Paul Krugman is wrong about DACA’s impact on America

Paul Krugman fails in his arguments. Dreamers are a part of a vicious cycle that drain foreign economies of human resources, increases job competition, and fails to address instability caused by ignoring the rule of law. 


WASHINGTON, September 11, 2017 — Paul Krugman has lambasted President Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, again. This time it is for their stance on former President Obama’s 2012 executive order on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The president has the authority to issue executive orders. No one doubts that except when the other party occupies the White House. These EOs can be challenged in court (and sometimes are), and the president can lose (and sometimes does).

The challenge can only succeed on constitutional grounds; that someone considers the order “immoral” doesn’t reach that level. The courts don’t rule on morality.

Krugman argues that DACA does not harm the American economy, claiming:

  • It is untrue, as Sessions claims, that jobs filled by DACA recipients (or “Dreamers”) would be filled by Americans if there were no DACA;
  • The presence of Dreamers actually helps the US economy because they work hard, start businesses, and pay taxes.

Krugman asserts these conclusions, but he provides no proof. He merely calls the claim that Dreamers depress wages through job competition false. He does not explain how the claim is false. 

He avoids any explanation in his article of why a hiring manager would not hire from the population of legal American residents if the choice between two populations—legal and illegal residents—were reduced to one, legal group.

If those positions were filled by legal residents, provided that an adequate labor force exists, as the Bureau of Labor Statistic numbers certify, then taxes paid by Dreamers would inevitably equal taxes paid by legal residents hired for the same job.

Krugman omits mention of immigrants’ predisposition to remit payments to their family members in their home countries. This inevitably decreases the purchase of American goods and services, slowing U.S. economic growth.

What do you think Congress should do about DACA?

Krugman’s failure to mention this obvious factor seems like a political decision. To say whether the factor is important or not would require some data that Krugman does not present and may not have. Even so, his failure to mention it is dishonest. 

The nearly one million Dreamers make up a vulnerable population whose concerns and needs are hard to overlook. They came to the U.S. as minors, not of their own volition. This is the only country that many of them know. These are serious concerns that should be addressed by law, not by executive fiat.

But under the current law, those Dreamers should not be here. They do impose both benefits and costs to our society, and those have to matter in any decision the president makes. They do not matter in any decision the courts make in response to the president’s decision.

The argument over Dreamers is part of a vicious cycle that drains foreign economies of human resources, increases competition for jobs in America, and fails to do anything about the social instability that results from ignoring the rule of law. 

The Republican Party cares about lifting global living standards, not just protecting people from job competition. It really is good for America when incomes rise in the rest of the world. Liberals seem unable to accept this.

Articles like Krugman’s fuel readers’ biases with a bit of sensationalism, but they sweep away the crucially important issue of genuine immigration reform. The presence of Dreamers may be good, but that is a proposition to be proven, not an initial assumption. And there are real concerns, both for the American and foreign economies, that come from sweeping away enforcement of chunks of immigration law and giving people incentives to ignore it. 

The debate isn’t helped by treating Dreamers like pandas: cute, appealing, and deserving of whatever it takes to protect them. There’s an entirely legal and demographic ecosystem in play here, not one cute and cuddly species. The press should be calling for comprehensive reform with an executive and legislative overhaul of the immigration system. We need to know what works, what doesn’t, and how to fix what doesn’t.

And while it should go without saying, we should secure our borders so that more children don’t end up stuck in a limbo between cultures.

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