Kara Pérez is the founder of Bravely Go, a financial platform focused on feminist economics and inclusive personal finance.
Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president in June 2015 with a speech that tread well-worn ground for many Americans: immigrants are coming to America, and that’s a very bad thing. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” Trump declared.
Anti-immigrant rhetoric has long been a part of the American social and political dialogue. In 1882 the US passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, forbidding Chinese workers to immigrate to the U.S. and it wasn’t repealed until 1943. But in the last six years, the dialogue has been amped up leading us to feel the ramifications in violent ways. Border patrol agents along the US- Mexico border destroy water and food left in the desert for crossing immigrants. In 2019 the Department of Homeland Security made it so that immigrant applications could be rejected if they had received public benefits.
This fear of immigrants is rooted in racism, but it is also wildly and deeply ignorant. Immigration is intrinsically tied to a country’s economy. Shutting down the flow of immigration to the U.S. will create several major economic problems.
Firstly, we’ll run out of people. Native born Americans (those born in the U.S) are not reproducing at a fast enough rate to grow the population. From 2009-2019, it was immigrants that accounted for 42 percent of net growth in the U.S. population.
Secondly, running out of people means a shrinking economy. It’s basic economics; if there is no one to work, there can be no work done. What makes the U.S. even more economically vulnerable is the fact that our federal policies are largely built on the idea of consistently growing younger generations. Social security, for example, the federal program that pays out retirees, disabled citizens or parents of disabled citizens. Currently, about 61 million Americans collect Social Security — and their ability to do so is built on the idea that younger generations pay into the larger pot.
If fewer native born citizens have children, there are fewer people to pay into this pot. There are fewer workers to do jobs typically defined as blue-collar work that a majority of people of color, many of whom are immigrants, do. People of color will be a majority of the working class by 2032, Economy Policy Institute reported. Without population growth, central services will begin to close; your neighborhood post office will shut down, forcing you to drive 20 miles to the next nearest. When your turn comes to collect social security, the payments will be smaller, even as life has gotten more expensive.
Thirdly, certain states will suffer more. All of the six New England states are largely older and whiter than the rest of the US. Maine, for example, is nearly 95 percent white and the largest portion of its population is older than 65. Without immigrants (of any race), Maine will struggle economically. The New England states will be in a particular bind; since their closest neighbors are likely to face the same problems, it will be necessary to entice workers to come from farther away. This might mean more programs like Vermont has already implemented, paying people to move there. Which in turn, could create more of a burden on the state government’s budget.
Immigrants are the solution to these problems. With immigration comes not only the people to work and pay the taxes the U.S. so desperately needs, but also comes the birth of a new culture.This is what Trump and his ilk are afraid of; they fear the new. They fear people who don’t look or sound like them.
This fear is what will hold the US.. back as we look toward the future. In fact, it’s already happening.
In the US, which so proudly bills itself as the land of opportunity, it is now harder to move from a low income bracket to a high income bracket than it is in Canada, the U.K. or Denmark. Social mobility is more of a myth than a reality in America.
A fear of immigrants will only continue to hurt the U.S. in almost every important economic way. If we want to see our country thrive, we need to embrace smart and broad immigration policies.