Nation of Immigrants
America is sometimes referred to as a “nation of immigrants” because of our largely open-door policy toward accepting foreigners pursuing their vision of the American Dream. Recently, there has been a clamor by some politicians and citizens toward creating a predominantly closed-door policy on immigration, arguing that immigrants “threaten” American life by creating unemployment by taking jobs from American workers, using much-needed social services, and encroaching on the “American way of life.” While these arguments may seem valid to many, they are almost overwhelmingly false, and more than likely confused with the subject of illegal immigration.
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In fact, immigrants actually enhance American life by creating, not taking jobs, bolster social service funds through tax payments, and bring valuable technical knowledge and skills to our country. If we are to continue to excel as a nation, the traditionalists who fear an encroachment of foreign-born Americans must learn to accept that we achieved our greatness as a result of being “a nation of immigrants.”
A common argument among those opposing further immigration is that foreigners take U.S. jobs and cause unemployment among the displaced American workers. In the July 13, 1992 edition of Business Week, a poll states that sixty-two per cent of non-blacks and sixty-three per cent of blacks agree that “new immigrants take jobs away from American workers.” This is a widely held, if erroneous belief, among Americans. However, Julian L. Simon, author of The Economic Consequences of Immigration, states: immigration does not exacerbate unemployment…Immigrants not only take jobs, but also create them. Their purchases increase the demand for labor, leading to new hires roughly equal in number to the immigrant workers.
In the same Business Week poll, eighty-three per cent of non-blacks and eighty-seven percent of blacks agree that “many new immigrants are very hard-working.” The results of the poll may seem somewhat contradictory, but not necessarily negative. Those polled seem to be at least a little open-minded in their view of the quality of new immigrants. However, in order to overcome their distrust of foreigners, Americans must abandon their suspicions and recognize, as Simon has, that our lives are enhanced by immigrants creating, not taking, U.S. jobs.
A widely held belief among Americans against immigration is that foreigners “strain social service budgets.” According to the same poll, sixty-two percent of non-blacks and fifty-nine percent of blacks agree “immigrants use more than their fair share of government services, such as welfare, medical care, and food stamps.” This belief has its roots in the nineteenth- century, when “one of the first immigration laws was designed to exclude the entry of people likely to become a ‘public Charge’,” according to the CQ Researcher These beliefs are misguided and more than likely attributable to illegal immigration, which is not an issue on this topic.
In actuality, immigrants are young and healthy when they arrive, and therefore, “do not receive expensive Social Security and other aid to the aged,” according to Simon. In fact, Americans should be thankful for immigrants as they “contribute more to the public coffers in taxes than they draw out in welfare services” and put “about $2,500 into the pockets of natives” from excess taxes. They are, in fact, raising the quality of life of that dependant of the social services.
In his nationally syndicated column, Pat Buchanan, a past Presidential candidate, wrote “immigration should be suspended to preserve the nation.” This appears to be a case of “the pot calling the kettle black.” Buchanan’s ancestors had to have immigrated from somewhere, so should they have been kept from immigrating “to preserve the nation”? According to Buchanan’s statistics, the U.S. is currently seventy-five percent white, twelve percent black, nine percent Hispanic, and the rest mostly Asian-American. By the mid-twenty-first century, “whites may be near a minority in an America of eighty-one million
Hispanics, sixty-two million blacks, and forty-one million Asians.” Again, should their immigration be suspended to preserve a white majority? Buchanan seems to equate “white” with “American,” and “Hispanic, black, and Asian” with “foreigner.” Unfortunately, Mr. Buchanan is not alone in his opinions. The fear of encroachment by foreign-born Americans is a common one. However, they also bring with them valuable technical knowledge and skills, as well as being “fifty percent more likely…to have post-graduate educations” than Americans, according to Simon. The traditionalists opposing immigration must recognize our lives are enhanced by their knowledge and education, and that in order to “preserve our nation”, they must realize we are a “nation of immigrants” and let others prove their worth.
The issue of immigration must be dealt with rationally, not emotionally. Facts, figures, and statistics must be studied by both sides in order to reach a decision most beneficial to our nation. Our lives are enhanced by the new jobs created by immigrants, the social service funds bolstered by their tax payments, and the valuable technical skills and knowledge brought with them. These benefits far outweigh any negative effects and prove the value of immigrants as they pursue the American Dream in our “nation of immigrants.
Chandler-Crisp, S. (1992, July) “Workers Displaced”: how immigration is affecting unemployment. Business Week, pp. 19-21
Simon, Julian. The Economic Consequences of Immigration Into the United States. New York: Penguin, 1976.
Eckerd, Thomas, G. (1996, Feb) “Academic politics” CQ Researcher, pp. 145-168.
Buchanan, Patrick, “Getting Tough at Last.” Newsday 15 Mar 1992: 22.
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