- - Wednesday, October 25, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The liberal case for surging immigration as the essential element of healthy population growth needs a fresh coat of whitewash. As immigration reform advocates attempt to blaze a pathway to legal status for millions of illegals to follow, their formula is showing signs of wear. Immigrant hands, legal or illegal, are needed to turn the crank on the great American economic machine, and immigrant women are no longer having babies in the numbers they once did.

The Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington think tank favoring restrictions on illegal immigration, refutes the argument that it’s the fertility of immigrants, in the words of onetime Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, that “rebuilds the demographic pyramid.”

The study finds that between 2008 and 2015, the birth rate for immigrant women in the 15- to 50-year-old age group declined precipitously, from 76 births per thousand to 60 births per thousand. In contrast, the birth rate for native women in the same age group declined at a much gentler rate, from 55 births per thousand to 49. Given those sloping vectors, immigrants and native Americans — Americans native to the soil, not just American Indians — would display about the same birth rates in another 15 years.

“To the extent that immigration can impact aging, it is partly due to immigrants’ higher fertility. However, immigrant fertility has declined significantly since 2008. As a result, immigration’s small impact on aging is becoming even smaller.” In other words, if the powers that be are keeping the nation’s door open to immigrants to rejuvenate the American work force, they’ll be disappointed.

A measured and reasonable contribution of young blood is always a good thing, and Americans then as now have held out a welcome to legal immigrants arriving to share the American dream. The question, of course, is what is reasonable? It’s not the stampede of 30 million or so who have burst into the United States helter-skelter over the past 15 years.

Trump administration officials puzzling over the future of the so-called “Dreamers,” the 700,000 young people brought into the U.S. illegally by their parents, can make a fair deal with Congress by enabling the Dreamers to stay here in exchange for passage of the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act, or Raise Act, which gives immigration preference to those with strong academic, language or employment credentials.

It’s not just many hands, but clever hands that put the muscle to the economic crank. It’s the astonishing advances in technology that have kept the United States atop the world with a $18.56 trillion gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016, despite the wave of low-skilled immigrants. GDP per capita has tripled to $52,194 since 1960, placing the United States at a respectable 15th globally. By comparison, China has the world’s second-largest GDP with $11.39 trillion. But spread across a population more than four times larger than America’s, China’s GDP per capita is only $9,800, good only for 121st place. Workers apply the force to advance an economy, but it’s workers with cutting-edge skills that give it wings.

America’s birth rate, with only a small boost from immigrants, won’t turbocharge the economy in the years to come. Refusing to secure the border may broaden the demographic pyramid with young illegals. But it will be smart growth powered by talented workers — whether native or foreign-born — that will keep America where it belongs.

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