Paul Ryan's Sensible Case for Immigration Reform

A blog about business and economics.
July 10 2013 4:43 PM

Paul Ryan's Sensible Case for Immigration Reform

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WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 14: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks at the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference, June 14, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

In my opinion, discussions about GOP thinking about immigration policy have been excessively dominated by rather cynical arguments about politics rather than by thinking about the policy merits. Cynicism counts for a lot in politics, but pure electoral considerations can really be argued either way. If you look at how the Gang of 8 bill got through the Senate, a key role was played by a Republican from North Dakota who was looking out for his state's economic interests not looking for Hispanic votes.

While some Republicans make the case for political expediency, hoping to lure Latino voters in elections, Ryan sells his argument as an “economic-based immigration system,” one aide said. The idea is that the economy will be better served by eliminating the raft of undocumented workers currently serving in low-wage jobs, bringing them into the legal workforce and setting up the right number of visas for skilled employees in key industries.
“Immigration will help improve that, so that we have the labor we need to get the economic growth that we want, so that America can be a fast-growing economy in the 21st century. Immigration helps us get the labor force that we need so that we can have the kind of growth we want,” Ryan said last month at an event before the National Manufacturers Association. He added: “If you come here and put your hand over your heart, and you pledge allegiance to the American flag, we want you.”
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From the standpoint of basic ordinary every day conservative economics, immigration reform seems like a total no brainer to me—it increases the marginal product of capital, thereby encouraging investment and economic growth. If you're a Republican who favors free trade agreements and capital gains tax cuts then you should love immigration reform.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.