From Des Moines Register Tana Goertz, Iowa View contributor — If Iowa wants growth, an open border is not the answer
It’s no secret that the Hawkeye State has had its share of struggles over the years, especially when it comes to depopulation of our rural communities. But here is the painful truth: Illegal immigration will not solve rural Iowa’s labor shortage; it will only make it worse.
Working people have been fleeing Iowa’s rural communities due to a lack of opportunities, low wages and scarce government services. Forcing the remaining residents to compete with unskilled, undereducated illegal immigrants for blue-collar jobs will only exacerbate those problems.
While some rural businesses are reportedly struggling to find enough workers, the same phenomenon is taking place all over the country, and it’s actually a good thing for workers, because a shortage of labor forces companies to increase wages and benefits in order to attract talent. An influx of illegal immigrants would eliminate that benefit by giving employers greater leverage in salary negotiations — especially employers who are willing to break the law in order to hire illegal aliens at sub-minimum wages.
Nor would illegal immigration alleviate the strain on public services. Even after accounting for the taxes that they pay, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) estimates that each illegal immigrant imposes a net cost on Iowa taxpayers of more than $4,500 per year. FAIR calculates that Iowa spends a bit more than $272 million per year on its illegal immigrant population, but even using Pew’s more conservative estimate of 50,000 illegal aliens, the cost still comes out to at least $225 million.
Besides, America already allows more than enough legal immigrants to enter the country — about 1 million people every year. As of 2015, there were close to 100,000 migrant workers in Iowa — and that number will only go up as long as Iowa remains an attractive destination for new arrivals.
Those are the realities President Trump was referring to when he warned would-be illegal immigrants that “we can’t take you” because “our country is full.”
In a recent op-ed for USA Today, former Democrat congressional candidate J.D. Scholten blasted President Trump’s stance on border security, arguing that “[i]f President Trump closes our borders because of a misguided belief that our nation is full, it will limit our economy and devastate my beloved heartland.”
While it’s true that certain sectors, such as agriculture, presently employ a large amount of immigrant labor (even though American workers would gladly do the same jobs if they offered adequate wages), Scholten is performing a classic bait-and-switch by conflating legal and illegal immigration.
The fact that some Iowa businesses rely on immigrant labor is irrelevant to the question of whether we should allow massive numbers of illegal aliens to cross our borders in violation of American law — unless, of course, Scholten was suggesting that Iowa businesses should break the law themselves by hiring illegal alien workers.
President Trump’s commitment to securing the border and ending the illegal immigration crisis, coupled with his America First policies, offers the only realistic strategy for reversing the decline of rural economies in Iowa and across the country.
Open borders and unrestricted illegal immigration will only make it more difficult to solve rural Iowa’s economic challenges.
Tana Goertz is an Iowa native and an advisory board member of the Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.