If Mike Pence is elected president, he will support increased legal immigration. I’m confident of this not based on statements that he has made about immigration, but rather because he knows that I have a brother.
Before you stop reading, consider this surprising conversation that Pence had at the White House in 2017.
In May 2017, my then girlfriend attended a meeting at the White House about international public health issues. When she told me that Vice President Pence would be there, I mentioned that I suspected that Pence may know of the work of my late father, the economist Julian Simon.
For decades until his untimely death in 1998, Simon was the economics profession’s strongest and most controversial advocate for the economic benefits of population growth – including the benefits to native-born Americans from increased immigration. People, including immigrants, as he famously explained, are “the ultimate resource.”
In his book The Economic Consequences of Immigration, Simon’s analysis of a vast array of immigration data showed that immigration raises the incomes of native-born Americans.
“Almost without exception the behavioral characteristics of immigrants are conducive to economic advancement of the community as well as for the immigrants themselves,” he wrote. “Compared to natives of the same sex and age, immigrants work harder, save more, have a higher propensity to start new business, and are more likely to innovate.”
In 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine issued The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration. This comprehensive report concerning the impact of immigrants on the U.S. economy reached similar conclusions.
“Importantly, immigration is integral to the nation’s economic growth.” Immigration, the NASEM report found, helps the U.S. “avoid the problems facing stagnant economies created by unfavorable demographics,” particularly from an aging workforce. High-skilled immigration, the report elaborated, increases “innovation, entrepreneurship, and technological change,” and immigration produces more patents per person and higher productivity growth.
Although by 2017 my father had been gone for almost two decades, I guessed that Pence likely not only knew of, but appreciated, my father’s scholarship concerning the economic benefits of population growth in general and especially from immigration.
My guess turned out to be even more right than I expected. At the White House meeting, a colleague of my girlfriend’s mentioned to Pence that she was dating Julian Simon’s son. Pence responded: “Which son? Doesn’t he have two?” He then said that he “could really use” my father’s insights.
To my amazement, Pence not only knew of and was a fan of my father’s work, Pence knew that my father had two sons. I do indeed have a brother (as well as a sister).
Pence’s knowledge of this biographical detail about my father and his appreciation for my father’s work together make it very likely that Pence has embraced my father’s finding that immigration benefits native-born Americans and the U.S. economy.
Notwithstanding Pence’s 2017 comments, I do not expect Pence (or any other candidate) during election season to express support for increased legal immigration. President Biden’s chaotic and dangerous illegal immigration policy has made it particularly politically perilous, especially for Republican candidates, to take this position.
With this in mind, regardless of what he may say concerning immigration during a campaign, Pence’s appreciation of my father’s economics scholarship, demonstrated by his knowledge that I have a brother, makes me – and should make you – confident that if Pence is elected president, he will support more legal immigration.