Legalize The American Dream: Immigration is in America's Self-Interest
by Rebecca Knapp
The arguments can be confusing. Anti-immigration groups ask us to consider our self-interest as Americans, claiming that illegal immigrants are stealing jobs and benefits from citizens. Pro-immigration groups, by default, concede the question of self-interest to their opponents. They ask Americans to consider the broken homes deported immigrants leave behind and the tragedy of those who die crossing the desert from Mexico. So which is it? Should we protect our jobs and our taxes, or be moved by the plight of those who seek refuge while we allow our country to be overrun?
It’s a trick question.
In one respect, the anti-immigration groups are correct: Americans should consider their self-interest when deciding where they stand on immigration. But they are wrong that illegal immigrants are a drain or a scourge. Immigrants, illegal or otherwise, are a boon to the United States.
Consider the arguments to the contrary. The claim that illegal immigrants hurt the economy boils down to two allegations. The first is that immigrants steal jobs from Americans. The second is that they suck up welfare or benefits without paying enough taxes to cover themselves.
It is true that immigrants work when they get to America. They get jobs as soon as they can, and yes, they’re willing to work cheaply. But they don’t steal jobs. If you’re paying the teenager who baby-sits your children $15 an hour, and the girl across the street comes along and says, “I’ll do it for $10,” has the new girl stolen anything when you hire her? Of course not. It’s your money. You have no obligation to pay a higher price, if you can get the labor for a lower one. That doesn’t change when the nationality of the cheaper babysitter happens to be Mexican. As long as the money that you worked for still belongs to you, you get to choose what to do with it.