Immigration: why we should like it

The “we” in the title can refer to two groups: Americans and Catholics. Americans, particularly those of a more conservative bent, tend to view immigration with a hefty dose of skepticism. The thinking is that immigrants take our jobs, depress wages, increase unemployment, bloat the welfare rolls, and widen the gap between rich and poor. However, it’s hard to see how this skepticism can square with economics and statistics. As evidence…

#1 Top three myths about immigration

#2 The impact of immigration on jobs and income

#3 Why unskilled immigrants are good for the economy

To the “stealing our jobs” argument, it should also be noted that most immigrants to the U.S. are either very highly skilled or very low skilled (I believe I heard Ben Powell from video #1 make this argument but I can’t find it online). The U.S. native population, like most countries, has a bell-shaped skill distribution with relatively few people having either very low or very high skills and the vast majority of people in the middle of the bell curve. Therefore, when low- and highly-skilled immigrants come in, they only add to the already-small number of people at the tails. In other words, they don’t compete with the vast majority of people for jobs; they complement them.

I suppose the argument could be made that they still compete with the U.S. workers in the tails, and thus immigration should be prevented for the sake of those people. I’d respond that

  1. That is a fairly small number of harmed Americans to justify keeping out immigrants who on net provide a large benefit to the U.S. as a whole. Hopefully the U.S. government isn’t in the business of changing its laws to suit only a tiny minority of its populace. (Oh, wait…)
  2. Even if unskilled immigrants compete for jobs with low-skilled Americans, it seems the obvious remedy consistent with subsidiarity is to provide education and skills training to those low-skilled Americans, rather than to construct an elaborate bureaucratic system complete with long lines, countless documents, armed border agents, and super-duper high walls.
  3. Even if highly skilled immigrants compete for jobs with highly-skilled Americans, I find it hard to see the downside of having more smart people here. But admittedly I’m not at that end of the skill distribution anyway, so I’m sure a comboxer will set me straight…
Highly-skilled immigrant to Rome

Highly-skilled Roman immigrant

Catholics should like immigration purely on humanitarian grounds. Actually, I may be preaching to the choir because the USCCB says “Nearly eighty percent of Catholic voters support earned citizenship.” Unfortunately, as with most polls of Catholics this one does not distinguish between those who self-identify as Catholic and those who, say, are weekly Mass goers. We know, for example, how most Catholics voted in the most recent presidential election. But I would hope the results would not differ much if the pollsters made such a distinction. Cardinal Dolan lent his support to legislative efforts to reform the immigration system.

Those who argue for the morality of keeping immigrants out usually go back to the welfare argument that was addressed in video #3 above; “Even if it’s a small number, some poor immigrants come here just to take advantage of our generous welfare benefits.” Wouldn’t it seem that the obvious remedy is to fix the broken, dependency-creating welfare system, rather than keep it in place but forcefully keep out most or all immigrants because we think that some of them will become welfare queens?

Others argue that immigration is immoral because most of it is done illegally, creating disrespect for U.S. law. I can think of lots of other laws that would seem to create this disrespect much more so than immigration laws, from the truly awful (Roe v. Wade, free contraception in public schools, legal protection of pornography, etc.) to the ridiculous (the TSA, no Big Gulps in Gotham, low-flow toilets, etc.). It would seem there are bigger elephants in the room.

Let’s hope that xenophobia does not carry the day in this debate. Lest we forget, the Good Samaritan was a foreigner, Jesus Himself was questioned because of His place of origin, and I’m going to go out on a limb and presume that most of you readers have an immigrant or two in your own ancestry. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free!”

  • Mike

    I don’t accept ANY of this article’s point. Conservatives are all for LEGAL immigration and against illegal immigration. The Catholic church, which I am Catholic, tends to speak out of both sides of it’s mouth when it comes to many social issues especially illegal immigration. It falls trap to radical leftists progressives within the church and secular community hijacking and redefining the language to suit it’s own needs. There is no such thing as legal immigration for an illegal alien period. Come through the front door.

    • Mary

      And if it takes years and years, and you’re trying to feed and clothe your children, then that’s just tough luck? Our bishops are right – wealthy nations have an obligation and a duty to help those driven to migrate by the desperate circumstances of their homeland. You guys who nit pick over legal vs. illegal immigration are like the rich man enjoying his lavish life while Lazarus sits at the gate, begging for scraps, with dogs licking his sores. I sure hope for your sake that God likes the idea of building a wall to keep Lazarus out of sight and out of mind.

  • Rick Norman

    Most of us aren’t against LEGAL immigration. We love it! And we don’t subscribe to the arguments above. Those are the “other sides” empty claims against us. What we ont like and don’t want are illegal immigrants. And we particularly don’t want to give people who by definition have already broken at least one federal law to be given amnesty and favored treatment over those who heart wrenching lay follow every obstacle in their path to try to come here legally and are repeatedly denied because our illegal immigrant over-population doesn’t allow room for them.

    • Mike

      Amen Rick.

  • Sharon

    I don’t believe in a free pass. Sharing the benefits of our nation is one of the greatest gifts we have to offer, however entitlement is not part of the deal. Government is the problem, not the immigrants.

  • Loreen

    I believe most Americans believe in immigration. It’s the amnesty part that we don’t like. We must be able to trust our new neighbors, the new neighbors must obey our laws. All countries have immigration policies and laws. If you want to live in another country, you must follow the rules.

  • Sean


  • Jeff

    Pope Benedict made it clear that Social Justice is borderline heresy and needs to be stopped. This is nonsense that does not have anything to do with the Catholic Faith.

    • Mike

      Exactly Jeff…the Catholic Church keeps falling prey to this idea of language redefinition by progressives. Secular social justice is government forcing you to pay taxes so it can give it to their clients; religeous social justice is me, myself, and I AND THE CHURCH FREELY giving from the heart.

    • Mary




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