Opinion

RALEY: No, Mass Immigration Won’t Save Social Security

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Spencer Raley Federation for American Immigration Reform
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It’s no secret that the Social Security program faces a very real threat of running out of money. Thanks to impressive advancements in the medical world, the ratio of workers to retirees is now decreasing too quickly, and the future availability of retirement funds for millions of Americans is in serious doubt. Internal agency assessments predict that the program’s trust fund reserves will be completely depleted by 2034 unless significant reforms are enacted before then.

Of course, many open-border advocates use this as an opportunity to call for more mass-immigration, including amnesty for millions of illegal aliens, to immediately boost the number of workers in the United States. However, will simply adding new migrants to the economy solve the impending financial crisis facing the Social Security program?

Any way you approach that question, the answer is a resounding “no.” Unchecked immigration will not save Social Security. In fact, the Social Security Advisory Board wrote in a 2005 report that they “do not view immigration as a panacea – or free lunch – for saving Social Security.”

The argument for using immigration as a crutch for our federal retirement programs is based on the concept that importing more immigrants into our economy will immediately increase the worker to retiree ratio, giving the Social Security trust fund a quick infusion of cash. And while this theory is correct, it fails to consider the long-term negative repercussions of such a strategy – repercussions that could condemn the long-term solvency of the program.

A new study from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has found that the average career length of immigrants is approximately 5-10 years shorter than those of native-born citizens. This is thanks in large part to current immigration policies that favor bloodlines over merit. These policies have led to the average age of new migrants growing from 26 years old in 2000, to 31 in 2017.

Because of this, migrants ultimately contribute less in Social Security taxes than they receive in retirement benefits. In fact, the report found that the average foreign-born worker receives back between 110 and 120 percent of what they pay into the program over the course of their careers, compared to approximately 95 percent for native-born American citizens.

To save Social Security, we must do more than simply increase the ratio of workers to retirees. We need to ensure that those workers produce long, fruitful careers in the United States.

A good start to achieving this goal would be to pass the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act, which was introduced by Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and David Perdue (R-Georgia). The RAISE Act would reform our current immigration system by ending unfair “chain-migration” policies and replace them with a system that favors merit. This would include placing priority on younger migrants who hold job skills that are currently needed in our economy. Long careers in high-earning jobs means more contributions into federal programs like Social Security.

In his 1934 speech to Congress, Franklin D. Roosevelt announced his intention to create a Social Security program that “protects the average citizen” and preserves “the active interest of the nation.” However, the program obviously cannot do that if it’s facing bankruptcy. It is time to address the root of the problem if we are truly interested in saving Social Security. Otherwise, millions of Americans could be facing a future with no retirement.

Spencer Raley is the Director of Research for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).