Our VoiceImmigration

Immigration Reform Benefits American Economy

Carlos Rich • Jun 24, 2010

Why would immigration reform make sense from an economic and labor point of view?  Many are saying that immigrants come here and are taking away jobs from lots of “Americans”.  That’s not entirely true for a couple of reasons. First, most jobs that immigrants hold here are low-skilled, hard and dangerous.  Second, these jobs are not being filled by Americans regardless of whether there are immigrants willing to take them.

For example, in the meat processing industry many of the workers are immigrants or refugees.  To solve many of the problems involving labor laws and workplace safety violations, wages need to be raised and employers held accountable for not complying with safety standards. Perhaps the government money currently used to pay border patrol agents would be more effective in upholding the rule of law if it was spent on OSHA and labor enforcement agents.

Employers are not held accountable for unjust labor practices and hazardous working conditions, and when they are prosecuted, they only receive a slap on the wrist.  The ramifications of unsafe working conditions are much greater for workers. Often when workers are injured on the job, they are fired and left with high medical bills.

The real answer is comprehensive immigration reform - one that provides a path to citizenship.  We as immigrants are an important part of the United States for many reasons. We make sacrifices to come here and work to contribute in positive ways to this country. Life is not always that much better for many of us, but it is beneficial to the U.S. as a whole.

Dr. Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, Founding Director of the North American Integration and Development (NAID) Center at the University of California, estimates “that comprehensive immigration reform would yield at least $1.5 trillion in cumulative U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years” by raising wages, increasing consumption, creating jobs, and generating additional tax revenue.

If enacted, reform followed by improved labor standards or at least enforcement of existing labor laws, would solve the issue. Furthermore, forging trade agreements with strong international labor laws will eventually stabilize the influx of undocumented workers.  It seems that politicians are using the immigration issue as political game-playing.  I want to believe that both parties will really look at the facts, make sound judgments, and understand that doing nothing will not make the problem go away.  I think that the persons opposing immigration reform are a loud minority whose voices have been amplified by the media.  Making laws such as SB 1070 that are dangerous and paternalistic is not the answer. Alienating and making immigrants look like criminals is not an America I dream about.

The cost of not passing immigration reform is huge. If we do not attempt to legalize the undocumented persons here, then we can expect to see billions lost. Not to mention the cost of deporting immigrants.

Let’s continue to fight for comprehensive reform for economic reasons, but most importantly for humanitarian reasons.  We are after all the land of opportunity; once we become selfish with our blessings, we are no longer the moral nation we claim to be. America still has an opportunity to show the world that it’s a great nation.

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