Point-based Immigration Doesn’t Add UpAug 21 2017
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.
A 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.