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The Economy Needs More, Not Less, Immigration

The Trump Administration’s hostility to immigration in general, and Mexican immigrants in particular, is no mystery. With an expanded wall on the Mexican border in the works and an executive order at least temporarily banning refugees from settling in the country, it’s a time of unease for many immigrants in Kentucky as well as those outside our borders who would like to at least work in the U.S. if not become its citizens.

Much of the Administration’s rhetoric about the negatives of immigrants revolves around security and economics. One goal is to have more citizens (and fewer immigrants) employed in the country. But that’s a short-sighted view, because there’s no reason members of both groups can’t have employment opportunities. You may not be able to have one without the other.

As the economy continues to improve, hiring accelerates and the labor market tightens; employers looking for low-skilled workers are increasingly struggling to fill vacancies, according to MarketWatch. A major reason is that Mexican workers (both documented and undocumented), who normally are the labor backbone of the hospitality, construction and agriculture industries, are in short supply.

Many business owners who need low-skilled labor state their barrier to growth is not that too many Mexicans are heading north, but that there are too few. The article quotes the owner of a Texas roofing contractor which is helping to build Toyota’s new North American headquarters in a Dallas suburb. Nelson Braddy, Jr., says he would hire sixty roofers right away if he could find them. “It’s the worst I have seen in my career,” he adds.

The estimated yearly inflow of undocumented immigrants from Mexico has slowed to about 100,000 a year since 2009, down from about 350,000 a year in the mid-2000’s and more than half a million in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, according to the Pew Research Center. The U.S. Border Patrol’s apprehension of those entering the country illegally declined to 337,117 in 2015, the lowest number since 1971.

The county will need many more immigrants in coming decades to keep the economy strong, according columnist Rex Nutting who wrote a piece for MarketWatch. He writes:

  • Our economy will likely face labor shortages in the coming decades if more immigrants aren’t allowed into the country.
  • The working-age population will barely increase over the next three decades, so we should expect the economy to barely grow.
  • Slow growth means public debt will be a bigger burden and the fiscal problems facing Social Security and Medicare will fall more heavily on those getting benefits, because having fewer workers will result in less being collected in tax.
  • Due to low birth rates and increased longevity, the labor force is expected to grow at 0.4% per year over the next 30 years, down from an average of 1.8% from 1970 to 2000.

The Administration sees immigrants as a burden, but economically they’re a benefit. The sooner we understand that immigrant labor helps the country, not hurts, the better off we will all be.

If you live in Kentucky and want to discuss how you or a family member may be able to achieve documented status, contact our office so we can discuss your situation, the applicable laws and how we can help you.