Immigration is a big part of what distinguishes the U.S. from, say, the EU. Immigration makes us younger. That’s what you see from the graph above. Immigration makes us smarter. Half of all Silicon Valley start ups have a co-founder no more than one generation separated from an immigrant. Immigration makes us work. The U.S. fertility rate is below 2.1, so it’s immigration that pushes us above replacement level growth.
But don’t gloat. There are cracks our armor.
One in three U.S. immigrants today was born in Mexico, making it the “biggest wave of immigration in history from a single country to the United States,” according to the Pew Hispanic Center. But that wave hit a wall. Thanks to a weak U.S. economy, a growing Mexican economy, and a handful of other policies, net flow of Mexican immigrants to the U.S. has possibly reversed for the first time in several decades.
At the same time, “highly educated children of immigrants to the United States are uprooting themselves and moving to their ancestral countries,” the New York Times reported just two weeks ago. The factors aren’t all the same, but they rhyme. India is getting stronger relative to the United States, and, once again, public policy is getting in the way of immigration. We don’t block foreign-born students at the Texas border. We kick them out if they can’t marry, find a job, or snag one of a limited number of visas. In the race for human capital, this is a deliberate losing strategy.
There are reasonable arguments for using government laws and resources to limit immigration and protect jobs for American-born workers. But the broader picture is that the U.S. is failing to recognize a free and automatic virtue of being America: People want to move here and work in exchange for money.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]