Much to the delight of the president’s supporters, recent data shows a dramatic drop in immigration. After doing its level best to make the United States unattractive as a destination for migrants, the White House appears to have achieved its goal. A recent analysis of census data by William Frey, chief demographer at the Brookings Institution, shows that in 2018, immigration dropped by more than 70 percent from the year before.
Typically, such declines in immigration occur when the economy is in trouble. The last time we saw such a low level was during the 2008 recession. This fact should be unsurprising. If people are fleeing their country to find a better life, why would they come to the United States where jobs are scarce? The ebb and flow of immigration largely corresponds with the rise and fall of our unemployment rate: when unemployment is high, immigration is low.
This fact seems to fly in the face of much of the criticism of immigration we have seen. Immigration opponents argue that immigrants are outsiders who come here and take our jobs. If that were true, then higher immigration should lead to a higher unemployment rate. The reverse is true. A lower unemployment rate means that everyone’s working and more jobs are available. That is the kind of economy immigrants want to move into. If opportunities are scarce, such as during a recession when unemployment is high, word gets around and immigrants figure they may as well stay at home.
The reality is that much of how immigration is popularly understood is incorrect. The United States needs immigration. Without it, our long-term prospects are in trouble. As the Harvard Business Review pointed out, “immigration is at the heart of American competitiveness.”
Consider the following. A truism about developed countries is that we have declining birthrates. This reality could be due to a number of factors. As people become richer, they have fewer children. Or there’s the fact that women have more options available to them than simply rearing children. Or it could be the increased availability of birth control. Likely, it is some combination of these factors, along with others, that cause this trend. At any rate, the…