State News

UW economic professors emphasize importance of immigration in letter to Trump

Economic professors at UW-Madison and other Wisconsin schools, along with over a thousand other professors, penned and signed a letter to President Donald Trump about the “broad economic benefit that immigrants to this country bring.”

Image By: Morgan Winston

With immigration policy being one of the cruxes of the Trump administration, six UW-Madison economic professors penned a letter along with professors nationwide to President Donald Trump, detailing the economic benefits of immigration.

Of the 1,470 professors to sign the bipartisan letter, six are from UW-Madison, and an additional 10 are from other Wisconsin schools.

The letter addressed concerns over the Trump administration’s isolationist immigration policy and outlined positive gains derived from immigration. Barbara Wolfe, an expert on health economics and vulnerable populations and one of the six UW-Madison professors to sign, expressed support for open immigration.

“I think that the evidence is quite strong that this country has gained a lot from immigrants, particularly young immigrants who have made big contributions to this country,” Wolfe said. “Without immigrants we would not have the richness and high GDP [gross domestic product] that we have. The evidence is clear—countries that have had more open borders for immigrants have done better.”

In addition to campaigning for increased immigration, the letter addressed potential fiscal concerns about an influx of immigrants.

“Immigrants might complement or substitute for American workers. A 'substitute' replaces an American,” Kenneth West, a professor who cosigned the letter, said. “A downside of immigration is that some immigrants do substitute for Americans.”

UW-Madison professor of public affairs and political science David Weimer agreed.

“If we don't have some barriers, then it’s possible that some professions could be flooded and there would be temporary costs,” Weimer said.

Despite concerns, the authors and contributors to the letter overwhelmingly agree that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks for the entire country, including Wisconsin.

“In the discussion of immigration we tend to ignore the benefits that accrue to all of us,” Weimer added. “In a state like Wisconsin, immigration is important for the dairy industry.”

West offered emphasized the positive impact immigration can have on campus.

“A 'complement' does work that enhances jobs for Americans. Examples include professors at UW-Madison who were not born in America,” West said. “[Professors who are immigrants] teaching and research makes the Wisconsin and U.S. economies better off than if they were not at UW-Madison.”  

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