The Myth of Economic Cost-Free Immigration, Pt. 2

By Stanley Renshon on July 7, 2014

The hope that more and more immigration will solve America's economic problems is doomed to disappoint those who tout it and those who believe that is possible. It may add dollars to our GNP, but it comes with substantial costs, both economic and political.

It is simply untrue that there are enormous numbers of Steve Jobs out there waiting to get their green cards. Jobs was quite unique in many ways.

It follows that, of the millions of people who want to come to the United States, it is hard to predict who will become a Steve Jobs and we are thus left with the real logic of this premise: Let millions of more new immigrants in, in addition to the millions we already let in and maybe, just maybe, there will be a Steve Jobs or two among them.

And speaking of those already let in, the individuals whose names are always mentioned with Google and other company founders are actually people who had already sought and obtained green cards. That means the current numbers of legal immigrants that average a million or more a year have already resulted in bringing these innovators to the United States. And that raises a question: Why, with all the tens of millions of legal immigrants admitted to the United States in the last few decades have their been so few like Sergey Brin? The answer is that the creative drive, talent, ambition, perseverance, resilience, and even luck necessary to build a Google or an Apple is not an ordinary event. Basing an important part of American immigration policy on this premise and hope is foolish.

The same is true of the equally misleading assertion that "immigrants are more entrepreneurial". It is true that "small business" provide a substantial number of American jobs. It is true that immigrants start many small businesses. But you need to be clear about what exactly you mean by "small businesses". Which ones are the job creators and which ones are more likely to be associated with new immigrants? It turns out these categories are not synonymous.

New immigrants, when they do start small businesses, start very small ones, as you would expect given issues of capital needed. Moreover, they ordinarily rely on family members to help them. This requires hard work and long hours.

And not every small business succeeds. The rate of failure for small businesses is substantial: eight out of 10 by general count. This is not to denigrate either immigrants or small business entrepreneurs.

The distorting logic of this meme is: Some people are entrepreneurs. Some immigrants are also entrepreneurs. Many entrepreneurs start business, and some of these business grow to the point where they hire new people. However, most new businesses fail. Therefore, we should admit millions of more legal immigrants on top of the million-plus immigrants we admit each year so that we may benefit from the relatively few immigrants whose businesses successfully survive.

Some logic.

Next: The Myth of Political Cost-Free Immigration, Pt. 1