Michael Bloomberg, Rupert Murdoch, and Thomas Menino (the liberal Democratic mayor of Boston who threatened to block Chick-Fil-A from opening new stores in that city) walk into a hotel…
This isn’t the beginning of a bad joke. Last week, this unlikely trinity gathered at a Boston hotel to issue a united call for immigration reform. Doing so, they argued, would help kick-start the torpid economy.
Menino spoke about the myriad benefits that immigration has had on Boston:
Menino ran through some local numbers. There are 8,800 immigrant-owned small businesses in Boston, he said, producing nearly $3.7 billion in annual sales and employing more than 18,000 people. New Americans have swelled Boston’s population to 625,000, its healthiest level since 1970 — healthy because “more people mean more talent, more ideas, and more innovation.” They also mean more revenue: Boston’s immigrants spend $4 billion per year, generating $1.3 billion in state and federal taxes. For generations immigrants have rejuvenated Boston, said the mayor. “They make this old city new again and again.”
And what Menino sees in Boston is occurring throughout the country:
A study by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a coalition of mayors and business leaders advocating for more rational immigration laws, is awash with eye-opening data on immigrant entrepreneurship. More than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children, and immigrants are now more than twice as likely as US natives to start a business. Though the foreign-born account for less than 13 percent of the US population, they created 28 percent of all new American businesses in 2011.
There are legitimate questions about immigration. Via Meadia thinks the U.S. needs to prevent illegal immigration and control the legal flow, but legal immigration has been a boon to the U.S. for centuries and still is today.
It’s true that unskilled immigrants (especially illegals) may temporarily cause problems for low-skilled native workers and impose costs on the communities where they are most heavily concentrated; 200 years of American history also suggest that, in the long run, they boost wealth and productivity for the country as a whole, and their kids and grandkids are powerful forces for growth as they work to improve their economic and educational status. And high-skilled immigrants are a boost from day one, as the jobs they create and the taxes they pay improve the situation for natives as well as newcomers.
One important lesson: we should be easing restrictions on skilled immigration. America is fortunate that people like this want to join us. One of the solutions to the temporary problems of low-skilled immigration is high-skilled immigrants. Especially at a time of slow growth, America needs to put out a welcome mat for job creators from all over the world.