We are a country of foreigners, and foreigners have played a vital role in the development and success of the United States of America. The social and economic contributions of these foreigners and their eventual settlement in the United States have been the driver for our extraordinary growth over the past 500 years. In order to maintain the status as being an unchallenged leader in a global economy and society, we must recognize the contributions of immigrants, strengthen immigration reforms by providing a means for illegal immigrants to become permanent residents, and ease our stringent anti-immigration policies. To turn our backs on immigrants and on those who wish to be Americans, as so many have been pushing for, we are turning our backs on our rich heritage and are severely limiting our economic, political and social competitiveness throughout the world. We need only to look to our past to see how critical immigration was to our nation’s strength, and know how it can impact our future.
“Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
- Emma Lazarus, 1883
These words are emblazoned in bronze at the base of America’s most iconic symbol: the Statue of Liberty. However, long before she was constructed to welcome immigrants to the United States, these lands were already welcoming people from other countries. This is where we find that our history is firmly entrenched in immigration.
The “great American melting pot” has created a unique culture in just a few generations, and it has also made America immune to cultural clashes that plague other countries. From the days of Christopher Columbus and the Pilgrims, the very first Americans were immigrants. With dreams of a new life, these people journeyed across the Atlantic to a foreign land to create a more free and prosperous life for themselves. Along with their hopes and dreams, however, they also brought with them their cultures, experiences, and technology. Their culture and ideas have eventually formed the basis for what it means to be American. This was the contribution from America’s first immigrants.
As the years and centuries passed, the culture and knowledge left by the first Americans began to evolve and adapt to a changing world. As more and more immigrants came to the United States, their culture and knowledge would be incorporated and merge with the predominant culture in the country. In 2012, centuries after Columbus first stepped foot on what would become American shores; approximately a million immigrants come to America each year. With each new immigrant, the idea of what it means to be American changes; the idea of what American is changes. It becomes better. This will eventually be termed the “great American melting pot,” and it is this idea –the idea of many becoming one - that has given our country such amazing strength and unity. We are united because we all share a diverse culture, and not just one culture that only involve a certain group of people, such as many of those in Europe. We all have contributed to the meaning of being “American.” In essence, we owe our sense of what it means to be a patriot – what it means to be American – to immigrants. This is how immigrants have contributed to our society in the past.
Immigration has not only made our country strong and united throughout our history, but it can also help lift us out of our current economic slump. It can still contribute substantially to our future. A study from the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) released a joint report, “Raising the Floor for American workers: The Economic Benefits of Comprehensive Immigration Reform”, shows that legalizing the approximately 12 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. would help “grow the economy by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.” Legalization of these immigrants would also help generate approximately $5.4 billion in additional tax revenue, and would also boost consumer spending, helping to create an additional 900,000 American jobs (Meth).
Immigration can also help our seniors. As the baby boomers retire, Social Security funds will begin to be drained as more people draw from it than people put it. A new study shows that immigration could be a real boon to the Social Security System, putting in “$611 billion in net benefits over 75 years” (Haniffa). Clearly, the economic impact of immigration reform and the legalization of the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States would be extensive.
These people – people who have lived in the shadows for so long - can finally come out. They can finally purchase healthcare, increasing the community insurance pot and lowering premiums for all Americans. They will also be able to earn a driver’s license, and subsequently purchase a car to boost the automotive industry. They would be required to pay taxes to help reduce the deficit. The cost of immigration enforcement would also decrease, saving our government billions of dollars a year.
There are many opponents to immigration reform and regulatory relaxation that believe that immigrants coming from other nations are “stealing our jobs” and generally forcing the existing population to menial and low paying jobs. This is simply not true. As Elias Feghali puts it, “it is unrealistic to think that unemployed GM workers from Smyrna, Tenn., can pack up their families, take a bus to Georgia and harvest crops as migrant farm workers” (Feghali). These people opposed to immigration demand that the federal government round up undocumented residents and deport them from this country in order to save the United States money and to prevent crime. This belief completely goes against good economics and logic. We must consider the following:
- The federal government is not realistically able to find and deport the estimated 12 million people who now live in the U.S. without proper documentation.
- It is estimated that the deportation of approximately 10 million illegal immigrants would cost “$206 billion over five years, or $41.2 billion annually” (Kelly, Martinez). These funds could be diverted to more worthwhile causes, such as improving American infrastructure or providing better education funding.
- Immigrants and native-born workers do not compete for the same jobs. Immigrants typically take jobs that are lower paying that native-born workers typically do not want. These two working groups actually complement each other, as each provides a necessary service to society and to the economy.
- Deportation of a group of people that spend money hurts the economy. As stated by Dr. Hinojosa, “a severe reduction in immigration could drain the U.S. economy of $2.5 trillion in GDP over 10 years, even before factoring the costs for deportation of 12 million people” (Feghali).
- Cutting immigration leads to a decrease in the work force as a majority of the population is aging and/or is retiring (Kaye, Danilov). Without immigration, the United States population will not grow at fast enough paces, to replace those who are retiring, thus furthering the deficit, reducing the Social Security fund and creating a worker shortage.
It is clear that having anti-immigration policies and enforcement only policies (i.e. deportation of all illegal immigrants) is severely flawed. These policies not only cost the federal government billions of dollars in immediate revenues, but also would cost additional money over time and hurt the economy due to decreased spending and wealth generation. Having a healthy immigration rate and helping those already here – those who have already proved themselves to be productive members of society – can only help the economy recover and increase government revenues.
Immigration has been an integral part of American history. The very people who founded this country were immigrants from Europe. People from all over the world followed them to contribute positively to the American economy and to American culture. From the Chinese who built the transcontinental railroads, to the Polish who founded New York City, immigrants have helped create the America that we know today. Immigrants can continue to influence our culture positively, bringing America into the 21st century international community and making the American economy stronger.
Immigrants come to the United States to seek for better education and higher wages. Both of these are also enabled by better working conditions. However, immigration policies do not guarantee these benefits to everyone within the borders of the U.S. The population size of undocumented immigrants in America is difficult to determine. They are believed to drive the economy through their labor and capital. The aim of this research paper is to discuss the development and success of the United States of America as contributed by immigrants.
Philippe Legrain stated, “The free movement of people is just as beneficial as the free movement of goods and capital.” Immigrants in the US are known to have played a very important role in building a remarkable economy through their dreams or foresight and sweat of their hard work. Then the United States should remember how its international trade and capital for a long time contributed to the building of America, and cease from using a lot of money and useful energy to keep immigrants from sensible remunerable labor.
Also, Lant Pritchet noted, “The rich countries of the world should actively look for ways to increase the mobility of unskilled labor across their national boundaries. They should do this primarily because it is the right thing to do, because of the enormous potential benefits to people who are allowed to move.’’
One of the greatest needs of the developed countries that are interested in keeping the status quo of economic stability, and consequently political influence, is to find better ways supporting the immigrants who are mainly from developing countries. There also need to be devised mechanisms of integrating them into their system. The population of America’s Latino immigrants, increases rapidly, and with it comes a great influence on the election results on the swing states. For instance, they overwhelmingly supported Obama leading to his winning the presidential seat. On the other hand, the increasing xenophobic outbursts in the Republican Party will force its strategists to spend more. Cultural stereotypes play a big role in the immigration policy. According to Edward Said, cultures are hybrid in nature, and interdependent in nature. Thus, the increase of Latino voices in America illuminates the nation’s identity which is a mixture of the United States and the Latin America.
There is growing prevalence of the entrepreneurs who mainly belong to the immigrant class in the United States, and their importance for the economy of this super power country is quickly becoming greater each day. Americans have in the last fifteen years become less interested to establish businesses and, as a result, the immigrants have taken advantage of that to run small businesses. One immigrant in every four native–born U.S businesses was opened by the immigrants which is inversely proportional to their population in 2011. Despite the businesses of the immigrants being small compared to those of the native-born Americans, the collective impact of the small businesses on the economy of the United States is enormous (Moses).
Immigrants in America seek jobs from which they earn wages, pay their taxes and also utilize public services just like the native citizens. Combined together legal and illegal immigrants increase the U.S. domestic product by between $1 billion dollars and $10 billion dollars annually. This could be substantiating the fact that the wages of the U.S. are held down by the immigrants so that the efficiency of the economy is increased by these wages and prices. Indeed, most of the benefits that arise due to immigrants’ contribution go back to the immigrants, the owners of capital and also to the highly educated residents of the U.S. (Farkas, Duffett, and Johnson).
The U.S labor markets are also affected by the immigrants. Although there is an increase of the immigrants’ output, the supply of labor they add, the immediate market’s wages are greatly influenced. As a result, the completion for jobs between the native-born and the immigrants causes the earnings and employment of the native-born workers to reduce. Some politicians believe that national resources are drained by the undocumented immigrants. However, the cost-benefit analysis proves that there are both documented and undocumented benefits for communities in the United States arising from the immigrants. It is believed that the running of the country is accredited to them due to their role in picking crops, do the sick and elderly care and also build houses (Martin, Midgley).
Differentiation of the immigration policy is done both by the immigrant type that is affected and also by the immigrant management instruments. There is, for instance, the public finance view on immigration that raises a lot of debate, but not all policies concerning immigrants causes hot debates. This public finance perceives that, the same individuals with high skills will have a compulsion to pay for the low- skill immigrants who are said to use more intensely the social services than the wealthy citizens. This then calls for moderation of effects of immigration on labor markets which concern policy preferences.
Immigration is responsible for the swelling of the labor pool since it adds workers leading to overwhelming support of immigration by those who benefit from it. However, supporters of open markets may be turned into opponents because of the immigration tax cost. This will happen if the paying of redistribution benefits is forced on them (Milner, Tingley 5-9).
Amnesty on immigrants affects the outcomes of the labor market for both older immigrants and the native-born especially when they become legalized and move to high skilled occupations. As a result, there will be hiking of prices by firms due to increase in labor costs, and consequently the consumers are hurt. The employer sanctions require lower labor demand act as ways of taxing of unauthorized workers (Orrenius, Savodny 85-89). There had been an extreme controversy on the restrictions of the restrictions of immigrants since 1996 when the welfare law was passed. There is an effort made each Congressional session restore benefits for settled immigrants just as the natives. The federal government has since 2001 challenged the states to increase verification standards, which are still under debate and it is also faced with immigration local police enforcement. This exercise is a big financial burden for states (Bhuyan 63-85).
The demographic growth, for instance in Canada, has heavily associated with immigration especially, since 1997. There have been reforms introduced by the federal government on immigration policy. This seemingly new philosophy on immigration saw immigration not only as an economic stimulus but also as a demographic replacement necessity (Hiebert 40).
Immigration has played an important role in boosting economic development in the U.S. economy especially through small scale businesses which are shunned by the native-born citizens. It has also had a serious influence on the political culture such as on the elections where certain immigrants give overwhelming support for certain presidential candidates. The immigration policy is still under controversial debate, but the general opinion is that all immigrants must undergo an identification process.