There’s a very encouraging AP story out from Dan Sewell about how Dayton, Ohio welcomes immigrants as an economic revitalization strategy.
Several points to make about this. One is that some immigrants have high levels of skills. Hence the reference to “Indian doctors in hospitals.” But another is that skills are to some extent a relative concept. “Can make some pretty tasty tacos” does not count as a specialized labor market skill in Mexico, where tasty tacos are amazingly widespread and shockingly cheap. But large swathes of the United States are undersupplied with delicious tacos. Bringing people with new skills into your town creates employment opportunities for people with complementary skills. A new taqueria not only offers local consumers a place to eat, but it’s also going to need an accountant to do its taxes. It’s going to need kitchen equipment and sign installation. But for all that to get off the ground, you need the people who make the tacos.
Last but by no means least, increasing population as such can help boost a local economy. The “Texas jobs miracle” is overwhelmingly a population migration phenomenon, with the migration coming in about equal parts from Mexico and the non-Texas portions of the United States. If a lot of people move to Dayton, that means investment in renewing Dayton’s housing stock. It means more customers for Dayton’s supermarkets and convenience stores. It means a broader tax base to support cops and teachers. It means hospitals that are looking to expand, rather than shrink. It just means more of everything. People spend the majority of the money they earn, so any additional income that people earn by moving to your city also increases the total volume of spending in the city creating new income-earning opportunities for other people.
One of the tragedies of American immigration policy is that there’s no way to really take advantage of the fact that political climate varies from place to place. We can’t designated specific cities or states that want more immigrants as places where it’s okay for people to go. If we decide, as a political corrective, to engage in a mass panic about immigration, then the panic afflicts communities all across the country.