This is part one of an essay debate. For Armand’s thoughts, click here.

Up until 1914, America had, for all intents and purposes, open borders. Anyone could come over by boat, and they’d be accepted with open arms at Ellis Island. The result of this became one of the most prosperous and diverse nations in the world. The economy flourished, and businesses were starting at a rate never seen before.

When discussing today’s situation, most notably referring to Mexicans crossing the Southern border and refugees coming from the middle east, we continue to see the same effect. Immigrants do jobs that most Americans do not want. They are hard workers, and most importantly, they bolster the economy. An overwhelming number of economists agree that immigration – both legal and illegal – help the US economy.

There are some important clarifications I need to make in my argument. First, my case for granting amnesty to undocumented immigrants relies on them not receiving government assistance. I’m not in favor of the welfare state in general, and that applies to both citizens and immigrants. Second, it also relies that background checks are completed so that violent criminals are not allowed into the country. This is not a case for fully open borders; this is a case for allowing non-violent immigrants to come here and make it much easier for them to become citizens.

“They’re stealing our jobs!”

A 2015 study from the Urban Institute found that immigrants and low-skilled native workers consistently compete for different jobs. “Less-educated native workers are overrepresented in occupations that interact with the public and coworkers and that have supervising responsibilities, licensing requirements, and demanding mechanical and computer operations. Immigrants dominate manual jobs, occupations that are more physically demanding, and jobs where interactions with the public happen in more controlled settings (e.g., taxi drivers, maids).”

They go on to suggest that these jobs complement each other, providing an overall boost to the economy. Immigrants are also often able to take jobs that require bilingual proficiency, a skillset most natives don’t possess. Furthermore, natives with a high school diploma face even less competition for jobs.

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“They’re taking welfare money!”

Multiple studies have found quite the contrary to this. Immigrants actually take less benefits than low-skilled native workers. Not only this, but immigration is shown to actually decrease a society’s dependency on welfare as a whole.

There’s really not a whole lot to debate here – this argument is extremely overstated. And if immigration – both legal and illegal – will help wean us off of this nanny state rollercoaster, I am all for it.

“They’re rapists!”

Calm down, Donald. Studies actually consistently show that immigrants are not more likely to commit crimes.

“Immigrants are hurting the economy!”

Yet again – no. Studies show that freer migration between borders could actually double the GDP. Immigrants – AKA labor – come to the US because there is job opportunity here not available to them where they are now. This means there is a demand for immigrants, and they are seizing that opportunity with supply. Anyone reading this should appreciate that correlation between supply and demand, and we should be doing all we can to balance the two.

Immigrants are also twice as likely to start businesses as natives, which further creates job growth, increases competition, and lowers prices. Immigrants are at the heart of entrepreneurialism, and history has repeatedly shown that the fusion of cultures provides vast innovation.

Last but not least, immigration actually makes government smaller.  When individuals have the ability to up and leave, it makes countries better, as they need a population to thrive. Mexico would continually do what they could to compete with the US, making both economies stronger through trade.

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“Okay, but illegal immigrants should just come here legally!”

The reason this topic is relevant currently is because of DACA. The DACA repeal set forth by President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions will end the program, which provided a renewing work permit and relief from deportation to undocumented immigrants brought here as minors. If the repeal goes through, DACA kids would be treated as criminals, and face immediate deportation back to their birthplace.

I have first-hand experience with this, as a woman in my office is here through DACA. She’s lived in the US for over 20 years, has a family, and does a great job for my company. If she were deported back to Mexico, she wouldn’t even know where to go. She would be in a country she hasn’t been to since she was a child, with nothing to fall back on. She’s gone as far as jokingly asking me to marry her, because it somehow makes logical sense that a piece of paper with a naturalized citizen’s name on it means you’re now an acceptable member of society.

In order to ensure undocumented immigrants have the right to become legal, we have to make it easier for them to do that. Immigrants have to go through a ton of red tape to become legal citizens, which include fees most immigrants don’t currently have the means to pay(NEWSFLASH: THEY ARE COMING HERE BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE MONEY AND THEY WANT TO WORK TO EARN SAID MONEY). The current system also only allows for roughly one million immigrants to become legal each year, meaning some of those rejected feel compelled to cross illegally.

The question then, is should we treat those not permitted by the current system as criminals, with the ability to round them up in masses like inmates and deport them?

Disregarding the fact that due to our ridiculous immigration policies, thousands of people have died attempting to cross the border, the repeal of DACA and other pro-immigration legislation will hurt our economy. It will continually weaken our trade relationship with Mexico, and it will send hundreds of thousands of working people who have lived here their entire adult lives to a country they wouldn’t recognize.

Also, since we aren’t living in Nazi Germany, is a “show me your papers” America the kind of America we want to embrace? Are the billions of dollars spent on a wall and border patrol really worth it? Do we not have more pressing issues to throw money at?

Immigration – both legal and illegal – is good for the United States of America. Granting amnesty to those here and passing legislation to make it easier for workers to come here is good for America(and guess what, legal citizens pay taxes!).

The demand for immigrant labor is apparent, and classifying undocumented immigrants as criminals is costing us more money than it is to have them here. Let ’em start some businesses. Let ’em work.

America, tear down this mental wall.

This is part one of an essay debate. For Armand’s thoughts, click here.

Jacob Leddy
Jacob Leddy is a former Libertarian candidate for Indiana State Senate and a firm believer in the concepts of Liberty.

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