By Joe Guzzardi
April 12, 2017
President Donald Trump’s choice to head the White House Council of Economic Advisers might be the next-to-the-last straw for the millions of voters who put him in office. Only Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vigorous enforcement actions keep disappointed GOP voters from joining #resisttrump. From Nogales on the U.S.-Mexico border this week, Sessions warned prospective illegal immigrants that U.S. immigration laws will be enforced, that catch-and-release is over, and that in the next few months 125 new immigration judges will be hired to expedite alien removals. According to Department of Homeland Security statistics, illegal border crossing have declined 70 percent since President Trump’s inauguration.
While it may seem an exaggeration to predict that the president’s base is on the verge of jumping ship, the facts point in that direction. The latest bad news blast is that, pending the Senate Banking Committee’s confirmation, open borders advocate and former American Enterprise Institute economist Kevin Hassett will become President Trump’s go-to guy on economic policy, and will push for much of what candidate Trump pledged to end. Hassett favors more international trade, and a doubling of the current more than 1 million immigration annual total. Ominously, President Obama’s CEA chair, Jason Furman, hailed Hassett’s selection.
The Financial Times quoted Hassett on why, in his opinion, America needs more immigrant workers: “With lackluster GDP growth threatening to become our new normal, allowing more immigrants to enter for the sake of employment is one of the few policies that might restore our old normal. If the U.S. doubled its total immigration and prioritized bringing in new workers, it could add more than half a percentage point a year to expected GDP growth.”
Respected economists, however, have repeatedly qualified the more-immigration-equals-higher-GDP theory. Harvard Kennedy School Professor of Economics and Social Policy George Borjas acknowledges that while more immigrants do in fact increase GDP, nearly all the increases accrue to those immigrants in the form of payments received for labor performed. Elaborating, Professor Borjas states that immigration is a redistributive policy that boosts corporate profits and provides cheap labor to elites, but lowers American wages. Since the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act which spiked higher immigration, U.S. wages have been stagnant.
In 2016, a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine study found that legal and illegal immigration transfers about $500 billion annually from wages for working Americans to corporations, Wall Street investors and new immigrants. Immigration also creates more consumers, a boon to corporate America, but a burden for U.S. taxpayers who subsidize immigrants’ entitlements.
The Hassett debacle comes on top of other administration failures to convert immigration-related promises into presidential realities. Most recently, Obama holdover Kevin McAleenan’s nomination to head Customs and Border Protection also left President Trump’s supporters dazed and confused. According to interviews with border patrol agents, McAleenan, because of his commitment to catch-and-release, is widely disliked. Agents question why President Trump, despite their public endorsement of his candidacy, and with so many other qualified candidates, would betray them.
President Trump vowed to end deferred action, clean up visa fraud, mandate E-Verify and slow refugee resettlement, but little if anything has changed from President Obama’s era. President Trump’s enthusiasts are left to wonder what his next broken promise will be.
Joe Guzzardi is a Senior Writing Fellow with Californians for Population Stabilization. Contact him at [email protected] and find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.