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Most of us remember these inspiring words on our Statue of Liberty:

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand, a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.

From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. ‘Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she with silent lips. ‘Send me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.’”

How many of us still believe in those words on the Statue of Liberty?

Keep your storied pomp? Instead, send us your homeless, the wretched refuse? Is the USA still the Mother of Exiles?

What should our nation’s immigration policy be?

One reason to have a collegial debate about immigration is economic growth and population growth are tied together. Our country’s economic growth rate has dramatically decreased over the past 20 years. Since 2000, we’ve not had any year of more than 4 percent growth.

Putting Barack Obama and Donald Trump’s terms together, the U.S. economy averaged a meager growth rate close to 1.9 percent over the past 12 years.

Economic growth, or GDP, is the sum of population growth and productivity growth. If our country wants to grow, we need to add more people, become more productive, or a combination of both population and productivity growth.

There is a reason why our country has struggled to grow the economy at a rate higher than 2 percent. Our population is barely growing at just 0.5 percent a year. Remember, GDP growth is the sum of population growth plus productivity growth.

We know the long-term growth in productivity is about 2 percent a year. Productivity growth of 2 percent, plus population growth of just 0.5 percent, equals GDP growth of 2.5 percnet.

Is our slow population and slow economic growth good or bad?

Nationally, our country has turned its back on the homeless, helpless who want to immigrate to this country. Are these lower-income, would-be immigrants good or bad for America? Can we still afford them?

We’ve even turned our back on the highly-skilled immigrant who wants to move here. A Business Roundtable study says we are the second-least welcoming country to skilled immigrants among countries surveyed. Only Japan is less welcoming. And that report was 2015, before America became even less welcoming.

Some data suggests a highly skilled immigrant adds $500,000 to $1,000,000 more to the government coffers than they take out. Do we want to turn away free gold mines?

In 2018, 44 percent of all the companies on the Standard & Poor’s 500 (or S&P 500) were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants. A majority of all recent companies worth a billion dollars were started by immigrant entrepreneurs.

What if the secret sauce to getting America growing much faster is to let 4 million additional legal, skilled immigrants into this country every year for the next 10 years? Would you be in favor?

Maybe you would be in favor of more skilled immigrants, but would say that we simply can’t afford anymore unskilled workers.

Have we outgrown our ability to be the golden door for the rest of the world’s exiles?

The answer is no. In general, evidence shows legal immigrants of all economic levels are an overall strong economic and tax net plus to the economy and our country. There are some downsides, though – particularly wage pressure on low-income jobs.

I am inviting our readers to share their thoughts about whether they are in favor of more legal immigration in America, and why.

I wish our politicians would agree to discuss the close connections between immigration, population growth and economic growth in a collegial manner. We need to have this important conversation about our future.

What do the words on the Statue of Liberty mean to us today?

Share your thoughts.

David Dunn-Rankin is CEO of D-R Media, which owns the Winter Haven Sun, Four Corners News-Sun and Polk News-Sun in Polk County, as well as newspapers in Highlands, Lake and Sumter counties. He can be reached at david@d-r.media.

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