It cannot be done. The Worker’s arms are not long enough to reach across our borders and do the jobs. Illegal Immigration purely and simply is replacing USA Workers on USA soil doing jobs that can NEVER be exported somewhere else via outsourcing.

And outsourcing cannot be blamed for much of our unemployment. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics Unemployment Report of August 6, 2010:

Construction and extraction occupations = 15.9% Unemployment
Production occupations = 12.3% Unemployment
Transportation, material moving occupations = 11.9% Unemployment
Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations = 10.9% Unemployment
Service occupations = 10.3% Unemployment

Total US Unemployed Citizens and Legal Residents = 14,599,000

This figure and the above rates exclude 5,886,000 Persons who want a job but are left out of the above statistics for various reasons.

Total Number of Americans Looking for Work = 20,485,000

Plus that means the real unemployment rates for the occupations above are actually 40% larger.

Pew Center estimates indicate 7.5 million Illegal Immigrants work in the USA with the majority employed in agriculture, office and house cleaning, construction, and food preparation. These professions are where the worst unemployment is for us Americans.

Meanwhile Management, professional, and related occupations = 5.0% Unemployment

Illegal Immigration has devastated on our Citizen and Legal Resident workforce, especially for young and unskilled Americans. From 'Immigration and Race' By Steve Bailey, The Boston Globe, February 8, 2008: "And the preponderance of evidence indicates that the flood of illegal immigrants has hurt those on the bottom of the economic ladder most, blacks in particular and probably even American-born Hispanics. Yet in spite of all this you blame outsourcing? That conclusion is not supported by the data.

Posted by: Norski | August 31, 2010 12:47 AM | Report abuse

The plight of our Citizen and legal Resident farm workers illustrates how refusing to end Illegal Immigration devastates wages to no really substantial end.

Farm Workers top the Pew Center list of occupations most affected by Illegal Immigration. There are a quarter million people who do this back breaking job with as much as 25% of the workforce made up of Illegal Immigrants. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Farm Workers earn a median wage of $8.64 per hour. Construction Laborers who work equally hard with comparable skills but they earn median wages between $11.23 and $13.19 per hour. The lowest skilled Loggers earn a median wage of $14.66 per hour. Even Parking Lot Attendants have higher median wages than Farm Laborers at $9.04 per hour.

This is a great example of the devastation Illegal Immigration has wrought on wages. The sad part is even if farm wages were to increase to the level of Laborers and Loggers, to a median wage of $13.50 per hour, the cost of farm labor is only 7% of the cost of food. The result would be a 4.5% increase in food prices. Inflation is often greater.

The problem with people not wanting to do Farm Labor has less to do with the difficulty of the work and more to do with the meagerness of the pay. Compare Farm Labor to other just as dirty and strenuous but more dangerous occupations that pay more and you find that many Americans are more than willing to do the work. Except maybe those who are averse to working with their hands. Apparently they cannot imagine anyone actually gaining fulfillment from a physically demanding task done well.

Posted by: Norski | August 31, 2010 1:07 AM | Report abuse

I have absolutely no problem with immigration, as long as it is conducted through the Constitutional,legal, and moral principles. The alleged illegals are not immigrants, they are criminals and should not be allowed either into this once great Republic or have absolutely any privileges whatsoever. The liberal, progressive concept is that everyone is welcome - Without any restrictions. Baloney. The Framers intended for anyone to enter the Republic in accordance to lawful immigration principles.
The ridiculous concept of "anchor babies" is just one more infringement upon the strict principles established in the Constitution. Those babies are not citizens within the jurisdiction since they are not and cannot be citizens. All should be removed and let them try to enter legally - period@

Posted by: djdax17hotmailcom | September 1, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

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