Editorial of the Week.
In Defense of Illegal Immigrants
Hardly a day goes by on the Internet without articles and claims being made against the presence of millions of illegal immigrants in the United States. They are accused of causing crime, being lazy, working too hard, taking jobs away from Americans and not paying school taxes even though their children attend public schools. These charges lack any evidence of validity. Illegal and legal immigrants are vital aspects of the American economic system and social community. The charges leveled against them are the exact same made against immigrants throughout the history of America.
According to statistics gathered by the Immigration Policy Center, although foreign born people make up 35% of the California population, they only account for 17% of the prison population. In the adult population of 18-40(statistically, this age group accounts for most crimes) those born in the United States were 10 times more likely to be in prisons than those born abroad. Between 1994-2005, violent crime in America declined by 31% and property crimes by 26% despite the arrival of millions of illegal immigrants. Of course, these charges have historically been made against Italian Americans and during the first half of the twentieth century, Jewish gangsters were the subject of great fear and concern.
Most immigrant critics fail to grasp how immigrants–legal or illegal are important factors in our economy. For example, thousands of bodegas sell bread, eggs, milk, meats, canned goods that come from local and national American sources. The purchasing power of immigrants is an economic stimulus providing jobs for native born Americans. Immigrants who own homes pay property taxes, those who rent also pay property taxes in the form of their rent payment. They purchase goods at stores and pay taxes. At the turn of the 20th century, prejudice against Jews which blocked them from advancement in major industries like steel, oil, coal mining, automobiles, etc.. made hard working and enterprising Jews create new industries like movies, radio, and television. The creative talents of both skilled and unskilled immigrants helps the American economy rather than stifling it.
My parents were east European poor Jewish immigrants. My father spoke Yiddish with friends and since all of his customer of his Kosher butcher were Jewish, he interacted with people using both Yiddish and English. Anti-immigrant critics accuse Hispanic immigrants of not helping their children to learn. Like Hispanic immigrants today, my parent wanted their children to get an education. My parents were unable to assist me with homework, but they offered love.
Japan, an historically antagonistic nation towards the idea of immigration, will soon pass legislation which is aimed at a Japan in 2040 that is 10% immigrant in composition. Japan now wants both skilled and unskilled immigrants because of their declining birthrate. In reality, a major factor in decline of wages for working class people is the collapse of the union movement, not the presence of unskilled immigrants. If a vibrant union movement could emerge in America it would result in higher wages and better working conditions for members of the working class.
We forget that people crossed the borders of Canada and Mexico for over a hundred years which, in effect, was the entry of illegal immigrants. It’s time to cease blaming illegal immigrants and get them on the road to naturalization.