If you watch only Fox News or take Attorney General Jeff Sessions seriously, you’d think we’re being swamped by illegal immigrants who are setting off a crime pandemic and stealing Americans’ jobs. None of that is factually correct, but it is deeply believed by the right wing of the GOP.
It therefore should come as an unpleasant surprise to those anti-immigrant voices that the more visibility they get, the less the public agrees with them. The Wall Street Journal reports on the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll:
Six in 10 Americans said immigration helps the nation more than it hurts—up 6 points since the last sounding, in September 2016. One-third of people in the survey said immigration hurts more than it helps. . . .
Both parties. . . . showed increasing support for immigration. Among Democrats, those who saw immigration as beneficial grew 10 points, to 79%, between December 2015 and April of this year. Among Republicans, it grew 9 points, to 37%; 53% of Republicans viewed immigration as harmful to the U.S.
Among independents, the share viewing immigration as beneficial grew by 16 points since late 2015, to 63%.
This goes hand in hand with polling showing that the wall is unpopular and that 90 percent of voters favor of a path to citizenship if the immigrant learns English, pays taxes and a fine, and is working. In other words, “amnesty” has never been more popular.
Perhaps Donald Trump shouldn’t have made opposition to illegal immigrant the cornerstone of his presidential campaign. His administration’s over-the-top assertions about illegal immigration, obsession with a useless and expensive wall and increased deportation of noncriminal illegal immigrants turns out to be wildly unpopular.
Perhaps voters now realize the logical conclusion of Trump’s tirades (economic disruption, loss of civil liberties, human suffering). It may be that seeing the faces of actual Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries who live in fear of being booted out of the country has disturbed them. Maybe by raising the visibility of the issue, Trump has also reminded voters of immigrants’ contributions.
Immigration restrictions interfere with the free market more than almost any other U.S. government policy. They literally prevent millions of people from freely seeking jobs and engaging in other market transactions. Free migration throughout the world could potentially double world gross domestic product and grow the economy more than almost any other policy change.
Many of those economic benefits will accrue to native-born Americans who hire immigrants, buy the goods they produce, or engage in other transactions with them. Many products we purchase every day are cheaper or have better quality because of immigrants’ work. Many would not even exist at all without them. The world is not a zero-sum game where natives must lose out in order for immigrants to gain — or vice versa.
We’d like to think that Americans, at least in general, recognize how critical immigration is to our prosperity. (“On average, immigrants are more likely to start businesses than native-born citizens, which creates many potential benefits for the latter. Over 80 percent of the highest-achieving high school science students in the U.S. are immigrants or children of immigrants — many of whose parents came to the U.S. on H1B visas that Trump seeks to curb.”) Trump and right-wingers who have never heard of the lump-of-labor fallacy seek to construct a false narrative to explain real hardship caused by a whole variety of issues, including automation, a skills mismatch and education inadequacy. We would hope the poll is a positive sign that Americans grasp that “the world is not a zero-sum game where natives must lose out in order for immigrants to gain — or vice versa.”