As legislation like the RAISE Act threatens to cut U.S. immigration by half over the next 10 years, history of immigration in the Midwest tells a cautionary tale for U.S. cities. Cities like Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago know their livelihood has historically been dependent on immigrants who are more likely to live in cities. Policies that curb U.S. immigration are a threat to cities’ populations, economies, and workforces.
A century ago, congress curbed immigration from non-Western countries. Previously, between 1900 and 1930, cities like Detroit, Chicago, Kansas City, and Omaha had booming populations Their populations ballooned by 120% during this time predominantly due to immigrants.
Due to laws codified in the 1920s, In the years that followed their populations plummeted by 64%. Overall, midwestern cities lost 7.5% of their total population. The region still suffers from this period of population decline. The region has grown at half the rate of the rest of the country over the last 50 years.
Our present immigration system has reversed the laws set in the 1920s. Since 1990, there has been a 45% growth of foreign-born residents in the Midwest. Immigrants are revitalizing cities in the Midwest like Chicago which has lost 30% of its native-born population since 1970.
Immigrant restriction also inhibits economic growth. Nearly 900,000 Midwesterners are employed by immigrant owned businesses. In addition, it is estimated that the passing of the RAISE Act would cause 4.6 million jobs to be lost by 2040 and reduce the GDP in our country by 2%. Immigrant owned businesses contribute tremendously to the U.S. GDP – generating $775 billion in revenue for the economy in 2011.
Immigrants started 28% of all new U.S. business in 2011 despite being only 12.9 percent of the U.S. population. Moreover, immigrants and their children have founded 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies.
Foreign-born workers now constitute larger portions of all occupations including comprising 17 to 23 percent of managers, computer scientists and mathematicians, engineers, and health care professionals.
A study from the national Bureau of Economic Research found that a 1 percent increase in the number of immigrant workers per state led to a .5 percent increase in income per worker – including native-born U.S. workers. Native-born U.S. workers experience both short and long term increases in wages as a result of the addition of immigrant workers.
Migrants account for 47% of the increase in the workforce in the U.S. over the past ten years. They fill specialized niches in fast-growing and declining sectors of the economy. They are better educated than the retiring work force. They boost the working age population, and their skills contribute to the human capital development of our nation. Immigrants also contribute to technical progress.
To say that immigration has lowered wages and increased unemployment is exactly contrary to what immigration does for our nation. Immigrants have bolstered our population and economy. They have been a seat of innovation in our culture, and founders of some of our most lucrative and innovative corporations.