May 23, 2013
It’s the Economy, Stupid!
Posted on Nov 28, 2012
Many proposed solutions have been based on a series of unproven assertions and fears about what the presence of those unauthorized immigrants might be doing to Americans, when the reality is most research shows the undocumented represent a net positive for the economy and for the job prospects of U.S. citizens.
Studies demonstrate that these unauthorized immigrants create more opportunity for everyone: more jobs in other areas of the economy, and more productivity for businesses big and small. One way they do this is by having the flexibility to move around the country in search of the markets where jobs are available, a reason immigrants are spreading out into areas where their presence had not been strongly felt before, such as Oklahoma, Ohio and Virginia. An extreme example of this is the vital role undocumented laborers played in the cleanup efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Undocumented immigrants are providing that service again after Superstorm Sandy, especially in New Jersey.
They’re not the “moochers” that many make them out to be, coming here for easy “benefits.” Unauthorized immigrants pay many types of taxes, including payroll, business and property; replenish the Social Security fund (with money they never take out, about $11 billion and counting); and last, but not least, they make it possible for middle-class families to enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle, able to afford nannies, cleaning crews and home health care workers. They’re also essential to the subsistence of small businesses, and many are small-business owners and entrepreneurs themselves.
In fact, immigrants and their descendants may well be the solution for several of the problems that the United States faces now and will in the near future. But instead of concentrating on the many benefits immigrants bring to this country, politicians have found it easier to focus on the negative effects they supposedly have on the economy, which these elected officials can never prove. But they don’t let facts get in the way of their arguments.
Scholars and other experts have spoken, studied and written about this for years. “There is an urgent need for immigration reform,” said USC demographer Dowell Myers. “Unfortunately, debates about immigration in America have been backward-looking, emphasizing trends of the last 10 years, not the future. In the decade ahead, much will change—immigrants and the rest of us included.
“The preoccupation with matters of legal status, important as they are, has distracted us from the larger question of whether we need immigrants in the first place,” Myers continued. “For that answer we must look more closely at American society itself.”
The United States faces the same irrefutable reality as other developed countries around the world: an aging population, which means rapid growth of the least productive segment of society that have retired after a lifetime of work and are now collecting Social Security and pensions, relying on Medicare and, in many cases, not financially independent.
The large migration of the last 30 years is one reason the United States may yet recover from this recession, continue to be a vibrant economy and be able to remake itself in a world in which everything is globalized, including the competition for labor, both high and low skilled.
And this is why having an adequate set of immigration laws is not a “gift” for people who come here in general or Latinos in particular. It is not an issue of only human rights and dignity. No matter how loudly some may claim the opposite, immigration reform is an economic necessity for the United States.
Pilar Marrero is senior political and immigration writer for Impremedia/La Opinión and author of the book “Killing the American Dream: How Immigration Extremists Are Destroying the Nation,” published by Palgrave.
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