Under the Trump administration, the US instantiated policies aimed to reduce the number of refugee and asylum seekers settling in their country between 2017 and 2020.

It seems like the policies were fairly “successful”, with a decrease in annual US refugee arrivals by 86% between 2016 and 2020, alongside a drop in successful applications for asylum of around 68% between 2017 and 2019. I don’t know enough about the subject to know how much of this was down to the policies themselves, but the numbers certainly went in the direction the leadership wanted.

However, contrary to many lay-people’s intuitions, there’s a reasonable consensus amongst economists that, in their role as “economic actors”, immigrants are on average net positive for the receiving country’s economy.

All are consumers, most are (or become) workers, and many are (or become) investors. All incur fiscal costs by using public services directly or indirectly, and all generate fiscal revenue either directly or indirectly.

A recently published paper by Michael Clemens examines the specific effect of the afore-mentioned decrease in asylum and refugee admissions along these lines. It concludes that the the reduction in admissions now costs the US economy more than $9.1 billion per year, and the government itself has lost out more than $2 billion. These costs will keep accruing as time goes on because the population that would have generated this extra economic activity is simply not present.

His model suggests that

…relative to 2019 levels, a 10 percent reduction in refugee resettlement to the United States likely causes a loss to the American economy of more than $1.4 billion, and a loss to public coffers (federal, state, and local) of more than $310 million, cumulatively over the subsequent five years.

Turning to asylum seekers: A 10 percent reduction in affirmative and defensive asylum seekers likely causes a loss to the American economy of more than $8.9 billion, and a loss to public coffers of more than $1.5 billion, cumulatively over the subsequent five years.

Whilst I certainly don’t think the primary driver of asylum policy should be economic - a basic moral concern for other people should surely be paramount - the fact that imposing barriers to this form of migration imposes serious and potentially permanent economic costs on one’s own country seems like something that should be present in the consciousness of the public and the decision makers.