Do immigrants help or hurt the US economy?

Sadaf Ayaz

Media 211

Professor Alm

For the longest time debate over the role of immigrants in the United States, specifically their role in the US economy, has created waves of controversy and debate. Moreover, a greater access in publishing stories, opinions, and at times false news has only added fuel to the fire. With important outcomes of the presidential race and current policies being made based on immigration, it’s important to know exactly what role immigrants play in America. After going through a multitude of well-sourced published news content that, the answer is clear: Americans need immigrants for a successful US economy.

The current administration’s hard stance on immigrants has been ever present with talks of building a wall along the Mexican border. However, lately, it has been especially obvious through the actions taken against the caravan of migrants trekking through Central America to seek asylum. The government was unfazed by taking actions that separated parents from their children and labeling immigrants illegally crossing the border as ‘dangerous criminals’ and therefore justifying their use of tear gas at the border to prevent the asylum seekers from entering the United States. 

The polar opposition to the immigration of foreigners prompts the question of whether or not what is being done is the best for the country. From the stance of politics and economics, are the actions of the government and the beliefs that dictate them correct? Are they necessary? When we take a step back, do we still see the harm in allowing migrants entrance to the States? Or does the bigger picture look completely different? Do we instead, need immigrants to fulfill a role in our society?

For this essay, we will look at the role of immigrants on the economy and how they can help or harm it. After thorough research through the news cycle and the data presented through multiple mediums, it was found that immigrants do not harm the US economy. In fact, they are vital for it to thrive. 

Immigrants are needed more than ever with trends of domestic population aging, birth rates declining, and the difference between the number of jobs needed for the number of workers available.

A clip from an MSNBC news segment titled This Country Needs Immigrants To Fuel The Economy discussed extensively the role of immigrants in America. This nine-minute video was by far, the most well-sourced piece of journalistic evidence to examine the role of immigrants in the US economy and their conclusion was that we need them.

The clip started off with a two-minute presentation compiled of data by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Homeland Security, and the CATO Institute. One of the main arguments made were of the large difference between the 6.7 million jobs available and the 6.4 million unemployed workers. Moreover, the Trump administration recently was very proud of the 4% increase in GDPG that happened this year. This was the biggest increase in GDPG since 2000. 

However, the presenter argued, in order to sustain the GDPG and to meet the needs of employers we will need immigrants. A study by the CATO Institute showed a net zero impact on the budget and net-positive impact on revenue by immigrants on America. Basically, immigrants have not been negatively affecting any aspect of the economy.

In fact, immigrants provide the labor needed by employers to fulfill their jobs Krishnadev Calamur argues in his article, A Functional Immigration System Would Look Nothing Like America’s for The Atlantic. Calamur believes America has a broken immigration system. To find out why, he did research on countries with open immigration policies and populations largely composed of immigrant. Countries thriving off of their immigrants like New Zealand, Australia, and now Canada which is making active efforts to recruit as many immigrants as possible. 

Currently, in the US, new immigration policies push for access to migration to candidates who speak English and have valuable skill-sets. In an effort to find more entrepreneur-like individuals from other countries who can build companies and jobs for US workers–basically, more opportunities specifically for American citizens. Calamur argues that is not where the answer lies. A balance is necessary. While immigrants with relatively rare skill sets, ideas, and abilities are important for the US economy, so are the low-skilled workers without much to offer–at least to the visible eye. Low-skilled workers are vital for food and agriculture, social-care, and health-care sectors. Often, Calamur says, their work is not accounted for. Calamur’s presentation of multiple arguments along with multiple roles and types of immigrants present strengthened his article by providing multiple perspectives. He catered his article towards different situations and their impacts and formed an opinion to help readers connect the dots.

Calamur and MSNBC provided literary clear evidence on the effects of immigration. These works of journalism are not only strong because of the platforms they are presented on but also because of the thorough research and rebuttals provided. While it wasn’t necessary to delve deeper into some of the arguments made in those pieces for the interest of this essay, their work was still considered worthy of trust because of the transparency provided by the platforms to argue and defend the ideas. For example, MSNBC finished off its presentation with a six minute discussion with the hosts of the segment, two other journalists from other publications, and a CEO the has spent a life working for the right of immigrants. Calamur proved his validity by bringing up arguments and rebuttals provided by anti-immigration voices and responding to them through his research. 

For example, while arguments like Calamur’s and the ones made by the presenters at MSNBC are widely-held by pro-immigrant perspectives, many people are concerned with the impact on immigrants on schooling systems and benefits. In fact, a common trend on social media amongst angry commentators was that immigrants were taking away social benefits paid for by real Americans. While these topics aren’t mentioned as often as the ones above, they are chief concerns in comments by the everyday American. It is their argument against allowing immigrants to enter America.

Looking to social media provided a broader lens into the topic. Real world people who were directly impacted by immigration both positively and negatively brought up arguments often left unaddressed. Social media provides a deeper understanding of the issue from the perspectives of individuals directly affected by it. 

Many immigrants who hope for a green card after entering America often face several hurdles provided by our government. MSNBC shared an official document from The Department of Homeland security that showcased a new criteria based off of widely-held anti-immigration beliefs to disqualify immigrants from receiving a green card if they used government-provided benefits like cash aid, housing, medical care, and food benefits. However, an important argument made by a guest on MSNBC, Maria Teresa Kumar the CEO and President of Voto Latino was that the benefits were not just going toward actual immigrants but also towards children of immigrants who were American. 

Another widely brought up argument by pro-immigration perspectives is that a rapid decline in birth rates over the past decade will eventually create issues for the new labor force needed in the future. Kumar also pointed out immigrants contributed nearly 50% of childbirths in the US during the decade after 2000, however, as immigration neutralization started coincidently in 2010, the decline in birth rates also occurred. Immigrants are needed more than ever to fill the population of the US for a sustainable future. Without that and the decline in birth rates, the future of the American economy is not safe. As our current labor force goes into retirement over the next few years, there will be a large gap that only immigrants and their children can fill.

An article by New York Magazine called Mass Immigration Creates Problems For the Left. Tighter Borders Can’t Be the Solution, Eric Levitz argues countries like the US with declining birth rates benefit from laborers from abroad make social welfare programs more sustainable in fiscal terms because while they do increase a net supply of labor in an economy, they also create new demand. In fact, he says, “It is perfectly possible, in theory, for a social democratic government — one committed to full employment, and universal collective bargaining rights — to reconcile high levels of immigration with rising living standards for native-born workers.”

While facts like so many mentioned above are argued countless times, their effects seem to be next to zero for those with right-leaning ideologies. This prompts the question of whether or not facts even have an influence on our opinions. For example, a clip from Fox news titled The Economics of America’s Illegal Immigration Crisis had a passionate discussion by guests and anchors at Fox and was followed by a comment below it like: “Liberals don’t care about economics. They think money just grows off trees to fund all of their little pet projects!” which received almost 150 likes.

Elizabeth Kolbert a writer for New York Magazine addressed the issue in her article Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds. One of the key arguments in her article is on the idea of confirmation bias: “the tendency people have to embrace information that supports their beliefs and rejects information that contradicts them.” While the clip on Fox News had very little factual and focused data to present an argument, it received a greater engagement and reaction than the one from MSNBC.  

This may be related to another concept Kolbert discussed in her article called the illusion of explanatory depth, “People believe that they know way more than they actually do. What allows us to persist in this belief is other people.” A lot of the individuals who form negative beliefs on immigration know little about the positive impacts made by them. For example, while the clip by MSNBC brought up a concern of individuals with anti-immigration sentiments and chose to argue against it, Fox mentioned none of the details that showed the contributions of immigrants.

Another trend noticed in comments and responses to social media posts was a lack of understanding of the broader picture along with a tendency to repeat words and phrases made by the President. These anti-immigration social media responses were adjacent to sentiments after 9/11 on the War on Terror. Building a wall and preventing immigrants from entering America whether it is legally or illegally stems from a notion that starts from the level of government and passes through right-leaning media. Like the frames created by the government and journalists to push for the war of terror, frames have been created for anti-immigration. What Is The War On Terror? Framing Through The Eyes of Journalists an extensive paper analyzing the work of journalists in reporting the War on Terror discusses key points of how framing works by, “‘transmitting’ the label as shorthand for administration policy, to ‘reify’ the policy as uncontested, and ‘naturalize’ it as a taken-for-granted common-sense notion.”

For example on a Twitter post by Jennifer Rubin in which she says: “the rest of us shouldn’t turn our economy inside out, engage in inhumane practices, waste billions on a wall, misuse our military and fan bigotry” before a link to a Washington Post article she wrote called the Illegal Immigration ‘Crisis’ is Trump-made, comments seemed to suggest the solution was in reducing illegal migration by building a wall while another commentator believed it would get rid of immigrants once and for all. For example, one commentator wrote, “this crisis is because we do not have a wall!” while another commentator wrote, “if we build it, they won’t come…#BuildTheWall…” 

While issues like these continue, it is more important than ever for the media to present the whole picture. The confirmation bias of readers will always be present, instead of taking advantage of the bias of readers, publications should make an active effort to provide a full story with proper data. Similarly, readers must also make an effort to recognize the biases presented by organizations they read and find more evidence-based arguments. While the reality of immigration is one that is quite clear, it is evident that many people do not yet see that. 

Immigrants provide high and low skill labor needed to complete jobs, help maintain our population, and have an overall positive fiscal impact on our economy. Knowing the details behind why each of the arguments above are so vital to welcoming immigrants is just as important as understanding the widely-held fears as well as the widely-advertised lies shared by many anti-immigration organizations. 

One widely advertised lie, for example, which was left out of the discussion of this essay was made by an anti-immigration writer who was himself an immigrant. An article by the National Review called Where Americans Agree on Immigration was written by  Reihan Salam who had written a book on the controversy of the idea of an immigrant for anti-immigration policies. His distorted opinions and purposeful viral behavior in his articles disqualified his work as a valid piece on news literacy. 

Moreover, it is also important to note, that we have to read pieces done by writers like Salam because without understanding the perspectives of all the people who are part of the conversation, we can never create a clear argument or understanding of a topic.

After having done the work above, the writer of this essay has reached a strong conclusion that immigrants are necessary for the economic success of America today and tomorrow. In fact, immigrants have been an essential part of the American economy in the past through their contribution to jobs, the population, and society. There is an onslaught of discussions on the topic contributed by opinion-based right- and left-leaning media, as well as poorly-researched left-leaning media, and the poorly-developed understandings and arguments presented on social media.

With all of that noise on the internet and the world of media and news we, the readers, are entangled in details that are not as important as the larger picture for America’s economic success–facts that continue to be ignored, perhaps for a history repeated.

Citations Page:

CALAMUR, K. (2018, November 19). A Functional Immigration System Would Look Nothing Like America’s. The Atlantic.

Levitz, E. (2018, November 30). Mass Immigration Creates Problems For the Left. Tighter Borders Can’t Be the Solution. The New Yorker.

Salam, R. (2018, November 28). Where Americans Agree on Immigration. National Review.

Bier, D. J. (2018, November 15). America Is Rejecting More Legal Immigrants Than Ever Before. The New York Times. Retrieved December 2, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/15/opinion/trump-legal-immigrants-reject.html?rref=collection/timestopic/Immigration and Emigration 

[Fox News]. (2018, November 25). The Economics of America’s Illegal Immigration Crisis. Retreived from https://youtu.be/KeMuYo_BZIw

[MSNBC]. (2018, November 5). This Country Needs Immigrants To Fuel The Economy. Retreived from https://youtu.be/IwfV_IydY0w 

JRubinBlogger. (2018, November 28). the rest of us shouldn’t turn our economy inside out, engage in inhumane practices, waste billions on a wall, misuse our military and fan bigotry, .  https://twitter.com/JRubinBlogger/status/1067816905514336256    

V.  Multimedia Elements: Essay is posted online with at least three multimedia elements. ___/10
Name:  SADAF AYAZ     
REQUIRED: Fill out and turn in with your first draft and again with your final draft.

1. List your four quotes from four different class readings, noting the source:

– What is the war on terror? Framing through the eyes of journalists.

“transmitting’ the label as shorthand for administration policy, to ‘reify’ the policy as uncontested, and ‘naturalize’ it as a taken-for-granted common-sense notion.”

– Why facts don’t change our minds New Yorker

Idea of confirmation bias: “the tendency people have to embrace information that supports their beliefs and rejects information that contradicts them.” 

The illusion of explanatory depth, “People believe that they know way more than they actually do. What allows us to persist in this belief is other people.”

2. List the news stories you analyzed with the date, keeping in mind you must have at least five current news stories that span from early November for first draft and early December for final draft from the following media platforms:


– The Atlantic: A Functional Immigration System Would Look Nothing Like America’s

– New York Magazine: Mass Immigration Creates Problems For the Left. Tighter Borders Can’t Be the Solution.



– MSNBC: This Country Needs Immigrants To Fuel The Economy 

  – FOX: The economics of America’s illegal immigration crisis 

Social Media:

– Twitter: @JRubinBlogger: 

– YOUTUBE: FOX: The economics of America’s illegal immigration crisis 

Opinion Journalism:

– Nation Review: Where Americans Agree on Immigration 


– Washington Post: The Immigrant-Unicorn Connection 


Discarded Stories:

– NYTimes: Opinion America Is Rejecting More Legal Immigrants Than Ever Before 

– Nation Review: Where Americans Agree on Immigration 


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