Glen Olives Thompson Opinion
Immigrants: US needs more of them. Immigrants: US needs more of them.

Why U.S. needs more, not fewer immigrants

Immigration policies are more about political profiteering of irrational fears

We are informed by hard science that the pale blue dot we call home is rotating on its axis at 1,075 miles per hour, traveling through the cosmos along with our solar system and galaxy at a rate of 2.7 million miles per hour.

This is, of course, deeply counterintuitive because we have evolved to sense only our own planet’s gravity.

Likewise, we are informed by the social sciences that immigration from developing to developed countries is to everyone’s net socioeconomic benefit, but because we have evolved to be tribal, we find this counterintuitive as well.

But both things are true.

I’m very much tempted here to digress into a polemic about how our new Dear Leader (with hair every bit as bizarre as Kim Jong-un’s) is a mentally ill narcissist who is overcompensating for a deformed testicle like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ dictator-protagonist in The Autumn of the Patriarch, with a vocabulary that hasn’t progressed much past the fifth grade.

But I’ve already done that. More than once, apparently to little effect.

So I simply offer five reasons the United States needs, if it is to survive in any meaningful way, more immigrants, not fewer.

1. Immigrants commit fewer crimes than U.S. citizens. A plethora of studies from the American Immigration Council, the Journal of Criminology and Public Policy, Boston University, the National Bureau of Economic Research, as well as our very own FBI database of crime statistics, among other reliable sources, conclude that immigrants, both legal and undocumented, commit far fewer crimes than the native-born population.

2. Immigrants don’t take Americans’ jobs or rob our welfare system. Despite anecdotal accountings of immigrants taking U.S. citizens’ jobs, another comprehensive study published in 2016 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found this to be patently false, again, in correlation with previous findings of other research institutions.

Moreover, it only takes a few minutes of Google searching to debunk other anti-immigration myths: as it turns out most undocumented workers pay into Social Security, pay local state, federal, and sales taxes, and aren’t eligible for most public benefits. Illegal immigrants largely eschew visits to the emergency room, underreport crimes committed against them and contrary to Donald Trump’s bizarre and groundless assertions, wouldn’t dare try to vote, all in fear of being discovered and deported.

3. Mexican undocumented immigrants are not swamping our borders. Pew Research Center’s comprehensive 2015 study found that not only has Mexican immigration declined, there is a significant net loss of migrants who are returning to Mexico. This confirms other smaller studies by university demographers on both sides of the border.

4. Immigrants revitalize dying communities. As Michael B. Katz with the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences has pointed out, immigrants and refugees are helping revitalize depopulated rust belt cities. Moreover, a review of the relevant literature points toward illegal immigrants actually reducing crime rates in major urban centers.

5. Continued economic growth is inextricably linked to immigration. Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School (ironically Trump’s alma mater), recently concluded that immigration “leads to more innovation, a better educated workforce, greater occupational specialization, better matching of skills with jobs and higher overall economic productivity.”

Canada, like the U.S., is experiencing drastically declining fertility rates combined with an aging population, and is aggressively raising its annual immigration levels to keep its economy growing. Every major study reaches the same conclusion: economic growth depends on increasing immigration, not slowing it.

And yet, despite the above studies having been replicated or confirmed by hundreds of others, a sizable minority of Americans think that these things are hogwash (not dissimilar from climate change deniers), and that the shibboleths, slogans and unartfully concealed racist dog whistles of the anti-immigration Right are somehow closer to the truth.

This both fascinates and troubles me. After all, as of 2012, there were more than a million immigrants in the country illegally from Asia, almost a million from Canada and Europe (combined), and according to the DHS, twice the number of Canadians illegally overstay their visas compared to Mexicans. The Irish embassy in Washington D.C., estimates there are some 50,000 Irish citizens living illegally in the U.S.

Of course there are more Mexicans now living undocumented in the U.S., but this should hardly be surprising as we share the same geography, have intricately interconnected economies and a centuries-long history of cross-border migration which benefits both countries. (Incidentally, there are around a million U.S. citizens living full-time in Mexico.)

Among Trump and his fiercely loyal automatons of the alt-right, though, I haven’t heard a peep about illegal Canadians or Chinese or French or Irish immigrants. Does this strike anyone as slightly odd? After all, one doesn’t tend to see Canadians or Japanese harvesting tomatoes alongside their Mexican compatriots for less than minimum wage – presumably they are engaged in more lucrative, skilled trades and professions that U.S. citizens would be willing to perform.

Or is it simply racism and tribalism? After all, Canadians and northern Europeans look like us white people, talk like us and share many of our cultural traditions. But then again, Asians don’t share any of those characteristics. Is it just jingoism, an understandable impulsive reaction that foreigners would have the gall to disregard our immigration laws? Perhaps, but we don’t seem to mind certain other types of undocumented workers.

While all of the above factors have some place in this enigma, as well as basic human psychology, I think it is mostly about simple stupidity and fear, an unfortunately powerful combination. Or to put it more diplomatically, a lack of appetite for anything that might require study and nuance, combined with the natural fear of change, of living in a society where the majority is becoming the minority.

Leading this cri de coeur of indignation against the raping, thieving, drug-dealing Mexicans is President Trump, a man who has exploited undocumented labor again and again, and bragged about it. But that isn’t all he exploits. He plays on both our fears and our sense of nostalgia for those halcyon days of Norman Rockwell’s America where the U.S. was white, the world’s hegemonic power, prosperous, and Mexicans knew their place.

We really ought to grow up. The proposed border wall and mass deportations have nothing at all to do with our national security, our national autonomy or our national economy.  It’s simply the political profiteering of the electorate’s irrational fears and easily-manipulated emotions, helped along no doubt by a generous dose of general ignorance of socioeconomics and history.

Take a walk backwards along history’s timeline and ask the Sumerians, the Egyptians and the Romans: What happens when societies reject change and bury their heads in the sand? They slowly go extinct, not unlike species that fail to adapt to a changing natural environment. We’ve taken the first step in that direction by electing a shameless, feckless moron who manipulates the irrational passions of an equally unlearned electorate.

Whether from global climate change or the implosion of a civilizational plutocracy, I hope that a millennium from now archeologists are not digging through the rubble of a once great society, wondering how we could have been so purblind to the obvious.

Glen Olives Thompson is a professor of North American Law at La Salle University in Chihuahua, a specialist in law and public policy and a frequent contributor to Mexico News Daily. Some of his other non-academic work can be viewed at

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