Thu, Feb 14, 2019 - Page 9 News List

Donald Trump is selling false stereotypes about immigrants

By Josh Boak  /  AP, WASHINGTON

This historical rush of immigrants created a natural experiment to measure what then happened to incomes in the area.

“The influx appears to have had virtually no effect on the wages or unemployment rates of less-skilled workers,” he said.

Giovanni Peri, an economist at the University of California, Davis, studied immigration into California between 1960 and 2005.

He wrote in a 2010 paper that it had “essentially” no effect on wages or employment of native-born workers.

However, many people seeking to reduce immigration rely on research from George Borjas, a Harvard economist. His research found that the arrival of Cubans in the Mariel boat lift caused wages to fall for native-born high-school dropouts in Miami. Other economists have questioned his methodology.

In addition, Borjas’ findings would apply to a small fraction of US jobholders today, only about 6.2 percent of whom lack a high-school degree.

Other explanations for sluggish wage growth go beyond immigration. They include the decline in unionization, an intensified push to maximize corporate profits, growing health insurance costs that supplant wages and the rise of a lower-wage global labor force that in an intertwined worldwide economy can hinder pay growth for Americans.

MYTH: Immigrants are a drain on taxpayers.

REALITY: The National Academy of Sciences explored the costs to taxpayers in 2016. It is a tricky issue. The US federal government runs a budget deficit, which means it spends more than it collects in taxes. This means that, on average, most Americans are a net drain on taxpayers.

All told, the costs imposed by immigrants are about the same as they are for native-born citizens.

“An immigrant and a native-born person with similar characteristics will likely have the same fiscal impact,” the report said.

However, the report also examined spending by states and localities, which generally must maintain balanced budgets. As state and local governments supply most of the money for public schools, immigrants often receive more in benefits than they pay in taxes.

That said, there are longer-term benefits from educating children, who grow into adults who get jobs, buy vehicles, buy houses and pay taxes and thereby contribute to economic growth.

The National Academy found that the net cost from 2011 to 2013 for state and local budgets combined averaged US$1,600 a year for a first-generation immigrant, but that figure became a net positive of US$1,700 for the second generation and US$1,300 for the third.

Immigrant households with children are generally more likely to use welfare programs such as food assistance and Medicaid than US-born households, largely because the immigrant families have lower average incomes and larger families, the National Academy report said.

MYTH: Illegal immigration leads to violent crime.

REALITY: Trump frequently highlights violence by the “savage” gang called Mara Salvatrucha, better known as MS-13, saying in his speech on Tuesday last week that it operates in at least 20 states and “they almost all come through our southern border.”

He invokes that gang, whose members come predominantly from El Salvador or are US citizens descended from there, to portray immigrants as criminals.

Widespread crime makes it harder, of course, to run a business, spend money and engage in the daily transactions that keep an economy humming.

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