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As the Nation Turns a Page, a More Supportive Immigration Policy is an Economic Necessity

Immigrants drive growth, labor, and economic vitality in the United States and are essential for social saftey-net programs to function.

By Sarah Cartagena, Immigration Analyst, and Noreen Sugrue, Director of Research

The United States is on track to flounder economically without an increase in immigration.

Using 2010–2019 Census Bureau data and early initial data from the 2020 Census, The Brookings Institute has published new analysis that underscores the importance of immigration in the United States. The analysis explains that for the US labor force and productivity to grow, thereby creating a robust, expansive economy, immigration must increase by at least three times the current level. 

The immigrant population has long been a key driver of the United States’ population growth, labor-force participation rates, and economic vitality—and especially Latin American immigrants. But over the past couple of decades, there has been a marked decline in Latino immigration rates. This decline is largely due to restrictive and punitive immigration policies and administrative hurdles.

In addition to their essential contributions to economic and population growth, immigrants also ensure the funding stability of many social safety-net programs. Social Security benefit programs, for example, require that there be far more working-age persons than older or disabled adults. However, the US is at a point where, proportionately, there is an overabundance of persons depending on programs like Social Security and an insufficient number of workers paying into the system. This is economically unsustainable. 

For there to be sustainable economic growth, there needs to be immediate transformative immigration policy. These policies must welcome immigrants by ensuring that they can earn a living wage, live safely and securely, and have a reasonable pathway to citizenship, while also supporting them if hard times befall them or their families.

The Forum looks forward to additional nuanced analyses of the 2020 US Census data that will further highlight the essential role that immigrants play in the United States economy. The Biden-Harris administration should look to such analyses to create just, data-driven immigration policies that serve both those living in and coming to the United States.