Too often, immigrants work in an underground economy—earning unfair wages, suffering unsafe conditions and hiding from authorities. This is not only wrong, but economically self-defeating. For generations, immigrants have helped to bring prosperity to America through entrepreneurial spirit and sweat equity. Given their economic potential, why would anyone want to shut off the tap of foreign- born talent? Why force willing wage earners—and potential taxpayers—into the shadows with no path to legal citizenship?
I’m perplexed by the questions—because the answers seem so obvious. Yet the current U.S. immigration system does exactly these things.
We educate foreign-born workers at a faster rate than any other country. But our outdated immigration system often sends them packing, only to create billion-dollar companies in countries that compete against us.
Our flawed immigration system also threatens the country’s agriculture industry. Growers that can’t find field labor end up shutting down—or turning to undocumented workers.
I’ve heard the arguments: Immigrants take jobs away from native-born workers. They depress wages. Both claims are false. In fact, every immigrant farm worker supports three additional jobs—often in better-paying sectors. In high-skilled industries, the impact is even greater—with each immigrant worker creating five additional jobs. As for pay, studies show that native workers earn higher wages in areas with higher immigration.
If the status quo persists, America stands to miss enormous opportunities to accelerate our recovery.
Immigrants are yet another group that the right wants us to turn against, to keep working people from seeing that their interests—native-born and immigrant, working-class and middle-class, union and non-union—are shared in this high-inequality economy. Making the connection between immigration reform and the economy clear on Labor Day is an elegant move by Solis.