Immigration has been a hot issue in Washington lately. But what’s the most effective way to reform our broken immigration system?
At a debate on immigration reform hosted at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, and Steve Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, offered two different options on how to effectively reform immigration.
For Holtz-Eakin, who is also former director of the Congressional Budget Office, the solution is simple: the U.S. should take advantage of the illegal immigrants by legalizing them and allowing them to help improve the economy.
In his own research with the American Action Forum, Holtz-Eakin notes that immigrants have a “much higher birth rate than native-born women,” accounting for around 23 percent in 2010. Birthrates for Americans are also at an all-time low since 1920. He thinks the U.S. would suffer economically if the immigrant population left, but that it would raise GDP rates by .25 percent annually over the next 10 years if it was legalized.
According to Holtz-Eakin:
In addition, the more rapid economic growth might raise productivity by another 20 percent through the embodiment effect. Summing the impacts, the overall growth rate in real GDP would rise from 3.0 percent to 3.9 percent, on average annually, over the first 10 years.
The upshot is that GDP after 10 years would be higher – a difference of $64,700 per capita versus $62,900 per capita. This higher per capita income of $1,700 after ten years is a core benefit of immigration reform.
But Holtz-Eakin said it wouldn’t occur without some form of legitimate immigration reform.
“For the nation, we would benefit from work, effectively utilizing (the illegal immigrants) labor,” Holtz-Eakin told TAS. “But, we would also have to pass a law that could be enforced, and thereby make good on the promise that we are not going to be a nation that advocates for implicitly illegal immigration.”
Camarota offers a very different approach to the subject. In his own counter-study, he notes a “glaring omission” that left out “the fiscal impact of legalizing 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants.” But even more important, he feels the bill will not secure the border or bring justice to the current illegal immigrants.
“One of the things we have to say is ‘we believe in enforcement,’” Camarota told TAS. “We aren’t planning on granting any amnesty.”
Enforcement for Camarota would take place in four steps: worksite enforcement, entry/exit, border security, and cooperation of local law enforcement.
“If the border is never secured, if E-verify is never implemented, those individuals just stay illegally in the United States,” Camarota said. “What we have right now is a situation where anyone would be a fool to go home.”
Only after the above steps would be taken would he be willing to consider a plan for legal status of children, longtime residents, or those who have entered school.
But for Holtz-Eakin, the alleged economic benefits are the key.
“I think it’s a mistake to say we can just simply erect an imagined line on the Southern border and it will all be fine,” Holtz-Eakin said. “History suggests there are other powerful forces and economics are one of them.”