Thursday, July 9, 2015

6 Reasons Why US Presidential Candidates Should Discuss Immigration Reform


Clockwise: US presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump (photos from CNN.com)


She writes… 

When Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy last month, his speech was peppered with politically insensitive phrases about Mexican immigrants in the United States.

The businessman said that Mexico sent "people that have lots of problems" that bring drugs, crime and rapists to the US. As offensive as his slew of words were that resulted in the cancellation of his role on The Apprentice and the discontinuation of his fashion line at Macy’s, recent polls in states like North Carolina show that despite his opinions, which some have denounced as mere fear-mongering, he is the top choice of Republican voters.


Except for yesterday’s call from Republican National Committee Reince Priebus asking Trump to dial down his comments, his party has been mum about his direct assault against immigrants.

Like a persistent suitor, every candidate in the US presidential elections woos every American by saying what he or she believes the public wants to hear, such as promises of economic stability leading to the creation of jobs, robust health care programs, and exemplary foreign relations that stimulate long-term trade policies.

At his campaign launch in March, another Republican candidate Ted Cruz started his speech with his parents' immigrant stories and mentioned a "legal immigration system that welcomes and celebrates those who come to achieve the American dream."

Republican Jeb Bush did not plan on tackling immigration and had to make a statement about it when advocates staged a protest while he was announcing his presidential run.  Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said the path to citizenship should be offered to "hard-working, law-abiding immigrant families." 

While some have policies about immigration and some still need to clearly define what they plan to do with it once they are voted into office, the discussion of issues surrounding a broken immigration system persist. Here are the top six reasons why every US presidential candidate should make a stand: 

1. The US is the top immigration destination in the world

Based on 2013 data from the Migration Policy Institute, the United States is the number one destination of immigrants in the world. About 14 percent of the country's more than 300 million population is classified as immigrants, but its history will also tell you that it is a nation built by immigrants starting with the arrival of the Mayflower pilgrims from England in the 17th century.  As the interactive and colorful infographic by Professor Natalia Bronshtein will also illustrate, Europeans from countries like Ireland and Germany came at the turn of the 19th century. The early 1900s would usher in immigrants from Latin America and for the past two decades, Asian immigrants have been on the rise.  

2. At present, there are more than 11 million undocumented immigrants

The Center for American Progress estimates the undocumented immigrant population of the US at 11.3 million as of 2013. The majority of this undocumented population has lived here for more than 10 years, built their lives in the country and are raising their families here. In fact, almost 4 million of them are parents to children who were born in the US. As seen on a CNN report, the government has been resorting to the deportation of illegal immigrant parents, which has resulted in the separation of families. 

Presidential candidates should provide a better alternative to the separation of family members. The family structure is the nucleus of a healthy society. Moreover, regardless of their statuses, undocumented immigrants still contribute to the fiscal strength of their respective states because they pay taxes (they still have to pay sales and property taxes whether or not they are citizens). 

Chart uses data from Department of Homeland Security's tally of persons obtaining legal permanent residence status in the US based on last country of residence from 1820 to 2013. The undocumented immigrant population of 11.3 million is higher than Mexico's more than 8.1 million immigrants, the top nationality immigrating to the US.
 
3. The country stands to gain financially from immigration reform

The unfortunate news release came out last May of the Federal court's denial of the implementation of immigration reform that would have fixed the country's broken immigration system

Unfortunately, widespread myths and misconceptions about immigration reform presently overshadow the economic growth that could be gained from it. The US is still recovering from the economic slump brought about by the recent recession, and the approval of immigration reform can prove to be propitious. As per White House estimates, economic output is to increase from 0.4 to 0.9 percent over 10 years and the gross domestic product from $90 billion to $210 billion in 2024. 

Although some economists do not see growth in leaps and bounds, the best part is that there will be a slight increase compared to the economic stagnation that the country has encountered in recent years. In the words of economic professor Giovanni Peri in his BBC interview, "not very much might be enough." 

4. Immigration revives community businesses 

Earlier this year, the Fiscal Policy Institute released the study Bringing Vitality to Main Street How Immigrant Small Businesses Help Local Economies Grow that indicated a strong correlation between the presence of immigrants and the restoration and sustainability of entrepreneurship.

Two years prior, the Partnership for a New American Economy published Immigration and the Revival of American Cities: From Preserving Manufacturing Jobs to Strengthening the Housing Market and some of its key findings include the immigrants' role in the creation and preservation of manufacturing jobs, increase of housing wealth and "making once-declining areas more attractive to the US-born population."   

5. Immigration-related detention issues need to be resolved

Suicides and attempted suicides are not unheard of in immigration detention centers and prisoners take their own lives for reasons such as inhumane treatment and avoiding deportation because going back to their home countries means facing the abuse and other violations that they fled from in the first place. In addition to this, American tax payers are paying more than $300 for each day a family- children included- spends in detention and it is neither the government nor the citizens who gain from it but private prison companies. 

6. Even the majority of Americans agree 

If the reasons stated above are not enough for presidential candidates to take a closer look at immigration reform, even the Pew Research Center survey released in early June indicate that 72 percent of Americans feel that undocumented immigrants should have a way to stay. Twenty-seven percent however said they should not be allowed to stay, with only 2 percent undecided. 

Immigration reform is one of the most pressing political topics to date, and the candidates’ stances on the issue are sure to sway voters.  Since a segment of the voting public seem to favor Trump for his opinions, there is more reason to address this now before America regresses into the country that it was before, when it lawfully discriminated against immigrants based on their ethnicity. #

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