Immigration is defined as the intentional movement of an individual to a destination country of which they do not possess citizenship. The reasons for immigration are many. Some travel to a new country to become migrant or foreign workers. Others may wish to settle in as a permanent resident, with the goal of eventually becoming a naturalized citizen.
Only a handful of countries see a net positive migration rate each year. Australia, Canada, the United States, Russia, and most of Western Europe make that list. Those with net migration loses include most of the continents of South America and Africa.
In 2015, the number of people who participated in immigration opportunities worldwide totaled 244 million. Since 2000, the number of people who are migrating to a new country has risen by 41%. More than 30% of the world’s immigrants live in just 20 countries, with the U.S. seeing 19% of the world’s international migrants.
In 2012, Gallup took a survey regarding immigration and found that 640 million people would move to a different country if given the opportunity. The United States was the top destination in the survey, with 23% of people choosing it as their top destination choice.
Here are some of the pros and cons of immigration to consider.
List of the Pros of Immigration
1. Immigration diversifies local economies.
Immigrants bring new perspectives, experiences, and ideas to their local communities. With this added diversification, there is more strength to be found within the community. Immigrants start businesses, earn an income, and support others on the local level. This creates an increase in local production, which creates more profits, which further helps the economy. Strong economies that are based on immigrant perspectives tend to find the most success.
2. It increases the population base.
In the United States, about 800,000 people become naturalized U.S. citizens. To achieve this goal, they first had to be a legalized immigrant. Their presence does more than bring an exchange of cultures. It allows for more knowledge and wisdom to be shared with others. By increasing the cultural awareness of everyone, more moments of common ground can be found.
3. Immigration helps to create a global market.
Immigrants do more than create stronger local economies. They also help to contribute to a stronger global economy. Remittances are common in nations which invite immigrants. More than 40% of the GDP of Guatemala, for example, comes through remittances provided by immigrants who have made their way to the United States. Immigrants who have more opportunities to pursue an advanced education or high-skill employment can take those skills back to their home country to improve its status as well.
4. It creates a fairer level of population distribution.
People often come from overpopulated countries to find new opportunities for themselves. The idea of the “American Dream” is not present in every country in the world. There are only 33 out of 200+ nations that are considered to be developed. Immigration allows for people from the under-developed countries to create opportunities for themselves that would normally not be available to them.
5. Immigration promotes lower levels of crime.
Although immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, are often promoted as a precursor for increased local crime, the opposite usually occurs. In Texas, a survey of prisoners within the state’s Department of Justice found that illegal immigrants were under-represented in prison populations. Although illegal immigrants make up more than 6% of the state’s population, they are just 4.6% of the inmates housed in state-level prisons. Immigrants are 69% less likely to be imprisoned when compared to native citizens.
6. It encourages entrepreneurism.
Many immigrants are natural entrepreneurs. They are often highly educated, extensively trained, and very inventive when establishing a new idea. Immigrants are also highly productive, making it possible to create new jobs, drive innovation, or make existing businesses become more flexible. Their presence makes it easier to establish worker specialization, which makes it easier for all businesses to invest more into their employees.
7. Immigration benefits most families in the country.
Immigration isn’t about having one group of people try to take jobs from another. It is the process of a family trying to provide for themselves and contribute to their local community. Even when considering illegal immigration, the average person doesn’t come to a new nation because they’re looking to cause trouble. Most want to contribute, which is why the presence of immigrants is beneficial to virtually everyone.
8. It raises the GDP.
When immigration occurs at natural levels, it creates a small increase in the national GDP. The productivity of immigrants can boost the GDP by as much as 0.4% in a single year. Although that doesn’t seem like much, a one-tenth increase in U.S. GDP equates to $18 billion in economic impacts. That means immigration provides a total annual value to the economy of up to $72 billion each year.
9. Immigration negates gaps that form in certain labor markets.
In low-skill employment areas, it is true that a strong presence of immigrants may depress wages. From a general labor market standpoint, however, immigration helps to fill-in the gaps which can form when there is a low unemployment rate. Because immigrants can relieve employment bottlenecks, they reduce the risk of under-performance issues occurring in the local economy. When the income levels of immigrants rise, so do the incomes of every other household.
10. It encourages economic recovery.
Immigrants are more likely to move to a new location to pursue a job opportunity than native citizens. That means places which are struggling economically can begin to experience a recovery with greater speed as immigrants come to work. Even when the occupations were high-tech jobs, it was immigrants who kept the labor market moving forward because of their expertise.
11. Immigration encourages lower prices at the point-of-sale.
Immigration workers are not the only ones that benefit from their presence at the local level. The complementary workers involved in each industry benefit as well. That means supervisors, attorneys, and translators all have new opportunities available to them which they may not have had otherwise. As demands for new workers rise, the prices tend to fall for goods and services, which allows everyone to benefit from the lower costs.
List of the Cons of Immigration
1. Immigration can cause over-population issues.
The wealthiest nations of the world tend to be the most popular destinations for immigration. That means there can be over-population issues in the wealthy countries, while under-population issues can begin to form in the developing world. When population levels become imbalanced, then it can cause resource access issues at the local level in regions where high levels of immigration take place.
2. It encourages disease transmission.
Many diseases are transferred to new regions because of the processes of immigration. The devastation of smallpox on the local tribal populations of North America is widely documented. Disease-causing agents transfer across borders with immigrants, which can have a negative impact on the local population that may not be regularly exposed to certain conditions. Screening processes can limit this impact somewhat, although there is always the possibility of having something slip through.
3. Immigration can create wage disparities.
When immigrants come from the developing world to the developed world, they may be willing to take employment opportunities for a much lower wage than a local non-immigrant. If there are enough people to work for lower wages, it can create a wage disparity in the local population that can affect job growth. Less income means fewer supportive employment opportunities because less cash is being spent.
4. It creates stressors on educational and health resources.
Immigrants come to make a new life for themselves. Many contribute to their local economies without question. There is an initial investment that communities must make, however, to help these families establish themselves. Children must be educated. Healthcare services must be offered. There is no guarantee that immigrating families will stay in those communities, which means the investments being made may never earn dividends.
5. Immigration reduces the chances of a developing nation.
When a developing country sees its best and brightest immigrate to the developed world, they lose an opportunity to advance. The talents which people bring, especially to a nation that is poor, helps it to become stronger. Immigration gives that strength away to other countries which may not need it. Immigrants do get the chance to plan a better life for themselves, though it comes at the expense of their native country.
6. It is easier to exploit immigrants.
Labor laws have not caught up to the modern practices of immigration. Even when people are in a new country legally, it is easier to report them to police as a possible illegal immigrant than fulfill an obligation. Filing false charges, refusing to pay owed wages, and even physical abuse is more common within immigrant circles than it is within the native population. The Mercury News reviewed union elections and found that in at least 50% of campaigns involving a majority of undocumented workforces, threats were made to call immigration over the unionizing activities.
7. Immigration activities may create integration difficulties.
Diversity is not something that everyone readily embraces. Bringing in new perspectives, ethnicities, or cultures into an established community can sometimes cause friction. People are often fearful of what they do not know, which means there is a basic fear associated to immigrants when they first move to a community. That can lead to higher levels of security monitoring, negative personal interactions, and even more false police reports being filed in an effort to “prevent” trouble from happening.
8. It can place stress on local social services.
Having a large group of immigrants move into a region can also place stress points on social services related to employment. There may be an increased need for food bank services, food stamps, and basic housing services. That can place stress on the budgets of these services, which may encourage local councils to propose higher tax rates to cover potential shortfalls. Even if immigrants have a positive influence on the economy over time, the short-term costs may be too much for some communities to bear.
9. Immigration can split up families.
Extended immigration is not a common practice. One family is usually permitted to become migrants to a new country destination. That practice creates social problems for children who might be left behind by the rest of their family. It may also reduce their standard of living in their country because there are fewer opportunities available for family employment.
10. It can result in human rights violations.
Immigration, or the desire to become a migrant, can put some individuals into a state of desperation. If it becomes difficult for some individuals to migrate, the development of people trafficking may offer new opportunities that seem positive at first, then turn negative for the individual. These movements can even facilitate organized crime activities in extreme situations.
These pros and cons of immigration show that diversity can be a good thing. If immigration occurs legally, then local communities often see many benefits develop over time. There are certainly some challenges which must be addressed with the practice of immigration, especially when it occurs illegally. Those challenges, however, are often outweighed by the benefits which immigration provides.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.