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We need immigrants to help grow the U.S. economy

Unpalatable as that will be to some American voters, it’s the truth.

Demographics rule.

And the projected U.S. birth rates for the coming decades raise questions as to whether our fertility will produce the workers needed for healthy growth in Gross Domestic Product and the economy as a whole.

Of course, the connection between fertility rates and economic growth is tricky.

Nevertheless, U.S. macro social trends — centering on women’s evolving opportunities, including education, employment and earnings — don’t bode well for achieving “natural” U.S. population replacement levels. Mark Mather, associate vice president of Domestic Programs at the Population Reference Bureau, has put it this way: “A growing reliance on women’s employment and earnings could further dampen U.S. fertility rates in the coming decades.”

Enter Eduardo Porter, New York Times columnist with “How to Make America Greater: Allow More Immigration“:

“A straightforward way to bulk up the economy — not to say global growth — would be to allow many more immigrants in …” Citing recent research, Porter notes that “immigration to the United States from 1990 to 2010, both legal and illegal, produced net benefits worth $50 billion a year to the native population …

“This is a challenge for not only Mr. Trump but also the entire crop of xenophobic, nativist leaders emerging all over the industrialized world: Few things would make the economic pie bigger than free flows of people from poor countries to rich ones. Immigration — not trade liberalization or the elimination of barriers to capital flows — offers the best shot at raising the incomes of the poor and increasing economic output around the world …”

“That is not to say America’s borders should be opened to all comers. Whatever the economic benefits, immigration remains a touchy topic everywhere.”

Of course, Porter alludes to the monster elephant in the room this week — the looming litigation, perhaps  heading to the Supreme Court, on President Trump’s controversial international travel and immigration restrictions. The outcome, if favorable to the President, could overwhelm economic rationales for increased immigration.

Meanwhile, Porter’s proposed remedy is worth considering: “So how about an expanded guest-worker program? It could grant visas for, say, a fixed five-year period with no path to citizenship, and deploy both carrots and sticks to ensure that workers returned home.”