Jan 29 2013
With President Obama ready to unveil parts of his immigration reform measures this week, he is likely to call for increased visas for graduates with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or math. Obama advocated immigration reform in his inauguration speech, during which he said: “Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.”
Yet Obama must also cease the deportation of laborers in low-wage sectors, who he has deported in record numbers. Not only is it wrong for us to tear apart families and deport these undocumented workers, it also threatens our fragile economy as these workers are the economic backbone of our nation. Instead of deportation, all undocumented workers deserve a feasible path towards obtaining legal status.
Most economists agree that their cheap labor results in a net benefit to the U.S. economy. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told the U.S. Senate in 2009 that undocumented immigrants have “made a significant contribution to the growth of our economy.” The Southern Poverty Law Center reports, “In addition to their labor, each year undocumented immigrants contribute as much as $1.5 billion to the Medicare system and $7 billion to the Social Security system, even though they will never be able to collect retirement benefits.”
Undocumented workers earn some of the lowest wages in our country. Moreover, the corporations employing them profit by not having to pay undocumented workers health and sometimes from paying them below minimum wage. Undocumented workers are the staples of our agricultural, restaurant, landscaping, hospitality, and housekeeping industries. Yet they remain social pariahs for a significant number of political candidates and voters.
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