Point-based immigration doesn’t add up


The White House recently embraced a proposal to cut legal immigration to the United States using a ‘merit’-based points system. Senior aides claim this would ensure migrants could support themselves financially, and not burden social services. 

The move is an overture to some corners of the Republican base and has purportedly re-invigorated debates on national identity and American values. But does the ‘costs of immigration’ argument hold water?

Unsurprisingly, the devil is in the details.

The Trump administration may have been influenced by a report published by the conservative Center for Immigration Studies last year, which was covered by Fox News, Breitbart and USA Today. The report suggests that in 2012, immigrant-headed households cost more in federal welfare than native-born households. 

2016 National Academy of Science report offers a more nuanced analysis. The study indicates that between 2011 and 2013, the average first generation immigrant, bundled together with their dependents, cost states $1,600 more for state and local expenditures, public goods and services than they contributed in taxes. This figure doesn’t include their positive, indirect effects on economic growth. 

The cost is largely due to public investment in education, and to significantly variable demographics and spending across states, and income differentials between immigrants and natives. For example, immigrants are more likely to move to California for job opportunities — a state where 35 percent of immigrants are first-generation and where spending is among the highest — than to West Virginia where only 1 percent of immigrants are first-generation.

But here is the important point: once the children of immigrants grow up to become second-generation adults, they have a far higher net fiscal benefit to states than native-born U.S. citizens do. The average annual fiscal benefit of second-generation immigrants in the U.S. is $400 more than it is for native individuals. The disparity leaps in the District of Columbia, where a second-generation individual contributes $7,100 while a native-born individual costs $1,300. 

The second and third generations are a net positive for states, a benefit of $30.5 billion and $223.8 billion respectively over 2011-2013, outweighing the $57.4 billion total cost of the newly arrived migrants. 

In other words, it is immigrant families that make the greatest contributions to U.S. tax revenue and services over time. 

Read the entire commentary here:http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/immigration/347105-points-based-immigration-doesnt-add-up

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