A bill to decide the fate of a core part of the country failed to reach a consensus in the Senate earlier this month. February 15 was the latest failed attempt by lawmakers to decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, after President Trump ended DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) last September and gave Congress 6 months to decide their fate. Until a bill is decided on, uncertainty abounds not only for dreamers and their families, but also for businesses and economists.
Whatever decision is made, the fate of Dreamers, and immigrants as a whole, will have wide ranging effects on the economy. While the effects of undocumented immigrants have been debated by both sides of the aisle, the benefits of legal immigration are easier to quantify. As of 2015, foreign born American citizens constitute nearly 14% of the US population, with ¼ constituting first and second generation combined.
This trend is expected to continue, with immigrants and immigrant children forming a growing majority of the population growth within the US. Since native-born American families are having children below the replacement rate (at 1.87), without immigration, the US growth rate would become negative. As is being seen by all major developed countries with negative growth rates (such as Japan, Germany, and Russia), a shrinking population leads to fewer consumers, fewer employees and a slow growing or even stalled economy.
One such example is taking place in many factories across the country, where employers seeking to take advantage of a surging economy are struggling to find workers to fill factory floors. At an unemployment rate of a record low 4.1%, it’s becoming very difficult to find workers to increase production, with some companies being forced to come up with ways to lure workers (pay raises, recruiting across state and even country lines) or worse, cut production. While this is providing a much needed organic wage boost across the country, if the number of jobless individuals dips below 3.0%, as it’s currently predicted to do, economic growth can slow.
The city of Lincoln has been one such beneficiary of population growth, and international migration has contributed a fair portion to that increase. Since being designated a Refugee Friendly city by the State Department, Lincoln has consistently been a popular destination for immigrants and refugees, beginning with Vietnameses refugees from the 1970s and continuing as one of the top Sudanese resettlement sites in the US this decade. The surge in immigration, especially from Vietnam, has led to a number of business communities being created, many of which came into being along 27th Street. In addition, the creation of the Silicon Prairie, with Lincoln being a major hub in recent years for innovation, has spurred demand for young, educated workers, many of whom are foreign born individuals that come through Lincoln’s renowned university system.
The United States is a nation of immigrants, and the country’s continued growth depends heavily on them. Washington’s response to DACA’s repeal and immigration reform in general will affect all Americans, regardless of the outcome.
Jesse Shoghi is a junior studying computing.