What’s happening to our country? The Supreme Court just upheld President Trump’s travel ban. The Trump administration is determined to reduce all categories of immigration, including those seeking refuge and asylum from horrible conditions in their countries. Just this quarter, the administration has separated immigrant children from parents at the border, creating a massive outcry across our country. Uniquely a country of immigrants, starting with many considered criminals or outcasts in their own countries, –why are we now pulling up the ladder?
One major problem is that those who wish to further restrict legal and illegal immigration alike refuse to acknowledge the facts available to them. For years, researchers have analyzed the numbers and come to the conclusion that:
1) Immigrants, legal and illegal, have a very low impact on job opportunities for legal citizens, with many often taking “unpleasant, back-breaking jobs that native-born workers are not willing to do.”
2) Undocumented immigrants pay billions in taxes every year, despite not having access to many benefits of citizenry, including in-state tuition, federal student loans and grants, and Medicare. In essence, immigrants contribute more than they take.
3) Finally, immigration is the reason our country does not have an aging crisis. The influx of a young workforce will only benefit our country as our 65-and-over population almost doubles to 21% by 2050. In other words, immigrants increase our GDP growth rate—good for everyone!
One cannot help but wonder whether attention to donors and corporate interests has gotten out of hand. David Brooks writes that Conservatives have perhaps fallen prey to market fundamentalism, defined as “an inhumane philosophy that makes economic growth society’s prime value and leaves people atomized and unattached.” Proof of this is seen in private prison contracts.
While private prisons have always been a threat to our democracy and voting rights, they are flourishing now more than ever due to this administration’s pay-for-play tendencies. In August 2016, almost 75% of the average daily immigration detainee population were “held in facilities operated by private prison companies.” Just ten years ago, that number was less than half.
For contractors like CoreCivic and GEO Group, which combined account for greater than half of all private prison immigration and non-immigration contracts in the country, it makes financial sense to spend millions during election cycles on lobbying and campaign contributions. To them, it is just an investment. During fiscal year 2017, both corporations brought in more than $4 billion in revenue. With more profits to be reaped through “zero-tolerance” immigration policies, $350,000 towards Trump’s inauguration and over $250,000 towards individual Republican candidates from the GEO Group alone, probably seemed like a drop in the bucket. These one-sided donations make plain that enforcement of policies that separate families and gridlock our immigration system are not simply policy preferences, but ones created with campaign contributions in mind.
Unfortunately for native-born Americans and immigrants alike, this puts us on the wrong track. Our goal should be to streamline the legal immigration process, increase our quotas, and work on ways to place, integrate, and educate those who want to join our great workforce. Of course, we should weed out the criminals and enhance our security processes at the border. But as to the millions of undocumented migrants here already (and most certainly their children), if they are guilty of nothing more than a traffic citation or a misdemeanor, are working and paying taxes, let’s give them a path to citizenship.
This, and not open borders and zero border security at all, is what Democrats have been pushing for. Anything of the contrary is “fake news,” and until both sides can come together, acknowledge the facts, and treat immigrants with the respect due them as fellow humans, the magnificent statue in our eastern harbor will continue to hang its head in shame.