Opinion

Young people understand amnesty is a right, and a benefit

Radha Gordon Advocate, Young Voices

On Monday Caroline May reported that the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers opposes amnesty because it will lead to greater numbers of people immigrating to the U.S., both documented and undocumented.

The story quotes NAFBPO chairman Zach Taylor extensively, who complains that immigration laws are not being enforced aggressively enough. Perhaps that’s because the web of laws and procedures surrounding legal immigration are arcane, unreasonable, and unworkable.

Young people, more than older generations, tend to support a more open immigration system. A February 2013 study found that while few young adults chose immigration as their top issue in 2012, “young people overwhelmingly favored creating paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.”

The fact is that our immigration system is broken, and that further inhibits economic growth in a time when young people are desperate for jobs.

Young workers have been disproportionately hurt by the downturn in the economy. And, unlike for other parts of the workforce, it’s getting worse for young workers. July’s jobs report shows that the share of unemployed 16- to 24-year-olds not in school stood at 17.1 percent, compared with 11 percent six years ago. In July, 8.4 million 16- to 24-year-olds stopped looking for work altogether, a rise from 6.8 million a year earlier. America has one of the highest youth non-employment rates among developed nations.

Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, stated in a recent paper:

“Economists generally believe that immigration increases the size of the economy, improves productivity, and is an economic boon for almost all parties. Moreover, historically, immigration has been a net positive for the federal budget, improving the long-run fiscal condition of the United States.”

Today’s young Americans can’t forego the positive impact of a more open immigration system on the economy as they suffer from high levels of unemployment. They need the boost it will give, now.

In addition, it’s clear that Social Security and Medicare are headed toward insolvency. Keeping millions of workers off the official tax rolls speeds up this process. As Treasury Secretary Jack Lew put it, “As we bring millions of immigrants onto the payroll, that means hundreds of millions of dollars into the Social Security Trust Fund over the next 10 years. It means tens of billions of dollars into the Medicare Trust Fund.”

Older people may not be very concerned about these trust funds imminent insolvency, but young people are very concerned, and we need all the help we can get.

Another reason young people are more amenable to immigration may be that they are better acquainted with the rest of the world than their parents. The Daily Mail reports that in Great Britain “the average child will travel more than 13,500 miles, try 35 foreign dishes and visit at least five different countries by the time they are 16.”

Travel has become unprecedentedly cheap and easy. By the time the typical British child reaches adulthood, he or she will have seen an average of 11 countries, in contrast to four for his or her parents. It would make sense that a generation privileged with world travel would understand how wrong it is to restrict others’ ability to do the same, and to choose to remain where they can best flourish.

Harsher enforcement of poorly written, economically ruinous immigration laws that ignore human rights and inhibit diversity is not the way forward to a more prosperous future for young people.