By Alex Mikulich, Ph.D.
A major criticism leveled against recent newcomers to the United States is that they are “takers” creating an economic drain on the nation. Not only are they takers, critics lament, but also categorically “illegal,” echoing past racist associations of criminality with African-Americans and many other people of color.
These criticisms of newcomers are old in U.S. history. Various strains of economic utilitarianism and racism have reared their ugly heads throughout U.S. history to render the latest newcomer less than human and unworthy of citizenship.
Recognizing these historical pitfalls in the current immigration debate is critical for two reasons: so we do not repeat the conflicts that have pitted Americans against one another in the past and so we achieve a truly common good today.
In the 2013 debate over immigration reform, critics have focused on the economic burden of new immigrants to the near exclusion of the benefits they provide to society. The Heritage Foundation released a report on May 6, 2013, “The Fiscal Cost of Unlawful Immigrants and Amnesty to the U.S. Taxpayer,”  that epitomizes this specious argument.
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