President Donald Trump came to power trumpeting his “America First” agenda. Yet his immigration policies are anything but. Indeed, the U.S. is composed of immigrants, natives, and their descendants. Stoking fear and anxiety about foreigners belies the inscription on the Statute of Liberty, “Give me…your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
Not only are Trump’s immigration policies incompatible with traditional American values, these anti-immigrant measures harm your retirement security. How? Restricting immigration means there are fewer workers to pay into Social Security, further exacerbating the projected budget shortfall for this program.
Social Security is scheduled to go broke in 2034. According to the Social Security trustees annual report, this is when the two funds (one for disability insurance, the other for retirees) run out of money. A big part of the problem is that prudent fiscal decisions aren’t being made as a country to make sure there’s enough in the kitty: “If substantial actions are deferred for several years, the changes necessary to maintain Social Security solvency would be concentrated on fewer years and fewer generations,” the report states.
Translation: We’re putting pressure on future generations. Of course, the insolvency of Social Security doesn’t mean that payments will stop right away. Instead, retirees can expect a reduction in payouts. The official estimate is that Americans will receive 79% of the benefits they expect. That’s a substantial and potentially harmful drop in retirement income for millions of Americans who were banking on more.
There are two possible solutions, both of which currently are politically difficult to implement. First, raising the payroll tax (or eliminating its cap), even at a gradual 0.3% a year, would materially increase the funds coming into Social Security. Some 86% of Social Security’s income comes from these taxes. Or second, slash benefits to the tune of around 20%, which would cause hardship among retirees. Politicians don’t want to anger companies or retirees — so they kick the can down the road.
But it gets worse. The former head actuary of Social Security testified to Congress that “Without…net immigration, the effects of the drop in birth rates after 1965 would be much more severe for the finances of Social Security, Medicare, and retirement plans in general.”
America’s workforce is aging and retiring, and we need immigrants to help take up the slack and fuel America’s future growth. If the U.S. doubled the number of immigrants it allowed, there would be an increase of $5 trillion for Social Security over the next 75 years, according to Social Security Works. Instead, the country is headed in the opposite direction. Trump’s austere immigration policies have resulted in a 9% drop in green card approvals.
America needs younger, vibrant workers. We need ‘Dreamers’ in the workforce.
America needs younger, vibrant workers. We need “Dreamers” in the workforce. Trump’s decision in 2017 to rescind the immigration policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Early Arrivals (DACA) is projected to reduce contributions to Social Security by almost $40 billion over the next 10 years, according to a report co-authored by Professor Tom Wong at the University of California San Diego. There are about 800,000 DACA recipients, and some 90% of them have a job or are in school. In fact, dreamers will contribute to the Social Security program over the next many decades, but because they’re not citizens, they won’t be able to receive benefits. Already, undocumented workers contribute $9 billion in payroll taxes.
It’s easy to dismiss the wonkery of numbers, statistics, and projections. But don’t overlook the people who these numbers reflect. We know firsthand that Dreamers are talented, intelligent, and hardworking. Over the past year, we collaborated with more than 50 Dreamers from 17 states who came from all walks of life. We produced an album, American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom, by John Daversa Big Band, featuring DACA Artists, which helps to shine the light on their stories and immense capabilities.
For example, one Dreamer speaks five languages and is a candidate for a PhD in mathematical biology (and plays the piano). Another Dreamer works as a medical assistant in his community (and plays violin). One Dreamer is a paralegal who manages caseloads and interfaces with clients (who also loves to sing). When you hear the humanity in their voices, we hope that you’ll see them for who they truly are — Americans.
These remarkable young people are helping to fund our retirement accounts even though there’s no guarantee that they will also benefit. The U.S. needs to pass the DREAM Act that will recognize Dreamers as citizens so that more of these amazing individuals enter the workforce, while also strengthening Social Security and improving the financial future for all Americans.
[This article was published in MarketWatch.]
Article is by Kabir Sehgal & Doug Davis
Kabir Sehgal and Doug Davis are the producers of American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom by John Daversa Big Band, featuring DACA artists. The album features 53 Dreamers from 17 states performing the songs of America, including James Brown’s “Living In America” and John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”