Wellesley Faculty Cited in Articles on Immigration Policy

February 7, 2018
Protesters stand outside the Capitol building holding signs that read DREAM.
Credit:
Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Agreement on the immigration policy continues to elude Congress even as the February 8 federal funding deadline approaches. While discussion of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and TPS (Temporary Protected Status) programs intensifies among lawmakers, research on immigration issues by two Wellesley professors has been cited in two recent opinion columns, in the Washington Post and the San Diego Union-Tribune.

In his op-ed “This is what an immigration policy for the 21st century should look like,” Washington Post economics columnist Robert J. Samuelson argued that a new policy should provide most of the “Dreamers” as well as many other undocumented, law-abiding residents with legal status “in return for a tougher border security and a requirement that most employers check immigration status through an electronic network.”

In making his case, Samuelson noted that “skilled immigrants are good for the economy” and cited research co-authored by Sari Pekkala Kerr, visiting lecturer in economics at Wellesley and senior research scientist at Wellesley Centers for Women, that found that about one-quarter of company founders were immigrants. This is increasingly relevant, wrote Samuelson, “because after declining for a few years, immigration is again growing.”

In an email, Kerr explained, “First- and second-generation immigrant entrepreneurs create about 20 percent of all new jobs in the United States, and in some individual states, they start more than 40 percent of all new firms. Without their contribution, the economic activity in this country would be greatly reduced.”

In “Why immigration is good for the U.S. economy” in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Anthony Patrick O’Brien, professor of economics emeritus at Lehigh University, counters the belief that recent waves of immigrants are assimilating more slowly than previous waves. Evidence indicates, he wrote, that “recent immigrants are learning English and closing the education and earning gaps with the native population at nearly the same rates as did previous immigrants.” O’Brien cited research co-authored by Kristin Butcher, the Marshall I. Goldman Professor of Economics at Wellesley, that shows legal and illegal immigrants are imprisoned at a rate 20 percent that of the native-born population.

“In our work, we’ve examined the impact of an increase in the foreign-born population on city crime rates and examined whether the foreign-born are more or less likely to be incarcerated than the native-born,” Butcher explained in an email. “Both approaches strongly point to the foreign-born being less likely to be engaged in criminal activity than the native-born in the U.S.”

Wellesley continues to address concerns about changing immigration policies with the College community, and has hosted “Know Your Rights” information sessions.

Caption: Demonstrators hold illuminated signs during a rally supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), or the Dream Act, outside the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018.