Home > Uncategorized > Tear down that wall!

Tear down that wall!

from David Ruccio

American capitalists love immigration. So, as it turns out, should American workers.

The last time I addressed the issue of immigration, I made the argument that

recent waves of immigration have benefited a tiny group of employers at the top, who in turn have managed to shift the costs—through wage reductions and higher taxes—onto workers (both recent immigrants and native-born workers).

In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, American corporate titans used a collegial dinner with Donald Trump to press him on easing immigration restrictions.


As it turns out, Americans have a much more positive view of immigration than they did in 2007—and than Trump and some of his supporters have today. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, a majority of Americans now say immigrants have a positive effect on food, music, and the arts (57 percent), while nearly half say immigration benefits the economy in general (45 percent)—with both of those measures up 17 percentage points from 2007.

Recent studies suggest that American workers should really have an even more positive view of immigration. 


One reason is because, as the Social Security Administration’s 2018 trustees demonstrate in their most recent report (pdf), immigrants—both undocumented and legal—lower the Social Security deficit and increase the chances of the program remaining solvent. As Alexia Fernández Campbell explains,

That’s because immigrants, on average, are a lot younger than the overall US population, so their retirement is far off. And undocumented immigrants pay for Social Security, but they’re not allowed to get benefits.

For all three periods, when total net immigration increases, the actuarial balance increases from -1.93 to -1.62 percent for the 25-year period, from -2.68 to -2.24 percent for the 50-year period, and from -3.12 to -2.60 percent for the 75-year period.*

The other reason American workers should support immigration is because immigrants to the United States actually subsidize the healthcare of U.S. citizens. Lila Flavin, Leah Zallman, Danny McCormick, and J. Wesley Boyd recently published a study (unfortunately behind a paywall) in which they compare the healthcare expenditures of immigrants to those of U.S.-born individuals and evaluate the role immigrants play in the rising cost of healthcare. Their conclusions?

Immigrants’ overall expenditures were one-half to two-thirds those of U.S.-born individuals, across all assessed age groups, regardless of immigration status. Per capita expenditures from private and public insurance sources were lower for immigrants, particularly expenditures for undocumented immigrants. Immigrant individuals made larger out-of-pocket health care payments compared to U.S.-born individuals. Overall, immigrants almost certainly paid more toward medical expenses than they withdrew, providing a low-risk pool that subsidized the public and private health insurance markets.

That net benefit to U.S.-born workers will, of course, decrease over time if health insurance and healthcare services continue to be withheld from immigrant workers— since, without adequate healthcare for foreign-born workers, the burden imposed on the U.S. healthcare system will likely increase in the future.

Clearly, U.S.-born workers benefit from the inflow of immigrants, at least in terms of their retirement and healthcare benefits. That may put them on the side of their employers. Where their interests diverge, however, is what happens when immigrants arrive in the United States and begin to work. Capitalists want to maintain a low-cost, growing pool of employees, regardless of their place of birth. However, workers—both U.S-born and immigrant—have every interest in legalizing the status of undocumented immigrant workers and organizing themselves, in order to improve and expand their access to government services and to increase their collective bargaining power vis-à-vis their employers.

Now that’s a wall worth fighting for.

*Of course, increased immigration is not enough to eliminate the Social Security deficit. That can only be done, as I explained in 2012, by eliminating the taxable earnings cap.

  1. culturalanalysis.net
    August 20, 2018 at 11:16 pm

    There is also the question of How Much immigration is economically beneficial (short and long term) Vs. how much has negative overall effect on the Infrastructure formexample; roads get more congested, public services strained ect. There is obviously a significant lag between realisation of new stresses on the infrastructure and being able to develop (and pay for) new infrastructure.

    Another question is about sources of migration. Do all migrants perform the same (economically) irrespective of their country/culture/religion of origin, or is there a difference. If there is a difference, and assuming migration is good for the economy, it seems logical to prioritise migration of the most productive migrants.

    Final consideration is environmental. Much of the political Left is concerned with overpopulation, although no one has a clear definition of what is over-population. The most plausible definition can rely precisely on migration: if there is a significant from of migrants from a country it is reasonable to infer that that country is Over-populated for its capacity to satisfy the needs of the present population, under the enduring conditions, so pro-immigration policies, even if economically beneficial as argued by David, implicitly rewards what many environmentalists call ‘irresponsible’ reproduction and punish nations that are ‘responsible’ at reproduction by disproportionately taxing them and progressively displacing them with the ‘irresponsible’ reproductive culture. The curious fact is that the same Left supports Both the reduction of population, And the policies that indirectly reward cultures responsible for the highest reproduction rates and/or overpopulation.

  2. Prof Dr James Beckman, Germany
    August 21, 2018 at 5:49 am

    Really useful article. Here in Germany immigration seems to be nudging German youth to more education & a more secure future. Kids see that foreigners are doing a lot of those old odd jobs which their parents once did as youth. It is quite amazing for me to see my former employer, a University of Applied Sciences, almost double in student size in the past ten years, largely from locals or foreigners. The local population has not itself grown much.

  3. Risk Analyst
    August 21, 2018 at 8:06 pm

    I agree with Culturalanalysis above. Take for example California which has seen a big increase in population. There is actually a net out-migration to other states of people who were born there or have lived there a long time, so the increase in population is entirely immigrant. One fourth of the California population is foreign born. Many main streets and freeways are just overwhelmed and commute times have increased tremendously for many. Spending two to three hours a day on commuting is not unusual. Such are the costs of the population increase.

    And as far as the numbers in the article, those are really incomplete for they do not recognize such impacts. Additionally, each kid in school costs about 10K (estimates vary) or so per year on average, so that seems to swamp the financial benefit of federal taxes in the story. A new immigrant family, legal or not, is unlikely to generate 20K just for schools alone in taxes per year if they have two kids. Studies have shown that financially the first generation of an immigrant family is a negative financially to the US when all costs and benefits are included. Politifact has a nice write up on that I believe. Some politicians have also made clear that much of their encouragement of immigration is not due to some self-less concern for human rights, rather it is to goose up the percent of the population who might be more likely to vote democrat.

  4. August 27, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    How Americans feel about immigration and what its future should look like depends on who you ask. According to the White House “It’s an 80-percent issue, people want to close down the borders. It’s a 70-percent issue to end chain migration, 68-percent issue to end the visa lottery program and ask people to come here on merit. That’s a 70-percent issue. And this is a study from Harvard.” Breitbart says, “A poll of likely 2018 voters shows two-to-one support for President Donald Trump’s pro-American immigration policies, and a lopsided four-to-one opposition against the cheap-labor, mass-immigration, economic policy pushed by bipartisan establishment-backed D.C. interest-groups.” According to Gallup, “Three-quarters of Americans think immigration is a good thing; 65% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents agree; 39% say immigration should be kept at present level, 28% say increased.” Finally, this from Quinnipiac University Poll. Aug. 9-13,
    “Do you support or oppose building a wall along the border with Mexico?”

    Support Oppose Unsure/No answer
    % % %
    8/9-13/18 38 58 4
    6/14-17/18 39 58 4
    4/6-9/18 40 57 3
    2/2-5/18 37 59 4
    1/5-9/18 34 63 3
    12/6-11/17 36 62 2
    9/21-26/17 37 60 3
    5/4-9/17 33 64 3
    4/12-18/17 33 64 3
    3/30 – 4/3/17 33 64 3
    2/16-21/17 37 60 3
    2/2-6/17 38 59 3
    11/17-20/16 42 55 3
    And this from Harvard University’s Center for American Political Studies. Although American voters are sympathetic to immigrant families being separated at the border, they demand stronger border security and immigration enforcement. Voters do not believe that families ought to be separated when they cross illegally (88%), and they support the Trump administration’s late policy reversal, allowing families to stay together (71%), even if it was done unilaterally through an executive order.

    A majority of voters want immigration reform (73%) and secure borders (76%). Voters also want stricter enforcement of immigration laws (70%). Voters support prosecuting immigrants who cross the border illegally (53%) and sending these immigrants home (64%). A majority (55%) also stand against so-called “catch and release” policies.

    Conclusion: either American opinions are changing quickly and significantly, or the polls are not reliable.

    • Prof Dr James Beckman, Germany
      August 27, 2018 at 2:02 pm

      Ken, we all know that public polls are heavily affected by the media & public figures. With Breitbart & Fox News in full vigor, & Mr T the most visible public person currently, people are led by emotional messages. That’s why my German friends tell me that such performances are transformative. That’s a part of why “Mother” (Mutti) Merkel is still in power: no more HItlers.

      • August 28, 2018 at 7:43 am

        James, before polling was weaponized for dubious politicians and capitalist exploitation, it was a useful service for many. Its downfall has not only warped American politics but harmed social sciences. Another item for the list of problems we need to fix once we are fascist-free. If that ever happens.

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