That’s the question Steven Landsberg asks over at Slate. His answer:
Accounting for all that, it turns out that the immigrant’s $7 gain is worth about five times the American’s $3 loss. In other words, to justify keeping the immigrant out, you’d have to say he’s worth less than one-fifth of an American citizen.
By contrast, there was a time when the U.S. Constitution counted a black slave as three-fifths of a full-fledged citizen. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley has recently apologized for the ravages of slavery. How long till politicians apologize for the ravages of our restrictive immigration policies?
Landsberg focuses entirely on wages, which clearly doesn’t quite account for the “cost” of immigrants, many of whom are using public health and sending children to public schools. Not to mention that he’s arguing against a straw-man. No one I’ve ever read or ever talked to has been “anti-immigrant.”
But that’s not even the deepest problem of Landsberg’s essay. He would have been far better off answering, “How much is a nation that respects and upholds its own laws worth?” The question of immigration is not a question of money–it is a question of the rule of law, and the preservation of that rule.
For the United States, economics trumps respect for the rule of law.
Or human rights, but that has nothing to do with your post.