A study, commissioned by the Americans for Immigration Reform Task Force (part of the Greater Houston Partnership), found that if 8.1 undocumented workers (otherwise knows as illegal immigrants) left overnight, the U.S. would lose $1.8 trillion in annual spending, according to today’s Houston Chronicle. While the task force has a vested interest in highlighting the detrimental effects of the absence of illegal immigrants, the study presents a merited discussion on the positive aspects of their inclusion in American society.
There has been much fear-mongering in the media over the ethics of allowing undocumented workers within our borders and workplaces. They’re taking jobs from American citizens! There are criminals among them! They don’t speak English and will marry our daughters! The lack of reasoning among those who cherry-pick statistics and facts and then use them as scare tactics for either political purposes or sensationalist media strategies is appalling.
While comprehensive immigration reform should undoubtedly be a priority of our legislative leaders, simply building a wall and kicking out “aliens” would not only NOT address our current problems, it would have a hugely negative impact on the farming, construction, restaurant, meatpacking and many other industries already under severe economic strain. Unfortunately, undocumented workers can be at a tremendous disadvantage in the workplace, receiving unfair wages and facing dangerous working conditions – a much more cogent motivation for reform than the “drain on our economy” argument used by the media crazies and right-wing politicians looking for that next leg up during election season.
The vast majority of our families were at one time undocumented and arrived in the U.S. without adhering to our strict immigration laws. Truth be told, the United States has a strong economy, capable of absorbing the millions of illegal immigrants – a large percentage of whom have been in here for years. Much of the media coverage and the shouting from the right wing is simply unfounded propaganda.
Anna Quindlen wrote in Newsweek last August that Mayor Bloomberg “testified before a Senate committee that they (undocumented workers) are the linchpin of his city’s economy.” She went on to write that new businesses are started by Latinos at a rate three times the national average.
Immigration reform cannot simply focus on kicking them out, having them pay a fine and then they can return. This is a very short-sighted non-solution that would do more harm than good. The path to becoming a citizen must be cheaper, shorter and less bureaucratic. Only then will immigrants opt for the legal route rather than the back alleys. This will also help separate the well-intentioned hard workers (that make up the vast majority of illegal immigrants) from the few bad eggs.
For any of us to claim that the U.S. and the possibilities available here are ours and ours alone is absurd. Numbers, studies and statistics are continually manipulated by all sides for ulterior motives, leaving us the individual duty of researching and judging for ourselves where the solutions lay. Talking heads are merely hurdles for the truth. Unreasonable fears implanted in today’s society prevent many from appreciating the enormous cultural and economic value undocumented workers present. For example, the contribution by these workers to Social Security annually is in the billions, yet they themselves will not benefit from these payments.
I live in Texas and think we should try to extend a helping hand rather than flout the ideals that once made our country great. Let’s be cool about this, people. Get of the ineffective Hate Train and stop yelling, “Off with their heads!” These tactics have been historical failures. Undocumented workers will not stop coming, wall or no. And if we offer a voice and protection and fairness in exchange for the meeting of reasonable, legal demands, only then will the situation benefit all parties involved.