By: Juliana Hinton, Communications Coordinator
Unless you live under a rock, it’s impossible to avoid the anti-immigration rhetoric spouted from the mouths of some of the most powerful people in U.S. government. Whether openly commenting on the subject in media or (the less talked about) home invasions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In recent years millions of innocent people have been forcibly detained by for-profit centers or deported. Anti-immigration is on the table, it is omnipresent. So, as anti-immigration is covered constantly on major media sources, we can ask; why is it so important? What have immigrants done to deserve hate speech, abuse, and hate crimes against them?
A go-to answer (and seems to be the only one) for those on the opposing side is; immigrants are taking U.S. jobs and not paying taxes, therefore, having a negative impact on the economy and society. But how often is concrete evidence offered for this explanation? Practically never. And on top of this first claim, powerful people have gone as far as to state that immigrants are along the lines ex-cons (even name-calling) of their originating countries. They’re escaping in a sense to seek freedom and wreak havoc wherever they go. This of course is a far, far, far cry from the truth about who these people really are. They’re fathers and mothers, they’re teachers, doctors, engineers, business owners, and children, fleeing violence or the decaying local economy of their homeland, a product of U.S. foreign relations and bad trade deals. At AFOP Health & Safety we work closely with the immigrant farmworker population, witnessing their struggle to survive in the agriculture industry. Hardworking and earning little, farmworkers are a microcosm of the immigrant communities across the U.S.
The facts: there’s more evidence for immigration having a positive impact rather than negative. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that, “Migrants accounted for 47% of the increase in the workforce in the United States and 70% in Europe over the past ten years”. A firm believer in anti-immigration might interpret that finding as a loss of jobs for U.S. citizens. But in reality, “Migrants fill important niches both in fast-growing and declining sectors of the economy”. In a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics these sectors are recognized, “In 2015, foreign-born workers were more likely than native-born workers to be employed in service occupations (23.4 percent versus 16.2 percent); production, transportation, and material moving occupations (15.4 percent versus 11.1 percent); and natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations (13.8 percent versus 8.3 percent)”. Immigrants don’t pay taxes, another stretch. The OECD also states that, “migrants contribute more in taxes and social contributions than they receive in benefits”. Not only are immigrants paying taxes but as a grandiose gesture of gratitude from the U.S. government, they are offered little to no benefits.
They even expand the economy; George Borjas, the nation’s leading immigration economist, estimates that the presence of immigrant workers (legal and illegal) in the labor market makes the U.S. economy (GDP) an estimated 11 percent larger ($1.6 trillion) each year. Finally, immigration influx is blamed for the lowering of wages in industries like factories and agriculture where, now, less U.S. citizens want to work. This is a valid surface concern. Instead, should we be questioning the system itself in which a company can only function to profit from low-earning workers? There seems to be a more deeply rooted dysfunction that continues to be ignored because it’s easier to point fingers at people that are “different”, for now. Where do you stand?
This Sunday 12/18 is International Migrants Day