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?