We all know the moral arguments for a fairer, less cruel immigration system. But while the merits of not putting immigrant children in cages should be obvious, they don’t seem to be as persuasive as they should for a certain segment of the population. To those who are unconvinced by the moral argument, I would offer up the economic argument for a better immigration system, coming from a business owner and employer of many native and non-native born Americans.
It is a fact that immigrants, legal and illegal, contribute more to our national coffers than they receive. Without their input, the hit to federal and state budgets would be catastrophic. In 2014 alone, immigrants contributed $105 billion in state and local taxes, and almost $224 billion in federal taxes. This is no small sum, as immigrants, who make up 13% of our country’s population, account for 15% of the U.S.’s economic output. They are also twice as likely to start new businesses than native-born Americans. Their “outsized role” in our economy is due to the fact that they are disproportionately likely to be working, according to the Economic Policy Institute. And yet, we regard chasers of the American dream as leeches, when this could not be farther from the truth.
The reality of the situation is this: when we fail immigrants, we fail our country’s future. It’s time we give credit where it’s due. African immigrants (the ones the President so infamously smeared) are, on average, more educated than people born in the U.S, with 16% having graduate degrees compared to just 11% of natural-born citizens. One-third of all venture-backed companies that went public between 2006-2012 were either founded or co-founded by an immigrant. David Kallick, of the Fiscal Policy Institute, has found a positive correlation between economic growth and immigration. “Where there’s economic growth, there’s immigration, and where there’s not much economic growth, there’s not much immigration,” said Kallick.
Due to this, attacks on immigrants, documented and undocumented, not only threaten our American values, but our way of life. We would not have the world’s largest economy without the contributions made every day by non-native born residents. As a business owner, I know this to be true. The wealth I have accumulated in this country was made possible by the hard work of all my employees, immigrants included. That’s why I pay them a living wage, and it’s why I stand with them when Trump and his fellow Republicans threaten immigrant parents with deportation and their children with imprisonment in cages.
Ultimately, we must decide what kind of future we want not only for our country, but for the world we live in. If a thriving economy is part of this vision, we must acknowledge just how vital immigrants are to achieving this. Any immigration reform considered by Congress, or unilaterally imposed by this administration, should reflect that.