A different civil rights battle is taking center stage in America — a struggle for justice, equal rights and compassion for today’s Mayflower immigrants. Most Americans celebrate and acknowledge the historical importance of the immigrant pilgrims who founded this nation, and the critical role immigrants played in America’s nation-building, industrialization, and modernization up through the early 20th century. Even anti-immigrant pundits concede that welcoming immigrants reflects the key values on which America was founded and successfully established as a nation. But when it comes to the topic of America’s present day immigrants, the discussion dissolves into misinformed, misguided rhetoric, and a heated politicized issue that our do-nothing politicians refuse to address.
While there may be plenty of debatable issues in formulating an immigration policy, somethings are clear: immigrants and immigration are vital to America’s present growth and America’s promising future. Any policy that treats immigrants and immigration as a threat, uses immigration as a partisan issue, disseminates misinformation and myths to stir up fear, or creates an underclass of immigrants based on bigotry is not only unproductive, but is damaging to our conscience, to American families and communities, to our local, state and national economies, and to our country.
Almost everyone can agree that most American citizens today are either new immigrants or the descendants of immigrants — some in this generation, and some in previous generations. American immigration will always transcend politics — it reaches across all racial, religious, cultural, ethnic, political, social, and economic lines — and is one of the common denominators most Americans share. If we are to confront our very dysfunctional and cobbled-together immigration system, we must force our elected officials to stay focused on the objective, i.e. a workable, common sense overhaul to our immigration system which actually benefits everyone in America and still accomplishes our national security objectives. Anti-immigrant sentiments only hypocritically belie our own immigrant roots. While stirring up fear, ignorance and hate, misinformation hijacks informed and genuine discussions based on facts and figures. And politics creates inaction by politicians who are pro-immigration during one election cycle, but anti-immigration the next, forcing those impacted to interminably wait for elected officials to actually make up their minds and do something.
Fortunately, the benefits and importance of immigration to America’s present and future are not lost on the American people who are way ahead of the politicians on this issue. Two-thirds of Americans support just, humane and comprehensive immigration reform. We the people understand that comprehensive immigration reform makes national security sense, will reduce our nation’s deficit, boost national and local economies, increase job growth, strengthen families and communities, and give today’s immigrants the same rights and privileges afforded to our immigrant forebears. Why? … How?
Immigrants already make enormous economic contributions as taxpayers, workers, consumers, entrepreneurs, investors and innovators. It is in the interest of our homeland security to bring all 11 million+ undocumented immigrants already in the United States out of the shadows, identify who they are, provide them with identity documents, lawful status, and require they all become tax-paying law-abiding civilians, and eventually provide them a pathway to citizenship. It is humane to want to keep families together, intact, and not tear them apart; it is morally right for America to demonstrate its core values of fairness, equality and justice for today’s mayflower immigrants just as it did for our forebears. It is in the interest of our society to give immigrants the opportunity to lawfully support their families, raise their children in two-parent households or pay child support, take and pass a driving test, buy homes, buy automobiles, and fully participate in the communities they call home. Undocumented immigrants who already pay taxes could add $109 billion more in additional tax revenue over 10 years with immigration reform. It is not just fiscally responsible to create more tax revenue without raising taxes, it is in our economic interests to use this influx of new citizens to grow and revitalize our local, state and national economies. As of 2010, nearly one-fifth (18%) of all Fortune 500 companies had at least one founder who was an immigrant. In 2007 (the last year for which data is available), roughly 18% of all small business owners in the United States were immigrants who employed 4.7 million people and had $776 billion in receipts. How then is it not in America’s best interests to welcome new citizens, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or national origin?
It is time to stand up for a just and comprehensive solution for the estimated 11 million foreign-born nationals who are either living and working in the United States without documentation, are waiting for resident or work visas, or have the talents and skills to create the next big, bright innovative idea that could change the world. Our nation, American families, local businesses and communities need and support a humane and common sense immigration policy for these aspiring new Americans. I invite you to join the network of individuals who wish to influence the discussion, the debate and the vote for immigration reform.