Nearly 1,500 economists, including 21 members of the Yale faculty, have signed an open letter to President Donald Trump and congressional leaders urging them to recognize the economic benefits of immigration.
The letter, organized by the immigration reform coalition New American Economy and published online last Wednesday, argued that the benefits of immigration include innovation, entrepreneurship and the production of a younger workforce. The document was intended to show the federal government that a large base of economists from a range of political perspectives all support more inclusive immigration policies.
“With the proper and necessary safeguards in place, immigration represents an opportunity rather than a threat to our economy and to American workers,” the letter said. “We urge Congress to modernize our immigration system in a way that maximizes the opportunity immigration can bring and reaffirms continuing the rich history of welcoming immigrants to the United States.”
Among the 21 Yale economists who attached their names to the letter were School of Management Dean Edward Snyder and University Provost Ben Polak.
Snyder told the News that less restrictive immigration laws are beneficial to SOM, Yale and the nation. Given that management education is a competitive discipline globally, Snyder said that immigration restraints will damage U.S. business schools.
“Canadian business schools and the Canadian economy are the immediate beneficiaries of the change in U.S. policy,” he said.
Other Yale faculty signees noted the strong evidence for the economic benefits of immigration. Emeritus professor of economics Paul Schultz told the News that most arguments in favor of restricting immigration assume that immigrant workers diminish the employment opportunities of poor Americans. However, Schultz said that most academic studies on the subject do not support this claim.
“My reading of the empirical literature suggests the country as a whole has benefited from past historical levels of immigration,” Schultz said. “If new policies are needed, they might be better focused on compensating native groups that have been clearly penalized by the increased immigration into their own regional labor market.”
SOM professor Mushfiq Mobarak, who conducts research on the economic effects of immigration, said that while economists disagree on many topics, they are in virtual agreement on the topic of immigration reform. Mobarak cited a 2016 systematic review from the National Academic of Sciences that concluded immigration has an overall positive impact on U.S. long-run economic growth.
SOM professor Barry Nalebuff and political science and economics professor John Roemer both said their decisions to sign the open letter made moral and empirical sense.
“It is both a question of ethics and of what is economically rational,” Roemer said.
In February this year, over 200 SOM students presented Snyder with a letter urging him to condemn Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries.
In light of Wednesday’s letter, SOM students interviewed said they were proud that Snyder and other Yale faculty members were taking a stand on this issue. Kate Murphy SOM ’18 said that the letter reflected the values of the SOM.
“Here at SOM we have an enormous number of international students,” Murphy said. “It is really encouraging to see our faculty make this commitment to them.”
Martha Burson SOM ’18 echoed Murphy’s words, and called the faculty commitment “fantastic.” Juan Salem SOM ’18 added that Yale faculty have a unique opportunity to influence opinion.
“When [Yale faculty] make a statement, people listen,” Salem said.
In the 2015–16 academic year, international students comprised 20 percent of the Yale student body.