Five hundred economists have signed an open letter on immigration. These include five Nobel Laureates—Thomas C. Schelling, Robert Lucas, Daniel McFadden, Vernon Smith and James Heckman. And, for what it is worth, me. The letter says:
We must not forget that the gains to immigrants coming to the United States are immense. Immigration is the greatest anti-poverty programever devised. The American dream is a reality for many immigrants whonot only increase their own living standards but who also send billions of dollars of their money back to their families in their homecountries—a form of truly effective foreign aid.
Of course, we may not be right. But the breadth of the consensus is striking.
The letter is framed in a mainly the context of the American debate, which is a little different from Europe. America makes it relatively easy for immigrants to work, but hard for immigrants to claim welfare benefits. Europeans tend to make it hard for immigrants to work, but relatively easy to claim welfare. Thus in America the debate focuses mainly on the impact on jobs and wages, while in Europe there is more discussion about fiscal costs.