Many people avoid discussing immigration reform with friends and family due to differences in opinion; the result is the inability to discuss one of the most important topics of our time. If we are not able to have a civil conversation with each other, how can we work towards immigration reform?
During the last couple of years, I’ve had several conversations with friends and family about illegal immigration. I have lost count of the times I’ve heard that undocumented immigrants “need to do it the right way,” and that they “need to follow the process, like my family did when they came here” in order to become American citizens. I am not an expert on immigration issues, however, I experienced first hand the hardships of growing up undocumented and in fear of an uncertain future.
The reality is that our elected political leaders have failed to provide a permanent solution toward legal status for the undocumented. Several efforts have been made to create a path, but each time they have been unsuccessful. That undocumented people remain in limbo year after year is not because they refuse to follow the rules; they remain undocumented because each time we fail to pass immigration reform, we fail to provide them the option to do it the right way. Each time congress fails to pass immigration reform, they fail all citizens of our country. If we want undocumented immigrants to do it the right way, to follow the rules, we need to create a permanent solution that they can follow.
Following are some misconceptions about undocumented immigrants
Undocumented Workers Don’t Pay Taxes
Some people claim that undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes, but they pay:
- Sales taxes;
- Property taxes – even if they rent;
- Have taxes deducted from their paychecks; and
- File income taxes using an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN).
According to the American Immigrant Council, it is estimated that 50% of the undocumented file income taxes; the result is that they pay billions of taxes each year, and would be able to pay more if they were able to work legally. Sadly, few will ever be able to claim social security or disability benefits. Several states benefit from billions paid by undocumented workers, they are, California, Texas, New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Florida.
Undocumented Immigrants Take and Don’t Give Back to the Community
Undocumented immigrants are hard working people who raise families on few resources. Contrary to misconceptions, they don’t just take, take, take and not give back to their communities. Undocumented immigrants fill the desperate need for workers in the construction, agriculture, and hospitality industries. Many of these industries have a labor force problem, and contrary to what some people believe, immigrants are not taking jobs from U.S. citizens; who tend to have attended college and don’t turn to skilled trades, just ask the leaders of the construction, agriculture or hospitality leaders.
Immigration Reform – The Possibilities
Immigration reform will be possible if we can agree that something needs to be done. The first step is to agree that anti immigration legislation doesn’t provide long term solutions. Passing anti immigration laws detracts us from finding a solution to creating a path for millions of undocumented immigrants towards legalization. Mass deportations would decimate industries that depend on this labor force and would tear families and communities apart. Countless leaders from the industries mentioned above have expressed an interest in immigration law changes. A few have pushed for a guest worker program.
For anyone who may want a different perspective on the building of a border wall, I highly recommend the film The River and the Wall. The documentary follows five friends as they travel 1,200 miles along the U.S./Mexican border. Viewers will be stunned by the beauty of the wilderness threatened by a border wall, that ultimately will do nothing to stop illegal immigration.
It is my hope that we can begin to have a conversation about immigration reform. Millions of men, women and children currently live in the shadows. It’s time for us to help them become part of our communities and for them to regain their human dignity. Please share your thoughts on immigration in the comments section below. If you were in charge, what solution would you propose?
Thank you for reading!