A Muslim ban is certainly not going to help us economically. As we first reported last September, an interdisciplinary task force convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that "immigration has an overall positive impact on long-run economic growth in the United States."
But what about refugees? People who are fleeing political oppression in other countries typically need some help when they arrive. Surely we can't afford that, can we? it turns out that we can. Even if you accept the mechanistic, zero-some view of thinking behind austerity economics and the bipartisan fixation on deficit spending -- and, really, you shouldn't -- that's no reason to turn refugees away from our shores.
A new Working Pape r from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that refugees pay more into the government in taxes than they take out in services. Economists William N. Evans and Daniel Fitzgerald found that "over their first 20 years in the United States, refugees who arrived as adults aged 18-45 contributed more in taxes than they received in relocation benefits and other public assistance."
That means deficit-obsessed politicians should be looking for ways to accept more refugees, not less.
At its heart, this isn't an economic issue. It's about who we are. For many years we thought of the United States as the last, best hope for refugees feeling oppression and immigrants seeking a better life.
Like millions of other people in this country, my paternal grandparents came here because they faced religious persecution and a campaign of extermination in the country of their birth. They were welcomed to the United States, as their fellow refugees should be welcomed today.
We haven't always lived up to our ideals, but our sense of nation as a place of refuge had bound us together in a shared sense of community.
Now, in order to defend hatred and Trump's unconscionable ban, even these ideals and sense of community have come under attack.
First, a Trump administration official attacked the iconic Emma Lazarus poem that adorns the Statue of Liberty, one of our most evocative and unifying national symbols.
32-year-old White House aide Stephen Miller, who looks less like an uptight young person than an uptight old person in larval form, echoed a longstanding but empty-headed talking point from the Far Right whose views he promotes, when he argued that the poem was "added later." (The poem was written to raise funds for the statue.)
A few days later, the sensitive Mr. Miller was joined in hyper-indignation by his ideological soulmates at alt-right outlet Breitbart.com.
A rant by John Carney, a Breitbart editor, was apparently triggered by a photograph of Jennifer Lawrence that showed the Statue of Liberty in the background. "The opposition media," Carney tweeted, "can't even do fashion without attacking us."
For Trump and his supporters, it seems, a symbol of national unity is an attack on their ideology.
Come to think of it, they may be right.An Attack On Us All
Trump's policies divide us by race and religion, even as his party's policies further divide us into haves and have-nots. At some point, it was probably always going to be necessary for them to attack our unifying symbols. How else can they advance the politics of division?
As a nation we define ourselves as one people, regardless of identity. And as even George W. Bush now says, an identity-based attack on any group of people, therefore, is an attack on us as a national community. And a refusal to help people in need because of their identity, anywhere in the world, is an insult to our national morality.
We should welcome refugees and immigrants to the United States because it's good for our society, for our economy, and for our nation. But most of all, we should welcome them because it is the right and moral thing to do.
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