The Benefits Of Immigration For America

Although it is a topic that is heatedly debated about today, the fact is that immigration can be very good for countries, and for the world overall. Michael Clemens of the Centre for Global Development estimates that global GDP would double if everyone who wanted to migrate were able to do so. In most rich countries however, immigration is one of the biggest disruptors of the decade. The net inflow of immigrants into the United States fell by 74% in 2018, partly because of Donald Trump and the current political efforts to make life more difficult for them. There are a few arguments made by opponents of immigration that we hear over and over again: immigrants take jobs from locals, strain public resources, and increase crime. Anecdotes about such happenings (some true and some untrue) spread among nativists and reinforce a fear of mass migration, and an animosity against illegal immigration. Should border crossing illegally be decriminalized? Should America welcome immigration or limit it? And if we choose the latter, based on what criteria?

With the right policies in place, border crossing should be decriminalized. America’s immigration policy should be more open than closed, and the only reason not to accept a person would be if they are a threat to the country’s security. Idealistically speaking, any person should be allowed to go wherever they want, and there should be no restrictions whatsoever. As a country with abundant resources, people want to immigrate to America for better opportunities and a chance to improve their lives. Migrants from lower-income countries typically earn about three to six times more when they move to higher-income countries. Immigrants are typically willing to work for lower wages than native-born people, and this makes services more accessible to people in the country. Nativists claim that this common practice is unfair and takes jobs away from native-born Americans. But that is untrue, because anyone has the choice to lower the charge on their services, and native born Americans could do it as well, if they so choose. Immigration benefits the immigrant as well as the host country.

However, the conditions are not ideal, and so immigration restrictions are in place. In general, restrictions should be loosened and immigrants should be welcomed. With tighter immigration laws, the nation would have no diversity of background, experience or opinion. The immigrants who are allowed in would be forced to assimilate, and the United States would turn into a melting pot. In the melting pot analogy, immigrants are absorbed into an established, dominant culture, and lose the characteristics of their culture that make them individual. The addition of a unique cultural group does not change America as a whole at all. This effect was observed after the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, of which a direct result was the steep decline of the Chinese immigrant population in the United States. The already existing Chinese community in the U.S. also underwent dramatic changes : families were separated, businesses closed down, and the ratio of men to women became highly unbalanced, as less women were allowed to immigrate. There were 105,465 Chinese immigrants in America in 1880 but only 61,639 in 1920. The immediate effect of the Chinese Exclusion Act was the remaining immigrant population assimilating into American society. But eventually, assimilation stopped, and immigrants began to acclimate - analogous to the salad bowl. In the salad bowl analogy, members of a certain cultural group are integrated into an established, dominant culture, while still maintaining strong connections to their culture, and retaining their individuality. When new ethno-cultural groups are added into American society, each group remains separate from the other. Under the continuous anti-chinese sentiment prevalent in the U.S. in the 1880’s, chinatowns were established in cities, where Chinese immigrants could retreat into their own social and cultural colonies.

American society should strive to be not a melting pot or even a salad bowl, but a mosaic. The structure of the mosaic analogy is similar to that of the salad bowl analogy, in that both rely on acclimation. However, in a mosaic, every ethno-cultural group that is integrated into a society comes together to form something greater than itself. Every group is an essential piece to the whole, and serves its own necessary and significant purpose. In order to structure American society like a mosaic, attitudes towards immigrants need to change. The government must condemn those who are repulsed by minority groups, and encourage a shift towards acceptance, support, and ideally even nurturance.

A society that treats immigrants as integral to its functioning will get the most out of its constituents (both native-born Americans as well as immigrants), and create a culture that is focused on productivity. Illegal immigration should not be dealt with as a crime. If those who try to immigrate to the U.S. are found in some way to be a threat to the country, they should be safely sent back to their homes with their families. But criminalizing the attempt to cross a border and detaining immigrants and separating them from their families are acts of inhumanity, especially when undertaken by a country of wealth and abundance that was built by immigrants: the United States. In committing such atrocities, the government sends a message not only to the rest of the world, but also to its own people. It moves society down the Riddle Scale of Attitudes - away from nurturance, and closer to repulsion. It reinforces the fear of immigrants and the nativist sentiment to keep immigrants out. It fails to uphold the values of our country by teaching our people that those who try to immigrate illegally are inferior to us, and can be dealt with in indecent and inhuman ways. Border crossing restrictions should be loosened and America’s immigration policies should be more open, so as to allow for American society to grow culturally, politically and economically. 

16 December 2021
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