Thursday, April 14, 2016

Should America remain an immigrant friendly society?

"Give me tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door". These are the famous words written by Emma Lazarus, a famous poet in 1883, and engraved on the Statue of Liberty. When immigrants first came to America they saw the Statue of Liberty, a mighty woman with a motherly smile. It creates an emotional mood. The statue and the poem encourages immigrants to come to the new world and makes it clear that she welcomes everyone with open arms. The torch symbolizes the beacon hand that "glows a world-wide welcome".

Now there is a debate brewing in America about their immigration policy. Immigrants, who have lived in the States for many decades, having a job, paying their share of taxes, and having their children being born here. But because, they have been in the states illegally, many politicians in the house and senate want to deport them. The president, Barack Obama wants to make these immigrants, citizens of the United States. There are eleven million immigrants who are now in limbo, roughly the size of the province of Quebec.

I believe America should make these loyal  immigrants citizens of the country. The Statue of Liberty has given us a reminder that America is a nation of immigrants. The lamp and the golden door means the opposite of barbed wire, a border fence, and a wall against bigotry, racism, and hatred. Liberty is the opposite of tyranny. If America ever closes its gates in the name of safety and becomes a police state, then we should remove the statue from the harbor and place it in a museum. Tony Blair once said, "To measure the greatness of a country is simply to look at how many want in... And how many want out. Immigrants have made America, the vibrant, creative, economically robust, and the most freedom loving nation in the world.

Franklin Roosevelt said "Remember, remember always, that all of us, you and I especially, are descended from immigrants". America was a country built on immigration. People came to America with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and they built financial empires, like John Rockefeller, whose companies provided the backbone of American infrastructure. He built railways and oil refineries. Andrew Carnegie, he literally built America in the 19th century during the industrial revolution by supplying steel and other raw materials. J.P. Morgan provided financing for many of the inventions, like electricity. Immigrants, through their hard work and creativity have made America the most technologically advanced country in the world.  

Much of the debate going on is founded on mythology. One of the greatest myths has been that immigrants take jobs away from American workers. Although immigrants make up about twelve percent of the population, they make up fifteen percent of the workforce. This is because the population is aging. Immigrants and their children have accounted for about sixty percent of the population growth since 1980. This is because Americans are having fewer children. As America begins to retire in record numbers and start drawing government pensions, younger immigrant workers will be paying the taxes to support this. Immigrants tend to be in either high or low skilled jobs. They tend to complement rather than compete with jobs held by Americans. Immigrants, who fill the low paying jobs, typically hold jobs that Americans no longer want. Examples are taxi drivers, gas station attendants, and security guards. American born citizen are more likely to hold jobs in management, professional (jobs as in doctors, lawyers, etc) and sales. Immigrant workers are often exploited by their employers. They tend to pay immigrants less, not provide them with benefits, and ignore safety laws. Also on an economic level, Americans benefits from lower prices of food, clothing, and other goods produced by immigrant labor. Immigrants also stimulate the growth of the economy, by creating new consumers. As a result wages for the vast majority of Americans are higher than they would be without immigrants.

Another myth is that immigrants are a drain on society, they tend to be lazy and live off social assistance. Immigrants living in poverty depend less on social assistance and more on family support than impoverished Americans. Only eight percent of immigrant families living in poverty were collecting social assistance, compared to thirty-three percent of American born low income families. This is because immigrants take whatever jobs are available. When my uncle first immigrated to America, he delivered the NY Times early in the morning, he then worked as a courier during the day, and delivered pizzas at night. On the weekend, he worked as concierge at a condominium, working twelve hour shifts. He did this for three years and then started his own messenger business. Some of his clients include General Electric, NY City Pension Fund, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and NY Post.

An additional myth is that immigrants are not integrating into American life. As George W. Bush once said "The truth is; immigrants tend to be more American than people born here." Integration usually takes a generation. Learning English is the key driver to success of immigrants and children is the other. Today immigrants seek English instruction classes in record numbers that the program cannot meet the demand. Also educating their children plays a critical role as this is the one reason why immigrants come to the U.S., to make a better life for their children. It is estimated that close to seventy-eight percent of immigrant children go on to post secondary education compared fifty-four percent of born Americans. As Malcolm X once said "Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today". With education many children of immigrants are now doctors, lawyers, engineers, entrepreneurs, successfully integrated to American society just like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

America should continue its immigration friendly policy as John F. Kennedy said "Our immigration policy should be generous, it should be fair, it should be flexible. With such a policy we can turn to the world and to our own past, with clean hands and a clear conscience". As "We are a nation of immigrants. We are children, and of great grandchildren of the ones who woke up at night hearing that voice, telling them that life in that place called America could be better". The issues surrounding illegal immigrants are wide-ranging and complex. Immigrants reflect the values of the citizens of America. It is a vitally important step that we implement immigration reform. We need a bill that strengthens the borders and protects this great nation, But also makes it simpler for good people to become Americans. Immigrants did not just come in the pursuit of the riches of this country but for the richness of this life. Freedom.


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