Opinion: Facts Not Fabrications About Immigration
Right now the public is besieged with a gamut of anti-immigration errors, myths, distortions, and fabrications.
Our system of self-government is obviously in a very serious crisis. Political gridlock has created a Congress that has brought about a government that seems incapable of addressing the problems that affect our nation, one of which is a comprehensive reform of our immigration laws.
Good-faith bipartisan efforts to pass needed legislation have been blocked repeatedly, a casualty of the great partisan divide, despite the public's demands and expectations for change. It's quite obvious that the public must be better informed in order to vote intelligently and provide the momentum to bridge partisan politics and get real things done in the political arena.
Right now the public is besieged with a gamut of anti-immigration errors, myths, distortions, and fabrications. To counteract this, Walter Ewing, Ph.D., a senior researcher at the American Immigration Council wrote some facts and his opinions (slightly modified by this writer) which the public needs to reflect on.
The Executive Action Taken by President Obama to Reform Immigration Law Is Legal
Despite the fact that a judge in the federal district court in Brownsville, Texas recently issued an order for a temporary injunction prohibiting the Administration from implementing the executive orders issued by President Obama, it will be reversed eventually. Many legal scholars believe the President did not exceed his constitutional authority by taking this action.
Executive Action is Nothing New
On Nov. 21, 2014, President Obama announced his "immigration accountability executive action." This action expands the reach of the temporary relief from deportation ("deferred action") already granted to some young people brought to the United States as children, as well as creates a new deferred action program for the unauthorized parents of U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs).
While this executive action is admittedly large in scope, it is hardly unprecedented. In fact, since 1956, every U.S. president has granted temporary immigration relief to one or more groups in need of assistance. Moreover, the president's executive action is far from being an unconstitutional power grab. Executive action offers only temporary reprieves — not new rules for becoming an LPR or U.S. citizen. And executive action is rooted in the longstanding principle of prosecutorial discretion by which law-enforcement officials decide who should be prosecuted and who should not, as well as how to use finite law-enforcement resources.
Immigration Enforcement Has Been on the Rise During the Obama Years
Contrary to much hype about immigration enforcement being "dismantled" during the Obama presidency, the fact is that roughly two million immigrants have been "removed" from the United States during President Obama's terms in office — more than any other president has ever deported. Most deportees committed minor, non-violent crimes or have no criminal histories at all. And most are now deported via "summary removals" in which deportees don't even have the right to appear before a judge.
Immigration Fuels the U.S. Economy
Employment is not a "zero sum" game in which workers compete for some fixed number of jobs. Immigrant workers spend their wages in U.S. businesses — buying food, clothes, appliances, cars, etc. Businesses respond to the presence of these new workers and consumers by investing in new restaurants, stores, and production facilities. And immigrants themselves are 30 percent more likely than the native-born to start their own business.
The end result is more jobs for more workers. The economic contributions of unauthorized immigrants in particular would be amplified were they given a way to earn legal status. A new legalization program for unauthorized immigrants would enable them to earn higher wages and would therefore generate tens of billions of dollars in added income, billions of dollars in additional tax revenue, and hundreds of thousands of new jobs for native-born and immigrant workers alike.
Most Immigrants Don't Receive Public Assistance
Unauthorized immigrants (and temporary immigrants) are generally ineligible for public assistance, while legally present residents must wait at least five years before they become eligible. Given these limitations, it is hardly surprising that non-citizens use public welfare programs at a lower rate than comparable low-income natives. Moreover, when immigrants do receive assistance, the average value of benefits per recipient is almost always lower compared to native-born citizens.
The U.S. Public Prefers Immigration Reform Over Mass Deportation
Polls indicate that a majority of the American public backs President Obama's executive action on immigration while opposing Republican efforts to block or overturn executive action. Most Americans also support immigration reform that includes the creation of a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants who are already here. In other words: Americans as a whole want to move forward; not backward.
High-Skilled Immigrants Add Value to the U.S. Economy
The U.S. economy has long been capable of absorbing more high-tech professionals than the U.S. educational system produces. That is one reason so many U.S. scientists and engineers are immigrants. Even more U.S. scientists and engineers would be immigrants if not for the arbitrary limits imposed by the U.S. immigration system, particularly the inadequate supply of green cards and H-1B temporary employment visas.
Given that scientists and engineers tend to create jobs through their innovative work, such limits are economically self-defeating. H-1B workers in particular do not harm native-born workers' job opportunities, are not poorly compensated, and are not "cheap foreign labor." In fact, their presence often leads to higher wages and more job opportunities.
Unfortunately, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the newly installed chairman of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, has a great antipathy towards immigrants and already has indicated his preference for rhetoric over substance, which makes it more crucial than ever that the rest of us rely on facts.
If you are interested in reading more about this, I suggest you contact the American Immigration Council at AmericanImmigrationCouncil.org.