FEBRUARY 2024

Marshall Fitz
6 min readMar 6, 2024

Welcome to Emerson Collective’s Immigration Update, a monthly newsletter that seeks to make sense of important immigration-related developments by situating them in broader policy, political, and human contexts.

One of those broader political contexts, of course, is the upcoming November election. And the last month has (unsurprisingly) confirmed that we will likely face a rematch between President Biden and former President Trump. Given that immigration surged to the top of voter concerns this month, the election may also serve as a referendum on America’s self-identity: will we remain a welcoming country or succumb to a darker vision? These presumptive party standard bearers highlighted the centrality of the issue with competing visits to the Texas-Mexicoborder. President Biden’s efforts to build a safer, more orderly system that incentivizes the use of legal migration channels have been stymied by historic migration pressures in the hemisphere and by Congress’s continuing inability to take action on systemic solutions. The former president’s campaign, by contrast, has rejected efforts to modernize the system and committed to policies of ending immigration, rounding up undocumented immigrants in vast dragnets , and “establishing massive internment camps for undocumented immigrants awaiting deportation.

The implications of these opposing visions are already manifesting in the issues we cover in this month’s edition, including: the House impeachment of DHS Secretary Ali Mayorkas, state level divergence in response to the migration surge, and the profound impact of immigrants on our post-COVID economic recovery and our future economic growth.

Now, let’s dive in.

Marshall Fitz
Managing Director of Immigration

House Impeaches DHS Secretary Ali Mayorkas

As we discussed in last month’s edition, rather than doing the work required to legislate solutions, House Republicans chose tragicomedy by impeaching DHS Secretary Mayorkas. Failing to secure the votes the first time around, House leadership subsequently succeeded in adopting articles of impeachment by a 1-vote margin of 214–213, with three Republicans joining every Democrat in rejecting the partisan effort.

House leaders have known from the outset that the Senate would act swiftly to dismiss the articles because there is zero evidence that the Secretary’s conduct approached the constitutional impeachment standard of a high crime or misdemeanor. This pointless and unprecedented waste of taxpayer money served no legitimate purpose beyond stoking outrage within the party’s base. But this historically egregious misuse of the House’s constitutional authority did preview what we can expect from Congress for the rest of the year.

First, this Congress — because of internal factions paralyzing House Republicans — has already accomplished less than any other Congress in recent history. That will not change as we get ever closer to the November elections. Second, we should expect more spectacle, more brinkmanship, and fewer sincere efforts to solve important real-world challenges. Third, and most importantly for this newsletter, we can expect House leadership to (ab)use its power to drive a relentless political message about immigration and the border in service of its electoral strategy.

State Level Divergence in Response to the Migration Surge

While legislative reform continues to be blocked at the federal level, states across the country have adopted diametrically opposed responses to the surge of migrants that have reached the U.S.-Mexico border in search of safety and economic opportunity.

On one side of the split screen, we see real innovation happening with 20 states now having dedicated, high-level staff focused on immigrant integration and building a more welcoming, inclusive America. That includes programs designed to better incorporate immigrants and refugees into state workforce systems, expand the capacity of legal and direct service providers, and ensure access to other support systems that welcome new arrivals with dignity and care.

On the other side of the screen, we see Governor Abbott (TX) continuing to sow constitutional chaos. Building on his claim that Texas has a “right to self-defense” that supersedes the Constitution — a claim endorsed by 25 Republican governors — he announced his intention to “build an 80-acre base to house up to 1,800 Texas National Guard members near Eagle Pass.” This base could “expand to incorporate up to 2,300 personnel” and “cements a large law enforcement infrastructure in the region,” The state is also targeting a Catholic migrant shelter with “human smuggling”, elevating the state’s challenge to federal supremacy over immigration and border enforcement.

We are undoubtedly facing a unique set of pressures at our southern border and in states and cities throughout the country as a result of historic levels of migration throughout the hemisphere. Our current inability to effectively respond to these pressures is the result of decades of Congressional failure to forge compromise on the contours of a flexible system that can effectively manage migration. As states take steps to fill the breach, we are seeing very different visions of what the future may hold.

Profound Impact of Immigrants on U.S. Economic Recovery and Future Economic Growth

In early February, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released “The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2024–2034” report. The non-partisan analysis includes a clear picture of the powerful role that immigrants continue to play in strengthening the country’s economic outlook. In doing so, it also provides a significant, evidence-based rejoinder to the surging xenophobic narrative that immigrants pose a threat to our collective well-being.

The economic landscape for the United States has been strengthened and expanded by immigrant workers, especially compared to countries whose labor forces have remained stagnant. The CBO projects that the surge in immigration that began in 2022 will continue for several years, growing the labor force and increasing economic output. Specifically, the agency expects that the U.S. labor force will “have 5.2 million more people in 2033 than it projected last year”, mostly because of higher net immigration. According to the CBO Director, as a result of “those changes in the labor force, we estimate that, from 2023 to 2034, GDP will be greater by about $7 trillion and revenues will be greater by about $1 trillion than they would have been otherwise.”

And yet, despite the potent competitive advantage that immigrants provide the United States in driving economic growth, we still face a worker shortage crisis. An “infusion of working-age immigrants” that “will more than offset the expected retirement of the aging, native-born population” is still insufficient to meet the demands of our growing economy. To embrace the policies of exclusion and expulsion championed by the former president would be to reject one of our most unique and powerful economic advantages.

To be sure, the economic benefits of immigration to our past, present, and future tell only one part of our rich, complex story as an immigrant nation. The social, cultural, and scientific contributions of immigrants are so pervasive as to be invisible. And of course there will always be challenges with successfully managing and welcoming the arrival of newcomers. But the fact that the United States continues to serve as a vibrant beacon of freedom and opportunity for people across the world is not a problem to escape but a singular opportunity to embrace.

Important Coda — President Biden “issued an executive order instructing federal immigration officials to refrain from deporting most Palestinian immigrants in the U.S., saying the months-long war in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas has made it too dangerous to send deportees there.” This order “is expected to shield several thousand Palestinians” from deportation as well as providing temporary work permits for the next 18 months.

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Marshall Fitz

Managing Director of Immigration at the Emerson Collective. Advocate for humanity, sports junky, 1/2-assed Buddhist, proud papa and spouse. Views obv my own.