OPINIONS

The real cost of inaction on immigration

As time keeps passing, Congress remains at a standstill. Amidst the ever-increasing problems with the broken U.S. immigration system, the House of Representatives has yet to put the Senate’s immigration reform bill, S.744, on the floor for a vote. The House has essentially resigned the bill to a limbo for the past ten months, neither passing nor reforming the bill since the Senate passed it in 2013. Republican House Speaker John Boehner leads the Republican sentiment that the GOP will not accept a comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate – even though it has strong bipartisan support.

The House has been under heat for its extreme inefficiency and its refusal to put immigration reform on its calendar. Since June 27, 2013, there are over 1 million newly eligible immigrant voters, now part of the overwhelming majority of 75 percent of Americans who believe the nation’s immigration policy is in need of sweeping changes. This is bad news for the House Republicans who continue to block immigration reform. People are voicing their opinions, and yet they continue to be ignored on Capitol Hill.

The political costs of inaction could drastically impact the outcomes of the 2014 election. Economic costs, likewise, are already building up. Analysis has shown that the U.S. economy is falling behind every day that immigration reform is not passed. Under S.744, streamlined pathways to legal immigration would expand the economy and boost tax revenues. America’s GDP could increase up to $150 billion per year from increased earnings due to legalizing immigrants.

Additionally, a failure to pass any sort of immigration reform means that the U.S. would be losing the benefits that could come with a larger labor force, higher productivity and investment and the innovation and entrepreneurship of skilled immigrants. Under S.744, the visa cap would increase for H-1B workers with at least a bachelor’s degree who come to work temporarily in a specialty occupation. S.744 would also exempt foreign students who graduate with advanced degrees and job offers in a STEM field from numerical immigration limits.

Overall, these reforms would help streamline the process for highly-skilled and highly-educated workers to come to the U.S. Immigrants are driving entrepreneurship and job creation in America, contrary to claims that immigrants are stealing American jobs – which conflates immigration and outsourcing. In fact, a look at the numbers show that immigrants are more likely to open local businesses and create local jobs. Immigrants started 28 percent of all new U.S. businesses in 2011 and account for 24 percent of patents – twice their share of the population.

Not only does immigration boost American job creation, but it also increases the productivity of the American workforce. Economists show that immigration helps stimulate investment and promote specialization, resulting in higher U.S. GDP and higher wages for all workers in the country.

While economic concerns are at the forefront of debate over immigration and the statistics undoubtedly show that the U.S. benefits greatly from immigration, these facts should not be the only reasons driving immigration reform. The question being asked so often is “What can immigrants do for the country?” However, the real question we should be asking ourselves is “What is the right thing to do?”

In the past 297 days since the Senate passed their reforms, there have been over 330,000 deportations of immigrants that could have benefited from the new reforms. These deportations are tearing families apart across the border. The recent increase in deportation of undocumented immigrants has left thousands of children in foster care. But being an immigrant, documented or not, doesn’t make someone any less of a person. We cannot reduce immigrants down to dollar signs.

What America needs now is action. There are political, economic and personal costs to everyone for every day that immigration reform remains merely an idea rather than a reality. 297 days is enough already. The time is now for Congress to pass the immigration reform that this country so desperately needs.

 

Contact Aimee Trujillo at aimeet@stanford.edu.