Monday, October 01, 2007
How Immigration Reform Will Help Everyone
by Donna Poisl
Everyone in this country will benefit if immigration reform is enacted and illegal immigrants are legalized. This even includes the people who insist they should all be deported. Almost every aspect of our lives will be affected positively.
We all agree that people should not be in this country illegally. We agree that we have to document the people entering and leaving our country. But the people who are against reform should consider that legalizing these people will benefit the whole country; the military, Social Security, our economy, education, even our national security.
The most immediate benefit would be to business. Our unemployment rate is below 4.5% -- and 10% of our work force is undocumented. With so few people out of work now, there would not be enough available workers to replace these people if they were suddenly deported. Our birthrate is low, our population is aging and the workforce is shrinking.
If farmers can't hire enough workers to plant or harvest, they would close, more of our food would be imported along with safety concerns and it would be more expensive. Hotels, motels, restaurants and landscape companies would close. Even with the slowdown in the construction industry, there wouldn't be enough workers left to build and repair houses. The factories that could outsource their work overseas would do that, rather than close, but many would have to close. This would lead to unemployment of the legal workers in those companies. Besides these work force problems, there would be a smaller tax base for those towns and the country.
A major benefit would be to Social Security. Fifty years ago, it took 20 workers to keep enough tax money flowing in to keep a retiree on Social Security. By 2030 there will only be two workers to cover each retiree. All the baby boomers will be in that group of retirees and more will be getting ready to retire. Add the fact that people are living much longer and it’s easy to see why we need more young workers now. We also need a steady supply of young workers coming into the system. The young immigrant workers who are already here may be the answer to the Social Security funding problems of the future.
Our military would benefit: there are almost 30,000 non citizens now on active duty in the U.S. military. The waiting period for citizenship for immigrants in the military has been decreased and active duty immigrants now can apply for citizenship in less time without having to return home before applying. Many immigrants place a high value on training and education available through the military. When citizenship requirements are eased, more immigrants will sign up, which will help enlistment numbers.
All immigrants realize they would have an easier time if they spoke and understood English, but since they are here illegally and could be deported at any moment, there is little incentive to learn. If the undocumented people were given legal status and one of the requirements for them to stay were to learn English, they would have a much better reason to study and learn.
Many benefits will occur if all legal residents are required to know our national language: the lines in the grocery store and bank move faster, neighbors can discuss problems, we'll have safer traffic when everyone can read the signs, women can report domestic violence, parents and teachers can discuss a child’s progress, problems can be discussed with a doctor and contracts and agreements will be understood.
The high school dropout rate for immigrant children is very high. They know that even if they do well in school, they won’t be able to attend college at a price they can afford. If they manage to get a college degree, they can’t get a good job because they are here illegally. The only jobs they can get are in hotels, restaurants, farms and others that are low wage. This defeats the purpose of their education and our country loses the benefits of these young people educated in our schools.
If undocumented people are offered legal status, they would have to register with the government, fill out an application, be finger printed and have a background check before receiving an I.D. card. People who fail these tests would be deported. We will all be safer when this happens and we could all rest easier knowing residents had been identified and investigated. And more drug smugglers would be caught when border guards don’t have to chase poor men, women and children trying to come in to work and live.
There are many reasons why we need immigration reform and why we all should be happy when we get it. Even the people who insist we should deport millions of people here now. Everyone will benefit when we get a comprehensive immigration reform package passed.