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A Threat to Americans

Ilya Somin

As the Trump administration seeks to
cut H-1B visas for skilled workers
and
ramps up arrests of immigrants without legal status, including
thousands who do not have a criminal record
, it is worth
remembering that immigrants are not the only ones harmed by the new
administration’s harshly restrictionist immigration policies.
Severe restrictions on migration condemn hundreds of thousands of
potential immigrants to lives of poverty and oppression in
underdeveloped nations, yet such policies severely harm American
citizens, as well.

Perhaps the biggest negative impact of immigration restrictions
is the enormous economic cost. Restrictions prevent millions of
people from freely seeking employment and other opportunities.
Economists estimate that abolishing migration restrictions around
the world could
potentially double world GDP
. No other potential policy change
is likely to have anything like the same massive beneficial
effects.

These enormous benefits do not go to immigrants alone. Every
day, millions of Americans profit from hiring immigrants, working
with them, or using the many innovations they produce. That bounty
would increase greatly if we make it easier for immigrants to enter
the U.S. and seek out jobs.

President Donald Trump’s
immigration restrictions will have an enormous economic
cost.

Immigration restrictions also threaten the liberty and property
rights of Americans. Most obviously, they curtail American
citizens’ freedom to associate with immigrants. Jim Crow
segregation laws restricted the freedom of association of whites as
well as African-Americans. Similarly, immigration restrictions
curtail the freedom of natives as well as immigrants. In both
cases, laws that classify people based on conditions of birth
dictate where they are allowed to live and work and who they can
interact with.

The Trump administration seeks to greatly increase the number of
immigrants in the country without legal status deported by the
government. There is no way to do that without also imperiling the
civil liberties of American citizens. In 2014, the Department of
Homeland Security concluded that immigration enforcement requires

large-scale use of racial profiling in areas where some two-thirds
of the U.S. population lives
. As a result, Americans are
subjected to racial discrimination by law enforcement, merely
because they appear to belong to the same ethnic or racial group as
the targeted immigrants. The more we attempt to increase
deportations, the greater the extent of racial profiling.

Building Trump’s much-ballyhooed wall across the Mexican border

would require using eminent domain to seize the property of
thousands of Americans
. Numerous homeowners and businesses are
likely to suffer, often getting compensation far below the true
level of their losses. Condemning property and building the wall is

also likely to cost taxpayers billions of dollars
.

The deportations advocated by Trump would cost far more.
According to the conservative American Action Forum,
mass deportations on the scale envisioned by the administration
would cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars,
a figure
that does not include the cost of losing the goods and services
that would have been produced by deported workers.

Immigration does sometimes have negative effects on Americans.
But they are often overblown, and can usually be addressed by
“keyhole
solutions”
that limit risk without barring immigrants. Despite
the claims of restrictionists,
immigration does not lead to higher welfare state spending per
capita
. Even if it did, the best approach is
not a wall across the border, but a wall limiting access to welfare
benefits
.

Similarly, far from increasing the crime rate, immigration

actually reduces it, because immigrants have far lower crime rates
than natives
. That includes immigrants both with and without
legal status.

Many
other common concerns about immigration
are also either
exaggerated,
or fixable by keyhole solutions
. Examples include oft-expressed
fears
that immigrant voters will change public policy for the worse
,

fail to assimilate
as did their counterparts in earlier
generations,
or create a major risk of terrorism
.

Immigrants and American citizens are not locked in a struggle
where one group can only “win” if the other “loses.” Cutting back
on deportations and immigration restrictions can help both groups
win together.

Ilya Somin is professor of law at George Mason University, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and author of Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter.