A new year always brings the promise of resolutions, new changes, and hope for a brighter future. The year 2018 has ended, and America now finds itself in 2019. We are more than halfway through the current presidential administration, one year before the next presidential election in 2020. The country is still engaged in many volatile discussions on topics like border security, asylum, and immigration in general. Regardless of what side of the discourse you identify with, a majority of Americans feel that immigration reform, updating and improving our immigration system, is of utmost importance. Reform disagreement at the national level has even caused an ongoing partial government shutdown. While Congress and the President battle over funding for a border wall, the shutdown has furloughed many government employees without pay. The start of the New Year, amidst a government shutdown, is a perfect time to examine the fundamental truths about immigration in the U.S.
It is easy to read news regarding immigration and become lost in the rhetoric about walls, criminals, and more or less people coming over the southern border. The national conversation often loses sight of what immigration really means for America. People from all over the world come to the U.S. to live, work, start a family, and become citizens. The question should not be more or less immigration. It is not a question of quantity; it is becoming a question of ability. The question should be, are people able to bring themselves to this great nation? Stricter immigration policies restrict people’s ability to live with family, to acquire means to support themselves, to gain equal status as residents or citizens, or to enter the U.S. in the first place. More compassionate immigration reform alleviates the concerns and fears of families and children, allowing them to focus on their education, health, and productivity for our country’s prosperity.
Over the past few years, the current administration has adopted an inflammatory position towards immigration. The government shutdown, numerous executive orders, and new policies demonstrate an executive branch that is divorced from the reality of immigration in the U.S. The administration has attempted to reform immigration, but it has done so in a way that has caused significant harm to many people trying to find a life in America. The fiery diatribe coming from the oval office is contrary to the fundamental idea that immigration and diversity are beneficial to a representative democracy.
The current administration extols a narrative that immigration harms the American economy. However, immigration is beneficial to the U.S. economy in a number of ways. Immigrants pay state and federal taxes, highly skilled foreign workers find jobs in American businesses, and work authorizations allow families to provide for themselves and to support their community. The needs and capacity of the American economy are always growing. Restricting the flow of eager and ready workers does more harm than good.
Deportation and other serious consequences brought along by stricter policies also put U.S. Citizens at greater economic risk. Deporting family members can cause households to lose anywhere from 40 to 90 percent of their income. These forced removals can lead to lost wages, housing foreclosure, more reliance on government assistance by U.S. Citizens, or the unfortunate intrusion of agencies like Child Protective Services. According to census data, nearly 6 million U.S. Citizen children live with a family member who is undocumented. Immigration enforcement, and threat therein, also increases these children’s risk of developing mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and severe psychological distress.
Immigration is, and has always been, of great importance to America and its people. The conversation has become increasingly political and polarizing. At the national level, disagreement has caused the government to close its doors while it weighs the costs and benefits of increased border security. In the New Year, we should strive to understand immigration policy for what it truly is, and advocate for policies that are beneficial to all involved.
Immigration matters are complex and case-specific. If you, or anyone you know, have questions about immigrating to the U.S., and the processes therein, please contact a knowledgeable and experienced immigration attorney.
Sources and further reading:
2018 In Review