As the United States Government prepares for a shift in administration, many are turning to the election platform of President-elect Joe Biden for a glimpse at upcoming policy proposals and changes. While Biden noted changes to health care, plans to combat climate change, and strategies for dealing with the continued COVID-19 pandemic, he has also mentioned policy changes in one area that could affect millions of Americans: immigration.
Some may see this area as only affecting new and current immigrants, but many scholars believe that immigration policy, whether liberal or conservative, can have a huge impact on the economy and societal structures of the U.S. As Biden has pledged to reverse almost all of President Trump’s immigration restrictions, many are left wondering what will change in the coming months and how the new administration may impact immigrants and U.S. citizens alike.
Economic Influences of Immigration
Discussions around immigration often place immigrants on the opposite side of native-born Americans. Despite popular rhetoric that immigrants “steal jobs,” misuse government benefits, or shirk responsibility, the reality is that immigration benefits both immigrants and U.S. citizens more than conservative logic may assume.
The many ways that immigration contributes to the U.S. economy often go overlooked. Not only do immigrants have higher rates of employment as a group, but their geographic mobility also helps sustain local economies that may have worker shortages or other factors that limit economic growth. Furthermore, the children of immigrants may be upwardly mobile, which promises economic benefits not just to their families but to the U.S. economy as a whole. As many immigrants come to the U.S. for education, employment, and leisure-related activities, their contributions also bolster the American economy and GDP.
Despite the false dichotomies drawn between the interests of native-born Americans and immigrants, the restrictions on immigration put in place by the current administration have actually harmed U.S. citizens. By restricting the workforce, the Trump administration places a strain on local economies that rely on immigrant work and stifles economic productivity, potentially affecting future benefits.
Societal Contributions of Immigrants
Those who chose to migrate to a new country do so looking for better opportunities. Immigrants often make important contributions in innovation and societal influence; for example, the inventors of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination are first-generation German citizens.
Some policies recognize the innovative potential of immigrants by offering merit-based immigration that allows scholars and innovators to enter a country. However, even with merit-based immigration, the current administration has severely restricted who is allowed to enter the U.S.
“While ‘merit-based’ immigration looks to allow scientists and entrepreneurs, like the creators of the COVID-19 vaccine, into the U.S., many of the greatest immigrant academics and inventors made their achievements far after their immigration application was approved,” said St. Louis immigration lawyer Jim Hacking from Hacking Law Practice, LLC. “This means that they may have been barred from entering under contemporary immigration policies, which defeats the merit-based immigration idea of only allowing the best and smartest into the country.”
Undoubtedly, U.S. citizens benefit from the ingenuity and perseverance of their immigrant peers. Beyond attending U.S. schools and enriching local communities, immigrants are two times as likely to create new businesses compared to native-born Americans.
Immigration Policy Affects Everyone in the U.S.
Immigrants in the U.S. make the country economically stronger and culturally richer with their societal contributions. As the Biden administration begins to prepare for their time in office, it is important to highlight the vast implications of a liberal immigration policy. These policies will not only affect current and prospective immigrants—they benefit the country as a whole.