The Trump administration has slashed immigration. Bipartisan experts—and Biden—say boosting immigration will stimulate the economy at a time when the United States needs it most.
UPDATE (October 23, 2020, 8:05 a.m.): This story has been updated with comments from former Vice President Joe Biden.
Last night, in Nashville, Tennessee, during the final presidential debate, Joe Biden said mistakes in immigration were made during his tenure in the Obama administration.
Debate moderator Kristen Welker asked Biden why would voters “trust” him with an immigration overhaul when the Obama administration failed to deliver reform.
The Democratic presidential candidate began by saying “we made a mistake.”
He added, “It took too long to get it right. I’ll be President of the United States, not Vice President of the United States. And the fact is I’ve made it very clear. Within a 100 days, I’m going to send to the United States Congress a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people. And all of those so-called Dreamers, those DACA kids, they’re going to be immediately certified again to be able to stay in this country and put on a path to citizenship.”
On September 30, the Trump administration notified Congress that it would reduce the number of refugees entering the United States to a maximum of 15,000 people for 2021. That number is a new record low, cutting 3,000 refugees 2020 cap set by the Trump administration.
The announcement comes as the coronavirus pandemic continues to cause record unemployment, and is contrary to recent research showing that immigrants play a key role in building the US economy. It also comes on the same day that Trump leveled racist and xenophobic attacks on immigrants, refugees, and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) during a campaign event in Duluth, Minnesota.
In contrast to Trump’s rhetoric about refugees and his hardline stance on immigration, Biden says he will increase annual refugee admissions in the US to 125,000 and continue to raise it periodically, depending on the necessity and severity of the global refugee crisis. Biden’s plan isn’t limited to refugees, and also expands pathways to citizenship and visa opportunities to immigrants more broadly—at a time when they are needed most.
Several reports predict that Biden’s plans to boost immigration will, in turn, boost the economy. The National Bureau of Economic Research’s July 2020 study revealed that immigrants are 80% more likely to become entrepreneurs than their US-born counterparts. This revelation further debunks the myth that immigrants steal jobs and instead shows that they create more jobs in the US.
“This is not just small businesses like restaurants and laundromats, but also high-growth ventures like Tesla and Google that go on to create thousands of jobs,” Daniel Kim, study author and assistant professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, told Quartz, who first reported the study.
The study also found that in comparison to companies founded by US-born entrepreneurs, those founded by foreign-born individuals created 42% more jobs—a fact that is evident for all company sizes.
Even more conservative groups agree that immigrants boost the economy and are job creators. The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Washington, D.C., released numerous studies documenting how immigrants have aided the US during the coronavirus pandemic—and continue to boost the economy.
According to the Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh and studies published by the American Economic Association, patents have been filed by immigrants at double the rate of native-born counterparts since 1976, as they are “more likely to hold science and engineering degrees.” In a June 2020 blog post, Nowrasteh documented how H-1B visa workers have been saving jobs during the coronavirus recession, noting that “we’d clearly be in a worse economic position without the contributions of skilled immigrants.”
In response to the Trump administration’s crackdown on visas for highly skilled immigrants, Nowrasteh argues that it should expedite green card status for them instead.
“Rather than seeking to curb the number of H-1B visas and accepting absurdly long wait‐time for employment‐based green cards, Congress and the administration should seek to increase the number of these immigrants who can come here,” he wrote.
The opinions of the American public are also reflecting a broader understanding of the contributions of immigrants to society in the United States.
For the first time in history, poll numbers reflect a desire to see more immigration—not less. A July 2020 Gallup poll found 34% of Americans would like to see an increase in immigration, outnumbering the 28% who would like to see it decreased. More notably, about eight in ten people, or 77% of Americans, believe more immigration provides a positive outcome for the country.
The American public and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden appear to share the same sentiment.
“Immigrants are essential to the strength of our country and the U.S. economy,” the Biden campaign wrote on their site. “When immigrants choose to come to the U.S., they bring their unique traditions and contributions to the rich cultural tapestry of our country. They are also a key driver of economic growth.”