Just under a million immigrants arrive in the United States each year. For this reason, the United States has often been called a nation of immigrants. Indeed, the United States is unique in the fact that we are a melting pot for so many different cultures, races, and religions in the world. Our immigrant past has also helped us mold a national character. Forthe last several centuries, various ethnic, cultural, and social groups have come to our shores to reunite with their loved ones, to seek economic opportunity, and to find a haven from religious and political persecution.
America’s exceptional status as a “nation of immigrants” is being challenged by globalization, which is making both migration and terrorism much easier. The biggest challengefor policymakers is distinguishing illusory immigration problems from real problems.
llegal immigration into the United States is massive in scale. More than 10 million undocumented aliens currently reside in the U.S., and that population is growing by 700,000 per year. On one hand, the presence of so many aliens is a powerful testament to the attractiveness of America. On the other hand, it isa sign of how dangerously open our borders are.
An honest assessment acknowledges that illegal immigrants bring real benefits to the supply side of the American economy, which is why the business community is opposed to a simple crack down. There are economic costs as well, given America’s generous social insurance institutions. The cost of securing the border would logically exist regardless ofthe number of immigrants.
The argument that immigrants harm the American economy should be dismissed out of hand. The population today includes a far higher percentage (12 percent) of foreign-born Americans than in recent decades, yet the economy is strong, with higher total gross domestic product (GDP), higher GDP per person, higher productivity per worker, and more Americans working than everbefore. Immigration may not have caused this economic boom, but it is folly to blame immigrants for hurting the economy at a time when the economy is simply not hurting. As Stephen Moore pointed out in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal:
The increase in the immigration flow has corresponded with steady and substantial reductions in unemployment from 7.3 percent to 5.1 percent over thepast two decades. And the unemployment rates have fallen by 6 percentage points for Afro-Americans and 3.5 percentage points for Latin Americans.
The United State’s economy relies in a part on immigrants because in a matter of fact the Latin Americans and Afro-Americans are needed as workers. And also not all immigrants are illegal, a great part of them is totally legal.
What Government Can Do* Establish a new citizenship curriculum with a focus on civic education that includes the history and democratic values of America.
* Allow bilingual education for immigrants only during a transitional phase to mainstreaming.
* Revise the visa program to attract more skilled immigrants in high-tech fields and get them on a citizenship track.
What Business Can Do
* Give paid timeoff, or other incentives, for employees to tutor immigrants in English.
* Provide classes for immigrants in financial literacy and behavior on the job.
* Sponsor swearing-in ceremonies that are memorable, including distinctive venues and speakers discussing the value and obligations of citizenship.
What Institutions Can Do
* Churches, synagogues and other places of worship canreach out to new immigrants and invite them to join their religious communities.
* Civic and professional groups -- from unions to political clubs to fraternal organizations -- should canvass for new members among recent immigrants.
What We Can All Do
* Volunteer to teach English to immigrants.
* Become a mentor to one immigrant, and help him or her through the entire process of...