America Needs More Immigration, Not Less

Reforms should focus on marketing America to prospective immigrants.

America's future problem won't be too many immigrants, but too few. A "gray tsunami" is coming as the global population simultaneously shrinks and ages, producing an acute worldwide shortage of working-age people.

Immigration reformers must get over their parochial understanding of world trends and position America to effectively compete for foreign workers come crunch time.

The biggest obstacle to an immigration expansion thus far has been the notion—popularized by restrictionists—that America has been deluged with "mass immigration" since 1965. This line has appealed to people's deep Malthusian intuition that more foreigners would exacerbate the coming population explosion. It was a lie all along: The 3.5 foreigners per 1,000 Americans we have been admitting yearly is significantly less than the 10.4 foreigners we admitted without ill effect at the turn of the last century. It is also far less than the 8.5 foreigners that Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland admit right now.

Until recently, America had escaped the population decline engulfing Europe and other countries, largely because it has been an attractive destination for immigrants. And their higher fertility rates have compensated for the declining native ones.

But this is no longer the case. According to a Pew Research Center report last month, immigrant births in the United States have fallen in the last five years from 102 to 87.8 per 1,000 women. This has reduced America's overall birthrate to a mere 64 per 1,000 women—far below replacement levels.

What's more, source countries are themselves experiencing massive population declines. Even India has seen live births per woman plummet from 6 to 2.5 from 1960 to 2009. Mexico has fallen from 7.3 to 2.4. China is on the verge of a historically unprecedented demographic collapse, thanks to its one-child policy.

All this is bad news for America and other Western countries. It will close off the best—and perhaps the only—chance to avoid the collapse of the retirement welfare state.

Immigrants, unlike children, start working and paying taxes the moment they set foot on American soil, without requiring expensive schooling and health care. They typically come in their peak working years, when they are young and healthy, and hence contribute to Social Security and Medicare for years before collecting. Even as immigrants bestow this windfall, their energy and inventiveness drive economic vitality and growth.

But the intensifying global demand for young workers will make it far more difficult for America to attract immigrants—especially since economic liberalization has opened many attractive opportunities for them at home.

The rational response under these circumstances would be to market America aggressively abroad, much like the army does at home to boost sagging enrollments. America should be soliciting applications from young foreigners, even offering them "immigration packages."

To date, immigrants, even highly skilled ones, have radically altered their lives to fit America's immigration policies. They have dutifully applied for their temporary work visas. And those lucky enough to get them have waited patiently for decades for their green cards—their spouses, all this time, barred from working.

But it will be an immigrants' market soon, in which America will have to fit its policies around their lives. The insanely low cap on work visas for low- and high-skilled immigrants must be scrapped. And the wait to obtain such visas should be counted in hours and days, not months and years.

Unlike in the past, immigrants may not come to settle in America permanently, but rather to work for an extended period before returning home. Currently, most work visas are temporary, forcing immigrants to apply for green cards even if they don't want to stay long-term. The creation of work visas without expiration dates will hand them more options while relieving the artificial pressure for green cards. But of course, those who do want green cards shouldn't have to endure a Kafkaesque hell.

Unfortunately, neither President Obama nor Senate reformers seem to appreciate any of this. Otherwise, they wouldn't be talking about handing the task of determining annual visa quotas to a commission—with union representatives, to boot. They are paying lip service to immigration. But they act as if America's immigration challenge still consists in turning away foreigners flocking to its doorstep—not courting them from near and far.

This column originally appeared in the Washington Examiner

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Almanian.||

    America Needs More Immigration, Not Less

    Let me take a guess why - so we have a sufficient number of brown people on our own soil to kill with drones? Am I warm? Close?


  • Way Of The Crane||

    A "gray tsunami" is coming as the global population simultaneously shrinks and ages, producing an acute worldwide shortage of working-age people.

    Why isn't this seen as a surplus of old people? The solution isn't more immigrants; it's harvesting the elderly for biofuel.

  • Acosmist||

    That's why Japan is such a third-world hellhole - no immigrants.

  • MWG||

    Actually, their increasingly closed society is a part of the rerason they continue to stagnate. They literally paid Brazilians of Japanese decent to leave the country and never return a couple years ago.

  • Acosmist||

    As I said, third-world hellhole.

    (Anyone else wish they could stagnate as well as the Japanese? Yeah.)

  • MWG||

    Stagnate for 30 years? No thanks.

  • ||

    You know who else wanted to be just like Japan?

  • Proprietist||

    Their economy has been stagnating for about 30 years and their national debt is now 211% of their GDP. Sure, they have avoided the cultural "problems" of immigration, but they're getting to the point where they are realizing they have no choice.

  • Drake||

    No choice?

    I guess the massive government spending and high taxes aren't a choice.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    The underlying cause of poverty in Bangladesh?

    Not enough poor people.

  • MWG||

    Bangledesh is way behind Hong Kong and Singapore.

  • ||

    You're a stupid fuck. Immigration won't be high to a country that's poor.

  • Neville3||

    my best friend's half-sister makes $76/hr on the internet. She has been without work for 6 months but last month her check was $15690 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on this web site

  • Drake||

    How much does she charge for a girlfriend experience?

  • Way Of The Crane||

    Now the bots are spamming H&R comments with links to malicious websites.

    This used to be such a nice neighborhood.

  • ||

    This used to be such a nice neighborhood.

    Lies and slander!

  • An0nB0t||

  • SIV||

    All this is bad news for America and other Western countries. It will close off the best—and perhaps the only—chance to avoid the collapse of the retirement welfare state.

    God forbid the retirement welfare state collapse. Then there will be less incentive for immigrants to bring in their non-productive relatives!

  • Hawk Spitui||

    First we were told immigration would collapse the welfare state by over-extending it, now we're getting told it will collapse without immigration.

    Maybe one of these days the cosmos will get their story straight.

  • SIV||

    I wouldn't insult cosmotarians by including Shikha Dalmia among them.

  • ||

    The only people who argue immigration would collapse the welfare state are retarded nativists like you. Because everyone knows dirty immigrants come here for the welfare!

  • John Galt||

    Oh my, aren't NZ, Canada, and Australia wonderful.

    Australia population density 7 people per square mile, Canada 9 per square mile, and NZ 38. Here in the USA we have a population density of 84 per square mile, which already gives the ruling Left endless grief.

    Lefty would love it if our population density was zero. Zero people equals zero pollution!

    Your argument is faulted.

  • Virginian||

    So now we should import immigrants to keep the entitlement state afloat?

    What if I don't want the entitlement state to stay afloat?

  • Hyperion||

    Know why we need more immigrants? To take care of lazy Americans who will not work for a living. Lots of dirty brown fureners are willing to work for money. MOAR REVENUE!

  • ||

    Funny how nativist yokels always argue that more immigration means more people on welfare and more of a strain on welfare, but confront them with the argument that more immigrants means less of a strain on the welfare system and suddenly they want more of a strain on welfare!

  • VG Zaytsev||

    It's worked that way so far.

  • ||

    Yes, being a hypocrite definitely works for retarded yokels.

  • MacKlingon||

    No one would care about immigration if it weren't for welfare.

  • XM||

    The problem is, there are already 350 million plus people living in this place. Slower birth and immigration rate just means the population will expand less faster.

    If you came here from Japan at age 33 (let's say legally) with a wife and 2 kids, the state will likely spend more on you than you will pay in taxes. Especially if you came here looking to ACQUIRE skills / education and is serious about learning the language. But more often than not, this immigrant will move to the same 3,4 states with a high immigrant population and hope whatever skills he has is a fit in an ethnic enclave.

    If a company really wanted "foreign" workers, they would probably outsource work to other countries where waiting for visas and such is a moot point. If you were a doctor abroad, would you just abandon your community ties and move to some random clinic is Minnesota, even if they recruited you?

  • effinayright||

    Suppose I am one of tens of millions of largely unskilled Americans. Am I supposed to WELCOME the influx of another ten million unskilled foreigners? Someone want to 'splain that to me?

    As for "paying taxes as soon as they set foot"; WTF? If you aren't legal, then you don't have a SS number, and you sure as hell aren't filing income taxes with the IRS. The author must know this, and one can only conclude that she's simply obtuse at best or at worse a goddamn SHILL for the "interests" who employ such people and avoid having to pay minimum wage, FICA, set aside witholding , and all the rest.

    It would be one thing of the author were promoting the influx of at least semi-skilled and educable legal immigrants, because such folk could move up the ladder and become net positives for the economy and culture. Her fellow Indian-Americans are a case-in-point: they are educated, enter skilled employment, and assimilate.

    But dirt-poor uneducated Mexicans, Guatemalans and the like?

    Sorry: no mas!!

  • Wholly Holy Cow||

    Sure, Reason, I'll believe you give a fuck about open borders when you...

    A) Reinstate open commenting
    B) Allow anyone, not just those with Reason citizenship papers, to write blog posts.
    C) Welcome 'White Indian' back with open moccasins. I thought only us mouthbreathing nativists wanted to restrict people's unlimited rights to gambol.

    What don't you idiots understand about property rights? Whether it's a country, a state or your backyard, whoever holds the deed sets access rights according to whatever the deedholder damn well pleases.

    You nitwits are the same fools who get the vapors when a cop gives you a dirty look, but when some foreign government bends you over, rapes you and then charges you a fee, you say: Gimme more!

  • Perry5||

    If you think Troy`s story is inconceivable,, last pay-cheque my moms boyfriend basically also actually earnt $7824 workin a fourty hour month from there house and their roomate's step-sister`s neighbour was doing this for nine months and broght in more than $7824 parttime from their pc. use the advice on this link... http://www.FLY38.COM

  • شات عراقنا||

    Nicest chat and chat Iraqi entertaining Adject all over the world

  • Todd Gilbert||

    We are full now. More people means more air pollution more sewage pumped into the ocean more garbage more traffic congestion more building for people to live and work. The is limited space for wildlife now.The US lets in 150,000 legal immigrants a year in 100 years they expect that to amount to 600 million. The government wants to increase it to 250.000 which in the same time frame is 900 million. That is unsustainable.Libertarians seem to think only of profit but I think quality of life counts also. I have been to overpopulated country's and it's not pretty.


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties