Economics lesson: We need immigrants

DACA rally - Portland - Joe Frazier

Photo by Joe Frazier, DACA rally in Portland, published under Creative Commons license.

Here’s a quick Sunday update, with news that gets lost in the constant drumbeat of awful stories: We need immigrants. The United States economy depends on a growing labor force, and that means immigrants. Minnesota’s labor force will only grow through continuing and increasing immigration to the state. Senior citizens and baby boomers approaching that status need immigrants to help keep the Social Security system solvent and to keep on paying for Medicare. Farmers need immigrants to drive tractors and harvest crops and feed cows. 

Vox reports—as so many other researchers and publications have reported over the past decades—that:

Economic estimates show that immigration would help save the Social Security system. Not just legal immigration — illegal immigration too.

“Undocumented immigrants and immigrants with legal status pay billions of dollars each year into the Social Security system through payroll taxes.”

By itself, immigration will not keep Social Security solvent forever. That will require raising the income level for Social Security tax contributions

“Rich workers don’t have to pay the 6.2 percent tax on any income they earn above $128,400, so a worker who earns $128,400 a year is paying the exact same amount in Social Security taxes as a billionaire. It’s basically a tax loophole for the wealthy.”

Business publications like Barrons and Fortune report the lack of sufficient workers on farms and across the economy. Recent articles and editorials in the Star Tribune describe Minnesota’s continuing need for immigrant workers, and the major contributions they make to the state.

Immigrants provide the work force that feeds the United States. They work on farms and in food processing and in food service. High Country News explained the need for immigrants on farms:

“If you live in rural, red America, shouldn’t you be willing to stand up and fight for the help you need to work the land? Let’s tell the world that we need immigrants working on our places or at our processing facilities if we’re going to survive. It’s past time to cowboy up and do what’s right, even if it means accepting the stigma involved in visibly and vocally standing up for good people like Paco and Lupe.

“We know these folks will be there for us and all the other farms and businesses that depend on them. So we’ve got to talk about the kind of immigration reform that allows them to work for us legally and with dignity.”

The Guardian described the debate over legalizing approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the United States:

“Amnesty is the most ironic term of all: Republicans rage and Democrats cower at the idea of granting “forgiveness” to the people who have, for decades, been powering the US economy. Here the absurdity of their invisible labor reaches its nadir: when we, driving on roads they have built, offering our toddlers the blueberries they have plucked, eating the meat they have slaughtered and cleaned and processed, ask: “Should we or should we not pardon them for their work?”



About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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