Immigration is undoubtedly one of the hottest and most contested issues of this election cycle. Whether you want to “build a wall” or establish comprehensive immigration reform, I’m going to spend this essay trying to convince you why you should be supporting immigration, and why all of the economic and cultural reasons I will list are beneficial to the U.S.
Many of those wanting to impose restrictions on immigration argue that immigrants steal jobs. And while yes, in the short term, logically an influx of people will make jobs more competitive, one of the long-term benefits of immigration actually is improvement in the job market, because it helps to maintain the United States' hegemonic global role.
In the international system, the United States is considered a hegemony, or a superpower that has more influence or control over the system than anything else. This means that we exude economic influence over everyone else because we are so dominant in the political spectrum. However, this dominance is slowly shifting as other powers, such as China, are developing and taking up much of the economic power previously held by the United States. The only way to combat this is to increase our inventiveness and our subsequent immigration.
Already, “...foreign students and immigrants account for almost 50 percent of all science researchers in the country.” In his essay “The Rise of the Rest,” Fareed Zakaria, a journalist and foreign policy advisor, argues:
“When these graduates settle in the country, they create economic opportunity. Half of all Silicon Valley start-ups have one founder who is an immigrant or first-generation American. The potential for a new burst of American productivity depends not on our education system or R&D spending, but on our immigration policies. If these people are allowed and encouraged to stay, then innovation will happen here. If they leave, they’ll take it with them.”
His point is so important. We often do not think about the economic growth that immigrants can bring, but only the jobs that they take when they are here. If you truly think about it, the immigrant or international student that you sit near every day in class can actually be a tool the United States uses to maintain our status as a world superpower.
And, these statistics do not just refer to legal immigrants. Illegal immigrants are an important part of our economy. In the last year alone, illegal immigrants paid 12 billion dollars in taxes to the federal government. Those taxes went to building the highways you drive home for breaks on, and the social security our grandparents live off of. Immigrants are incredibly beneficial to our economy, and that doesn't change based on the legality of your entry into the U.S.
As college students, we are soon going to be entering into the job market. And, as terrifying as that may seem, its an important concept to think about. The economic growth and jobs that immigrants, legal or illegal, bring can help us coming out of college and into the workforce. Whether you want to join a startup (of which 51% were founded by immigrants), or a Fortune500 company such as Intel, Procter & Gamble, Comcast, eBay, and Google, all of these would not be possible without immigrants.
No matter your moral view on immigration, it honestly is economically beneficial for our country, and for us specifically as college students entering the job market. We are a country of immigrants and have been since our founding. It is part of our national identity and our economy, and it is one of the reasons we are so successful as a nation today.
Lead Image Credit: @Beverly_Davis via Twitter