Immigrants – documented or not – part of our nation’s economic fabric

By Saba Long

In this land of opportunity, we are constantly faced with competing political and economic interests that cause us to investigate our values.

In the coming weeks, Washington policy makers will debate how best to address the 11 million illegal immigrants living within our borders.  Some say comprehensive immigration reform is analogous to amnesty. Others proclaim it is America’s moral obligation to welcome and support them.

We know the arguments for and against. The political right accuses Democratic backers of comprehensive immigration reform of doing this for political gain – assuming the political ideology of illegals align more with the Democratic Party.

Most recently, the Catholic Church has also received immense criticism for its pro-reform lobbying – solely for the sake of filling up its offering plates from the millions of undocumented Catholics that stand to benefit from the passage of a reform bill. Liberals claim the right is too aggressive and unrealistic on border patrol.

To be sure, disagreement and debate have shaped this country’s politics for centuries. However, national sovereignty and the ever-changing cultural and social fabric of America are the principal concerns of those opposing immigration reform.

Yet, this summer, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office scored the Senate bill and found it to be an economic win for existing taxpayers by bolstering our workforce and expanding our tax base. Equally important, smart immigration reform will bring people out of the shadows and make us safer and stronger

Immigration is who we are –from the families arriving at Ellis Island, to Elián González and to the Senegalese med student at John Hopkins.

Immigrants right here built phenomenal companies such as Google and the all-American denim manufacturer Levi Strauss.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, immigrant-owned businesses generate 11.6 percent of all business income in the United States.

Step in to any college classroom, and you will be sure to find someone on a student visa eagerly absorbing the day’s studies. Walk the halls of any of our Atlanta technology incubators, and you will find immigrants here on work visas rapidly typing away on a laptop, contributing to the success of an American company. Spend five minutes with your cleaning lady, and you will likely find she knows an undocumented worker in her church or housing complex.

Even as I type this, I am having a text exchange with an American-educated, Zimbabwean friend forced to leave the United States a few years ago due to issues with his work permit. I am personally in the process of renewing my own immigrant status. By and large, immigrants, documented or not, are here in this country for the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Legal or not, immigrants are weaved into the economic fabric of this country. Are we prepared to handle the effects of unraveling that fabric?

Absolutely not.

Saba Long is a communications and political professional who lives in downtown Atlanta. She serves as the senior council aide and communications liaison for Post 2 At-Large Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson. Most recently, Saba was the press secretary for MAVEN and Untie Atlanta -- the Metro Chamber’s education and advocacy campaigns in supportive of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Referendum. She has consulted with H.E.G. an analytics and evaluation firm where she lent strategic marketing and social media expertise to numerous political campaigns, including that of Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and the 2010 Clayton County transportation referendum. In 2009, Saba served as the deputy campaign manager for the campaign of City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Previously, Saba was a Junior Account Executive at iFusion Marketing, where she lent fractional marketing strategy to various ATDC technology startups operating out of the Georgia Tech incubator, ATDC. For the past two years, Saba has presented on online marketing and politics to the incoming fellows of the Atlanta chapter of the New Leaders Council.

4 replies
  1. Dave Gorak says:

    This is not about immigrants but about illegal aliens who have deliberately broken our immigration laws and now arrogantly demand respect and dignity.  In many cases, they have stolen the IDs of hard-working Americans to steal jobs that rightfully belong to the 20 million Americans who can’t find full-time employment.  This nation’s only moral obligation is to its own people first and foremost and not to those who disrespect our sovereignty and the rule of law.
    Dave Gorak
    Executive director
    Midwest Coalition to Reduce ImmigrationReport

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  2. moliere says:

    @Saba: 
    Listen, as a black man and a person who proudly resides in urban America, I despise racism. But I support the rule of law, as I have seen what rejecting the rule of law has done to the very predominantly black neighborhoods that I have lived in for almost my entire life (save a few years where I did seek refuge in the suburbs). I do support more legal immigration, but we cannot look the other way and ignore illegal immigration. If we do, then please tell me what other laws that you wish to go enforced. Laws against murder? Rape? Or how about the civil rights act of 1964? Should we have “sanctuary cities” for businesses that do not want to hire, contract with or serve blacks? I say that we should ignore illegal immigration laws only when and if laws that are important to illegal immigration supporters (civil rights laws, feminist laws, environmentalist laws, laws against Christian prayer in public school) can get flouted too. Is that a good bargain for you? Somehow, I don’t think that you will take it.
    The “selective law enforcement” position of the progressive movement is going to be the progressive movement’s downfall, because it will lead to the downfall of this country. And when this country goes, what will all the progressive activists and organizations do? Exactly. No America means no NAACP, no MALDEF, no La Raza, no NOW … get the picture?Report

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  3. Dave Gorak says:

    moliere Black Americans especially should be furious with their own leaders for making the very people they say they care about the second largest minority in this country, thanks to their silence on immigration.  The NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, et. al., have looked the other way while immigration has pushed Blacks back to the back of the political, economic and social bus.  How can anyone defend allowing 7 million illegals to keep their jobs in construction, manufacturing, transportation and services while 20 million Americans are unable to find full-time work?  The unemployment rate among Blacks is over 13 percent; Hispanic-Americans are right behind them.  No, we don’t need more legal immigrants, most of whom would have few skills and little education.  Why would you support allowing even more foreigners to compete in a dismal job market when millions of your fellow citizens of all races are going to bed at night wondering how they will be able to support their families?  If the Senate amnesty bill were to become law, the Congressional Budget Office says unemployment would remain high and wages further depressed for at least the first 10 years.  How would Blacks – and the rest of American workers – benefit from such stupidity that in reality is designed for just two purposes:  A continuing supply of cheap labor for the immoral business community and more votes for the Democratic Party.  (P.S.  I’m an independent voter)Report

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