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The Debate that Shouldn’t Be a Debate

Immigration is a unique issue in American politics today, in that it garners some of the most dramatic emotional reactions from politicians and voters alike. It differs from other divisive issues, however, in that the accepted academic view of immigration is not at all divisive. Liberal Philip Wolgin from the Center of American Progress and libertarian Alex Nowrasteh from the Cato Institute argued that although politicians may claim that illegal immigrants are a “silent invasion” that is “taking away jobs and milking the taxpayer,” there is actually a dearth of misinformation that is being spread (Massey, et. al 1561).

They began by presenting the abundance of statistics that support the reality that immigration actually helps the American economy. Immigrants aren’t truly a risk for stealing the jobs of Americans, as they usually do not directly compete for the same jobs and are disproportionately entrepreneurial. Not only are immigrants not a significant threat to American citizens, but statistics show that they also stand to contribute to the American economy. Wolgin pointed out that nations rarely have positive economic growth without immigration growth in the same time period, and that bringing illegal immigrants “off the sidelines” could bring a $1.2 trillion GDP increase over the next ten years. Nowrasteh made the point that “immigration is not charity,” and went on to demonstrate that increased immigration improves the financial standing of both the immigrants and American citizens.

The panelists’ largest emphasis was centered on how we can change national policy so that the nation actually reaps the benefits that immigration can provide. Both men echoed scholarly conclusions that “choosing border enforcement as a strategy for immigration control” has “little regard for the actual consequences” and is largely ineffectual (Massey, et. al 1592). Wolgin questioned why border security is such an enormous policy focus when illegal immigration is currently at a net-negative, and claimed that “border security is a reason we’re in the mess we currently have.” Nowrasteh and Wolgin both agreed that the nation’s emphasis on border security is a waste of money, and that we should be putting all of our efforts into revamping the green card system in order to expand legal immigration.

Just as Massey, et. al maintain that political and societal elites have used disproportionate figures and evidence to prompt policies that are incompatible with the “underlying volume of undocumented migration,” Wolgin lamented that immigration is a “fact-free debate” (1591). In the end, there seems to be an obvious lack of dispute among experts around the fact that “good laws are easy to enforce,” as Nowrasteh put it, and the United States simply doesn’t have good immigration laws.

Ryan • November 9, 2016

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