12 The Danger of Devaluing Immigrants Legal immigration restrictions only add to the dilemma that we face as a society because of this long-term trend of slower population growth. During the last four years, the Trump Administration severely restricted legal immi- gration. This policy, combined with the long-term decline in the U.S. birth rate, contributed to an annual population growth rate of only 0.35 percent from July 2019 to July 2020, a rate that the Brookings Institution reports as the lowest since 1900. The only way for the United States to rapidly increase its rate of population growth and to significantly expand its economy when the population growth rate has declined to such an extent is to expand legal immigration so that both our population and our workforce can grow.6 With economic growth comes national strength and, especially in an advanced economy, population growth is a major factor in economic growth.7 Thus, when the United States restricts immigration, it does so to its own detriment in multiple ways. It loses its ability to attract immigrants from around the world to enhance its economy and society, and these are oppor- tunities that would help the U.S. economy and society to grow and to com- pete with nations such as China and other major powers. From this perspective, immigration reinforces the status of the United States as both the global economic leader and the leader of the democratic world. A Nation of Immigrants in the Past, Present, and Future If not for immigrants, we would be a small nation, most likely wealthy but not the leader of nations that we are today. We would be just an affluent soci- ety negotiating with much larger global economies than ours. Were it not for our humanitarian values and our tradition of offering welcome to immi- grants and refugees alike seeking the freedom to live their lives and pursue their livelihoods, we would not be a global democratic leader attracting the most talented and skilled people from around the world, people who make our economy the powerhouse that it is. With these truths in mind, we need to cherish, appreciate, and promote immigrants and their contributions not only to our economy but also to our society. Our welcoming attitude, giving immigrants the chance to become successful through diligence and hard work, has given us our soft power to lead and shape our global economic and political environments, so that people of all walks of life look at America as the shining light and the greatest land of opportunity. Finally, America rep- resents people from every culture, group, and region of the world, and immi- grants breathe life not only into our economy but also into our shared culture. Immigration is written into the past and present of the living culture that is America, and it is fundamental to maintaining and advancing our nation and our American way of life.
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