Immigration vital to American economy

By Jillian Correira

Flickr/Victor L Antunez

On Monday, Jan. 28, a group of eight United States senators (four democrats and four republicans), introduced an outline for a complete overhaul of the current U.S. immigration system that would provide a comprehensive path to citizenship for most of the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in America.

While the framework is similar to past immigration reform plans that have been introduced and subsequently failed, President Barack Obama supported the current structure outlined in the plan in a speech last Tuesday at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, saying it was “very much in line with the principles I’ve proposed and campaigned on for the last few years.

Additionally, Obama said he would introduce his own immigration bill if Congress does not act on the issue soon. The statement, made last Monday, came hours after Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio and other members of the bipartisan immigration effort said they planned to have a bill for the Senate Judiciary Committee in March, with anticipation the measure would be passed over the summer.

Immigration has long been a controversial topic in the United States, whether discussion is focused on undocumented immigrants, legal immigrants or those who are in America on work or student visas.

And unfortunately, misinformation has led to a widespread, borderline prejudiced belief that immigration is a threat to the country’s conjectured purist foundation.

In fact, the opposite is true for a plurality of reasons that provide America with largely overlooked benefits.

While immigration is intrinsically embedded in American history, the nationalistic hive mind is to resent immigrants for taking jobs that would otherwise, assumedly, go to the 7.9 percent of unemployed Americans in the country who desperately need them.

The logic is flawed though: Immigrants who are supposedly taking jobs away from unemployed American citizens, are actually helping to grow our economy, creating more jobs and bringing new skills into the country.

Immigrants are over “30 percent more likely to create a small business in the U.S. compared to non-immigrants, and 18 percent of all small businesses are owned by immigrants,” according to the Small Business Administration. An impressive feat, considering immigrants make up just 13 percent of the population.

Not only do these immigrants successfully own small businesses, but they put millions of people in the U.S. to work. According to a June 2012 study done by the Fiscal Policy Institute, as of 2007, immigrant businesses have generated $776 billion in revenue, and employed 4.7 million people. That’s 4.7 million jobs created for people living in America because of immigration, not in spite of.

Additionally, granting legal status to the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States would add $1.5 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years. This gross domestic product (GDP) surge, caused by the upward pressure on wages of immigrant and American workers, would subsequently translate into overall increased consumer purchasing power, effectively pushing money back into the economy.

In relation, if Congress were to pass the DREAM Act which is legislation suggesting the creation of a road map to citizenship for those who migrated to the U.S. as children. The act would effectually add $329 billion to the American economy over a span of two decades.

Furthermore (as if you needed more convincing), if all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants were granted citizenship, the U.S. government would amass $4.5 billion to $5.4 billion in tax revenue over three short years.

If the staggering statistics mean nothing, it is also important to remember the families being separated by detainment and deportation.

According to the Applied Research Center, in a  2011 report titled “Shattered Families,” over 5,100 children whose parents are undocumented immigrants are in the U.S. foster care system; 5,100 children left behind because their parents have either been detained, or deported and unable to reunify.

Children should not be punished simply because their parents are illegal. But the trend will continue, if changes are not made by 2016, over 15,000 more children are going to end up in the foster care system.

For too long, politicians and American citizens alike have, at one point or another, been guilty of perceiving immigrants as an institution; a group characterized and ostracized by their foreign nationalities rather than accepted as individual human beings who see America as their chance at a better life.

To immigrants, America is still a land of opportunity, and it is, but those opportunities cannot solely be limited to American citizens who sometimes forget where their ancestors came from.

If the country turns its back on immigrants, it is effectively turning its back on the very liberties it was built to uphold.


Jillian Correira is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]