Benefits of Immigration
With all the Republican candidates for president and conservatives in the House pushing for limits on immigration and most wanting the return of undocumented immigrants to their countries of origin, thought should be given to the benefits these new arrivals bring. They provide value not only for America, but for European nations, Australia, Canada and Japan. Whether the immigrants are trying to escape political turmoil, war, famine, and death, religious or ethnic persecution, or to find economic opportunities that were unavailable to them, makes no difference. They have traveled hundreds to thousands of miles and endured hardships and dangers to reach their destinations and start new lives. Their will and perseverance is indicative of the kind of citizens they can be.
The nations which immigrants have chosen as their destinations all happen to have aging populations and the new arrivals for the most part are young and vigorous. This means that their labor will provide boosts to the nations’ economies, and their taxes and fees will support Social Security and the safety nets for the older people who are about to retire or have already done so.
The immigrants have left poor countries and come to wealthier ones where they will have the opportunities to earn a living and support themselves and their families. Overwhelmingly, they are not looking for handouts but for work, and are willing for the most part to take jobs that many native-born citizens would not consider. In the United States and other developed countries, the immigrants toil in agriculture, hospitality, and fast food restaurants, as maids, landscapers, gardeners, and dishwashers, as nurses’ aides and home health aides attending to sick or elderly people, and also enlist in the military. They provide services and generate products that would otherwise be lacking as they grow the economies of these nations. And not only do their new homelands enjoy the fruits of their labor, but these immigrants also help the economies as consumers, buying goods that would otherwise not be bought.
With economic expansion from their efforts, they are also increasing the tax base and providing revenue to all levels of government. As they consume goods, they contribute to local and state sales taxes that would otherwise not be paid. When they drive, they yield additional gasoline taxes to repair the roads and infrastructure of the nations where they reside.
Immigrants also inject new blood and new ideas, and a willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed. A number of foreign students also come to be educated and most of them want to stay in America or their other new homelands afterwards. Unfortunately, America only allows a limited number of these students to remain. Some of them in the STEM fields may receive H-1B visas which gives them permission to work for a company for three to six years. But permanent status may be more difficult. This is foolish policy as America is educating and training highly specialized workers in vital fields and then returning them to their countries of origin, wasting valuable brain power. Not only do many of them function in critical fields, but a number of them patent new processes or as entrepreneurs form new companies that will employ American workers. U.S. laws are responsible for a brain drain of educated workers who would like to stay here, but cannot receive permission.
For the most part, European nations and Japan have had homogeneous populations and cultures and it has been hard for some of them to accept new immigrants despite the aging of their workers and the rest of the populace, ignoring what it portends for their economies. But America has always been a nation of immigrants and its greatness was built on cultural diversity and new ideas. Because of the cost and the waste of resources it would entail, it is foolish to even consider deporting 12 million undocumented immigrants. Ways must be found to provide them with legal status and then a path to citizenship after an extended period of time, with payment of fees, ability to speak English, and an understanding of our history and laws. For foreign students and those on H-1B visas, a more rapid attainment of permanent status and a path to citizenship must be legislated.
America’s demographic make-up is changing and the transformation is inevitable. Opponents of immigration reform may have their fingers in the dike for the moment, but the tide will overwhelm them at some point. All countries and their citizens should recognize the benefits of immigration and welcome the new residents who are going to help their economies and make their nations stronger and more resilient.
Image by Shutterstock