By Leah Smiley
Today President Obama announced that his administration will stop deporting younger immigrants. Undocumented immigrants who come to the United States under the age of 16 and have lived in the country for at least five years can apply for the Dream Act (often called DREAMers), to stay in the United States without fear of deportation, so long as they are under the age of 30. They also must be either an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or armed forces, or a student who has graduated from high school or obtained a GED. Immigrants will not be eligible if they “post a threat to national security or public safety,” including having been convicted of a felony, a “significant” misdemeanor or multiple misdemeanors.
This policy change is not only a win for the Latino community, which is the largest source of undocumented immigrants, but it is also a huge victory for all Americans. Here’s why:
- Immigrants Create Jobs
Immigrants can start businesses that will drive tax revenue and job creation for local residents. The U.S. Census Bureau and Minority Business Development Agency report that the number of Hispanic-owned firms increased by nearly 44 percent between 2002 and 2007 from 1.6 million businesses to 2.3 million. Employment at Hispanic-owned firms also grew by 26 percent from 1.5 million to 1.9 million workers, a growth rate significantly higher than that of non-minority-owned firms.
While folks are looking at the number of jobs leaving the country, why not look at the number of jobs coming into the U.S. through immigrant and Latino-owned businesses. This type of data builds the case for young, talented individuals to come into the U.S. and help us rebuild our economy and local communities.
- Immigrants Are a Vibrant Source of Migrant Workers
The United Nations defines a migrant worker broadly as “any people working outside of their home country”. Nations around the world, including the U.S., have used migrant workers to augment labor shortages in seasonal industries, such as agriculture; supply cheap labor to small and family-owned businesses; and stimulate local economic development.
When the Federal government cracks down on businesses that employ a percentage of illegal immigrants, guess what? American citizens lose their jobs too when these companies close. Again, Obama’s new policy will create opportunities for everyone—not just the immigrants, but also the businesses that employ these individuals, the company’s suppliers, and the American workers who support these entities.
- The U.S. Can Save Money on Enforcement
In every group, there are good and bad elements. I think we need to distinguish between the two when we discuss immigration. Not all immigrants are bad for the U.S. They are NOT all on food stamps, increasing healthcare and education costs, and committing crimes. There are many hard working immigrants, who are committed to creating a better life for themselves and their families. These individual’s dreams are in line with the vision that America’s founders had for this country.
Therefore, instead of spending thousands of dollars deporting low-risk immigrants who are contributing to employers, communities, and their families, the U.S. must focus on individuals that pose a threat to national security and those who have criminal intents. This is where enforcement dollars would create the most value.
- The U.S. Can Plan for the Future
Let’s face it—our population is not getting any younger. We have a crisis because Baby Boomers and Veterans have been living longer and in order to maintain their standard of living, they have been working longer too. These aging workers are competing with Millennials and Generation I for jobs. But guess what, sooner or later, the Baby Boomers and Veterans will leave the workforce—not maybe, not should, but WILL. And this will create a labor shortage like never before.
Additionally, as some Baby Boomers and Veterans retire for good, we will need legal workers who are contributing to the tax base to support social welfare, via Medicare and Social Security. It’s easy to say, “let’s get rid of these programs”, until you have a parent that retires and you have to support them, or you retire yourself. Likewise, healthcare is expensive and Medicare plays a vital role in helping seniors pay for age-related health issues. We need these programs, but we also need more taxpayer contributions.
Our focus on short-term employment challenges is nothing compared to the great, inevitable future that is in store for America. Let’s get behind the President and support a policy that has long-term potential impact and benefits for all Americans.