Why Anti-immigrant Policies are Serious Threat

April 7, 2018 Commonwealth Magazine

We can’t allow America to be isolated, intolerant, xenophobic

THE IMMIGRATION ISSUE comes and goes in the news, but we should keep in mind that there has been a radical change in US immigration policies.

The Trump administration slashed the number of legal immigrants and refugees coming into the US, and escalated ICE arrests of undocumented immigrants. Yes, the US Supreme Court extended protection for DACA recipients, but it was only a temporary reprieve. We don’t know what Congress and the White House will do – if anything.

Many issues demand our attention, but we should realize that anti-immigrant policies are a serious threat to our future.

Here are some key arguments we should share with Americans undecided on this issue:

Entitlements could go bankrupt if we don’t add more taxpayers. The demographic trend is alarming – fewer working taxpayers will be supporting a growing number of retirees on Social Security, Medicare, and other programs.

We’ll be less competitive in global markets if we don’t add more Americans who understand foreign cultures and can speak other languages.

We need the ingenuity of new Americans. Many immigrants at our colleges stay after graduation and apply their knowledge in pioneering work. This includes medical students, teachers, engineers, cancer researchers… Since 2000, 39 percent of US Nobel Prize winners have been immigrants. We need such brainpower to help fuel innovation.

We benefit from diversity. When people learn about other countries and cultures, they also learn to relate to people who are different in background and outlook. That is the kind of practical education that all Americans should appreciate.

Many communities need new residents and businesses. There are many cities and towns that have lost population, and need new people to come in, invest, and help stimulate growth. Contrary to the fears of many who oppose immigration, most adult immigrants are well-educated and have money. They are often entrepreneurial, and their risk-taking pays off in the creation of new businesses and jobs.

Immigrants often take jobs no US citizen wants. Some people fall for fear-mongering by those who depict immigrants as “others” who steal our jobs. The truth is very different. Changes in technology and productivity are the biggest cause of jobs being eliminated. And, as widely known, immigrants often take low-paying, unpleasant, exhausting jobs that US citizens don’t want. There’s already a shortage in farm workers and that problem will result in higher food prices for everyone.

Immigrants help defend our country. Many new Americans enlist in the Armed Forces, protecting us abroad and at home. But those who save lives are not always in uniform. Perhaps you remember a news story right after Christmas, about Emmanuel Mensah, a young man who immigrated five years ago from Ghana to the Bronx. He went into a burning apartment building four times, bringing children out to safety, but died when he went in a fifth time. Such heroes inspire us all.

Immigration is part of the American success story. Unless you are a native American, your ancestors came here from abroad. People continue to immigrate here to pursue the American dream of hope and opportunity. If we sacrifice that dream, if the US no longer represents a beacon of hope to the world, we lose something essential to being American: our idealism and optimism.

We must keep the faith and say with resolve: We will not allow America to be isolated, intolerant, and xenophobic. We will work to change policies and attitudes so that the US is truly the welcoming nation symbolized by the Statue of Liberty. And we’ll embrace the fact that this is not just our own beloved country, but the new home of new Americans.

Angela Bovill is president and CEO of Ascentria Care Alliance, a New England nonprofit. One of their programs is “Services for New Americans,” which assists refugees and immigrants.

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