Open Letter on Immigration

by on May 17, 2006 at 7:17 am in Current Affairs, Economics | Permalink

I have written an open letter on immigration reflecting the consensus opinion of economists on the major issues.  In cooperation with the Independent Institute I am looking for as many
signatures as possible from economists and other social scientists.  Brad DeLong, Greg Mankiw, Vernon Smith, Tyler Cowen and many others from both the left and the right have already signed on. 

You can sign by emailing your Name, Title and Organization.

I do hope that bloggers of all political stripes will circulate the letter.

The goal of the letter is not to cover all the issues but rather to say, ‘here is the hard-won consensus that economists have come to on these major issues.  By all means let us have a debate but let it be an informed debate.’

References and further information can be found here.

Here is the text.

Dear President George W. Bush and All Members of Congress:

People
from around the world are drawn to America for its promise of freedom
and opportunity. That promise has been fulfilled for the tens of
millions of immigrants who came here in the twentieth century.

Throughout
our history as an immigrant nation, those who are already here worry
about the impact of newcomers. Yet, over time, immigrants have become
part of a richer America, richer both economically and culturally. The
current debate over immigration is a healthy part of a democratic
society, but as economists and other social scientists we are concerned
that some of the fundamental economics of immigration are too often
obscured by misguided commentary.

Overall, immigration has
been a net gain for existing American citizens, though a modest one in
proportion to the size of our 13 trillion-dollar economy.

Immigrants
do not take American jobs. The American economy can create as many jobs
as there are workers willing to work so long as labor markets remain
free, flexible and open to all workers on an equal basis.

Immigration
in recent decades of low-skilled workers may have lowered the wages of
domestic low-skilled workers, but the effect is likely to be small,
with estimates of wage reductions for high-school dropouts ranging from
eight percent to as little as zero percent.

While a small
percentage of native-born Americans may be harmed by immigration,
vastly more Americans benefit from the contributions that immigrants
make to our economy, including lower consumer prices. As with trade in
goods and services, the gains from immigration outweigh the losses. The
effect of all immigration on low-skilled workers is very likely
positive as many immigrants bring skills, capital and entrepreneurship
to the American economy.

Legitimate concerns about the impact
of immigration on the poorest Americans should not be addressed by
penalizing even poorer immigrants. Instead, we should promote policies,
such as improving our education system that enables Americans to be
more productive with high-wage skills.

We must not forget
that the gains to immigrants from coming to the United States are
immense. Immigration is the greatest anti-poverty program ever devised.
The American dream is a reality for many immigrants who not only
increase their own living standards but who also send billions of
dollars of their money back to their families in their home countries–a
form of truly effective foreign aid..

America is a generous
and open country and these qualities make America a beacon to the
world. We should not let exaggerated fears dim that beacon.

Sign here if you are in agreement.  Thanks!

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