Boosting GDP and keeping Social Security solvent depend on the economic activity of migrants as workers, consumers, and taxpayers; and, the United States should do more to regularize both high-tech professionals and other workers, panelists said at the latest installment of The Wilson Center’s National Conversation series, held at the University of Miami on February 6, 2012. Highlights from the distinguished panel include the following:
“For the U.S. economy to grow, it needs growth in the working-age population. In the near-term, this growth will be supplied by immigrants as the native-born alone cannot achieve it,” said former Secretary of Commerce and Wilson Center board member and trustee Carlos Gutierrez. Sec. Gutierrez continued, “[i]mmigrants push the economy and they push jobs.”
While the general population ages, migrants refresh the workforce, and because they are more likely to be of working-age, they contribute more in taxes and withholding than they draw in government services, Medicare, and Social Security, said Antonia Hernández, president and CEO, California Community Foundation. “They are putting more into the Social Security system than they are getting out of it because they are not applying for benefits,” she continued.
On enforcement, former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff stressed illegal border-crossing attempts in the Southwest have slowed to a trickle, as the U.S. government has in recent years gained enhanced “operational control” of the zone. Those undocumented persons who remain in the United States are unlikely to be recent crossers, he said. Instead, many are likely to be unlawful visa overstayers. Chertoff stressed that increasing legal channels for migration is sensible, since this would enable enforcement to be more effectively directed against criminals, such as human traffickers and drug smugglers.
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