Written by: Deborah Notkin, AILA Media-Advocacy Committee Chair
Much has been recently said about the need to reform our immigration laws to make our laws and regulations more hospitable to the best and the brightest—the scientists, the foreign born graduates of U.S. universities and, especially, the entrepreneurs. All of this is true but we suffer from a dysfunctional government system that allows one senator to block even the smallest positive immigration initiatives.
It is not only the higher skilled among the foreign born that are important to economy. The 8 to 11 million undocumented are also an economic factor to be reckoned with and the concept of creating “self deportation” through increasing the hardship to our nation’s undocumented makes no economic sense.
The business community in the State of Kansas is trying to initiate a different type of legislation. As reported in the Feb. 2, 2012 issue of the Guardian, a bill that would attempt to give employment authorization to workers in sectors that require additional workers is being put forward. Eligible workers would have to establish that they have resided in Kansas for five years, have a clean criminal record and will work in industries requiring additional workers. The need is notable in Western Kansas where a thriving livestock and dairy industry have created almost full employment.
While the wisdom of state immigration initiatives remains in serious doubt, this is nevertheless a refreshing idea which stand in stark contrast to the economic disasters that have ensued in the states of Georgia and Alabama since enactments of draconian state immigration laws. Georgia’s HR 87 resulted in rot and waste of 50% of the state’s agriculture produce. An economic study at the University of Alabama estimated an $11 billion loss since the passage of Alabama’s state immigration law, partly as a result of the loss of consumer spending and taxes caused by an exodus of Hispanic workers.
The conservative CATO Institute, which estimates that there are 8 million undocumented persons in the U.S. estimates that deporting 1/3 of them would cost the U.S. economy $80 billion.
All of this should be a wake-up call. It is time to get over the xenophobia put forward by the immigration restrictionists and look at solutions that work for our fragile economy.