Last Wednesday, a bipartisan group of leaders known as the “Gang of Eight” unveiled an 844-page bill that supporters argue, if passed, will offer a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. This document, created after months of intense negotiation at the prompting of the president, is a promising sign that the United States is ready to embrace the immigration reform it has needed for so long.
The unveiling of this bill, however, has been masked by the tragic events that occurred last week in Boston. The bombing of the Boston Marathon has prompted some politicians to voice their concerns at the prospects of changing current immigration practices.
After the two suspects had been identified, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa voiced his concerns on Friday during a hearing on immigration legislation.
“Given the events of this week, it’s important for us to understand the gaps and loopholes in our immigration system,” he said. “While we don’t yet know the immigration status of people who have terrorized the communities in Massachusetts, when we find out, it will help shed light on the weaknesses of our system.”
And Alex Conant, a spokesperson for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, stated in an email to the Christian Science Monitor that “there are legitimate policy questions to ask and answer about what role our immigration system played, if any, in what happened.”
Grassley and Conant’s concerns are entirely understandable. The events that transpired in Boston last week have made the American consciousness uneasy.
But in his statement, Conant also affirmed that the well-being of peaceful and hardworking immigrants who are in our country right now needs to be considered, too.
“Americans will reject any attempt to tie the terrorists responsible for the attacks in Boston with the millions of decent, law-abiding immigrants currently living in the U.S and those hoping to immigrate here in the future,” Conant said.
Those who oppose the bill are often quite blind to what an asset immigrants are to the United States. Indeed, the United States is a nation of immigrants and it is a fact that a large proportion of the people reading this article right now are descended from people who voluntarily chose to immigrate to the United States.
Immigration allows for a greater diversity and meshing of culture, which, in turn, provides for a fluid field of ideas and beliefs that allows Americans to learn about various aspects of life. In addition to being a defining American characteristic, cultural diversity brings about new forms of social growth and interaction.
But the benefits of immigration go beyond just diversity. In terms of economics, immigrants in the United States are more likely to start a business on American soil than American-born citizens are.
A study conducted for the Small Business Administration by Robert W. Fairlie, a professor of economics at UC Santa Cruz and a research adjunct at the RAND Corporation, found that the rate of small-business ownership among foreign-born citizens is 12.5 percent. By comparison, the U.S.-born rate is 9.3 percent.
That same study also found that immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start a small business than U.S.-born citizens and that these businesses are met with a roughly equal success rate as that of nonimmigrant businesses.
Immigrants are a key driver of innovation in the United States, too. According to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, immigrants comprise “33 percent of engineers, 27 percent of mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientists, and 24 percent of physical scientists,” despite only making up 16 percent of the American population,
Immigration to the United States is an unstoppable force and will continue legally and illegally regardless of how Congress votes on the reform bill. Critics must consider this when considering whether or not to support the reform.
But after examining all of the facts, it becomes clear that the only reasonable way to talk about the immigration reform bill, regardless of political beliefs, is with support.
Matthew Tinoco is a freshman majoring in print and digital journalism and comparative literature. His column “Mixing Colors” runs on Mondays.