President Obama’s recent executive action granting shelter to upwards of five million illegal immigrants has caused a public uproar. The outrage in the Republican Party is so intense Sen. Ted Cruz from Texas suggested that Republican politicians should withhold confirmation of any of the president’s nominations until the amnesty is reversed. Yet, in the midst of questions regarding the constitutionality of the action, too little attention has been given to those at the heart of the controversy: the immigrants.The president’s action specifically aims to offer temporary amnesty to undocumented immigrants who have children born in the United States.
This appears to be a positive proposal. The descendants of immigrants compose the majority of the American population. The only people who can truly claim the title of native are Native Americans, who represent less than one percent of the current U.S. population.
We are a country of immigrants, plain and simple. To reject a new generation of immigrants would be an appalling social irony. Nevertheless, the recent ailing economy has isolated immigrants as easy targets for opportunistic politicians. The age-old doctrine of nativism has made a sweeping return to U.S. politics. Generally, modern American nativists argue that immigrants have no right to be here largely because they entered illegally. And while it is true that immigration would ideally be legal, completely disregarding the necessity of illegal immigration shows an ignorance of history. After all, throughout American history immigrants were able to move quite freely, with general amnesties being common.
Another common argument is that immigrants damage the economy, drain the government and steal jobs from American workers. These claims are largely unfounded, as economic research has shown time and time again.
In fact, the Cato Institute found that the average immigrant gives $80,000 more to the government in taxes than they receive in services.
Also, according to the Kauffman Foundation’s index for entrepreneurial activity, immigrants are 40 percent more likely to become entrepreneurs than natives. Finally, the jobs that many immigrants, both legal and illegal, receive, are low paying and abundant.The history and economics of the situation should not necessarily be the determining factors in American policy towards immigrants.
Perhaps more than anything, we should consider the topic as a moral issue.
Immigrants are simply people, no different than anyone else, trying to make their living in tough economic times. They often come from situations much worse than those the majority of Americans face, and should be treated with respect and fairness. The American dream, the essence of what America is and was, continues to be best embodied by those who sacrifice to come to America. Our history has, is and will continue to be shaped by immigrants.
This article was published in print on Dec. 3. Due to technical difficulties, it was published online on Dec. 5.
Thomas Birk is a freshman with an undeclared major.