I know it sounds cliche, but it’s true. We are a nation of immigrants. From the time of our founding, this country has been a place of refuge for people fleeing from persecution. Some of the founders of our Republic, most notably, Alexander Hamilton were from other countries. Our shores have been open to anyone fleeing persecution or seeking a better life in a place of seemingly endless opportunity.
Many of our ancestors made it to Ellis Island with nothing more than the clothes on their and were accepted into the country. They went on to build our cities, bridges, and roads. Their children have made America what it is and to say otherwise is to speak nonsense. Yes, we are a nation of immigrants.
Unfortunately, we have not always been welcoming. In the 1880s, Congress passed a law banning all Chinese immigrants from immigrating to the country. In 1921 they passed quota laws. These laws put limits on immigration. The laws favored European immigrants over others and set strict quotas on the rest. These laws were on the book until 1965 when Congress passed the Immigration and Naturalization Act that did away with quotas and allowed families to sponsor relatives from their countries of origin. Immigration was made simpler and because of that, countries that had once been strictly limited in their immigration such as Latin America and Asia now had the same right to immigrate as anyone else.
Our country has gone through cycles of liberality and restriction and now it seems we have gone back to restrictive immigration policies that welcome some and exclude others. People with brown skin are being told they are not welcome here. This is unamerican and goes against the founding principle of equality that is the basis of our entire system of government.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the current administration ending the DACA program. The “Dreamers” were brought here by their parents. They did not choose to come here. How could they choose when the average age was six? But they are here. This is the only country they’ve ever known. Some were too young to remember their country of origin while others have never made trips back. Some don’t even the speak the language of the country they come from.
They have businesses, own homes, serve in the military and teach our children. They have no criminal records because if they did, they wouldn’t be allowed either to enroll or renew their status. There are 800,000 people living here under DACA status and it is a travesty that they should have to live with the uncertainty they currently face. This program should be put into statute and if I am elected I will fight to see that it is. They should not only be allowed to stay, but they should also have a path to citizenship.
But fixing this one program barely puts a dent into fixing our immigration system. We need comprehensive immigration reform. We need to enable those folks that are here undocumented to have a way to change their status and receive a path to citizenship.
We also need to streamline the process of getting legal status. With today’s technology, it shouldn’t take years to do satisfactory vetting. We should use the same criteria for all who wish to enter and not single out persons based on their religion or their country of origin. We need to make the financial expense to immigrate less cumbersome. It takes up to $15,000 to ultimately attain legal status in this country thereby excluding the majority of people fleeing war, genocide and economic hardship in their countries of origin.
I believe that we should have adequate border security and a rigorous vetting process. But I also think Trump’s wall is both unnecessary and blatantly racist and I will oppose any attempts to fund a wall on our Southern Borders. We need security, but we also need to be fair.
Many of those coming from Mexico and Latin America are here as agricultural workers. They staff hotels, kitchens, and do many jobs Americans are unwilling to do. There should be a robust worker visa program that takes into account the economic impact of racial profiling folks coming from Mexico and Latin America. Without these workers, our economy will grind to a halt. It is a myth that they are taking jobs away from Americans.
A comprehensive study completed by Francine D. Blau shows that the overall impact of immigrants on the economy is positive. While the study does show first generation immigrants tend to require more in the way of assistant while they look for work, by the third generation they are here, they contribute around $223,000,000,000 to the overall economy. Laborers do the jobs Americans won’t and skilled workers contribute expertise and innovation which create jobs. There is no question, our economy would collapse without immigrants.
The same can be said for refugees. A study by Health and Human Services found that over ten years, refugees contributed $63,000,000,000 to the economy. Also, there have been no known terror attacks committed by refugees in this country in recent memory. No vetting system is perfect, but ours has been pretty stellar in its results regarding refugees.
We are a nation of laws. That is true. But we are also a nation of compassion. We have seen this in recent weeks as Americans have responded to the recent hurricanes. We understand what it means to help our neighbors. Do we want the world to see us as a fortress or as a beacon of freedom? I would prefer the latter. Wouldn’t you?