Tomorrow, President Obama is set to make his 6th State of the union address. In it, he is widely expected not only to tout his accomplishments as President, but also lay out a set of goals for 2014. On the list of unfinished business is immigration reform – something that would really benefit our nation.
After the 2013 Government shutdown, I wrote about the politics of addressing this issue. Today, I’d like to discuss how it is not only in our economic interest to reform our immigration system, but how it is a moral imperative as well.
First of all, before we get to the discussion on morals, I’d like to point out that immigration reform is great for the American economy. This may seem counter-intuitive to some, but numerous independent experts have looked at this issue, and the results are clear. Let’s break it down:
Reforming the United States immigration system has a number of economic benefits. One of the most useful long-term consequences is the positive effect it will have on the amount of educated, high-skilled workers that live in the states.
It is well known that foreign students come to American Universities to earn the finest education the world has to offer. Once they graduate, many of them want to stay here to work, but end up leaving because our system makes it so difficult for them to stay.
Just like that, the world’s brightest minds – educated in our Universities and soaked in our culture, leave our shores to take their degrees and talents elsewhere. A tremendous missed opportunity.
Overhauling our system will also make it easier for immigrants to come here and start businesses. This matters because immigrants are twice as likely as natural-born Americans to start a business, and are responsible for 25% of all new businesses and the jobs those businesses create.
Digging deeper, we find that immigrants and their children have founded 40% of all Fortune 500 companies. That’s 2 out of 5. When we further consider that immigration increases the demand for American goods and services, while increasing the nation’s tax base, the picture becomes even clearer.
Needless to say, there is much for our economy to gain here, but the reasons to do this go beyond economics. It’s also just the morally right thing to do.
For example: Some employers illegally pay low cash wages to undocumented workers. The employers know the workers have no bargaining power to demand better wages, and the workers have few choices because of their undocumented status.
What about the other companies that struggle to compete because they do play by the rules and pay minimum wage? What about the workers that are taken advantage of? It’s wrong.
To seal this point, I’ll go to the words of the ultimate moral authority:
…Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
Here, in Matthew 25 (NIV), Jesus is drawing a parallel that whatever we do to the smallest and least powerful in the eyes of society, we have done to him. This passage should bring pause for those who are fond of injecting scripture into their politics.
What are they doing for the least of these?
It’s time to act. Reforming our immigration system is good for the economy and it’s also the morally right thing to do. This is a golden opportunity to establish American preeminence in the 21st century.
How often is it that doing the right thing also lines your pockets?
This is a win-win for us, and we need to do it. Now.