New York -- Another year has passed, and my friend Jenny (real name withheld) is increasingly depressed. She misses her daughter, who is in Manila and now 13 years old. She hasn't been with Leslie for six years.
Jenny is awaiting the approval of her US permanent residency status, being petitioned by her mother who lives with her in Queens. The wait could take at least five years and it could be denied. In the meantime, Jenny has missed raising her own child as she works as babysitter for a rich family in Manhattan.
Like Jenny, millions of immigrants are hopeful that a new immigration law will be passed this year to be reunited with their families.
There has to be a rational way to pass this immigration law this year.
Republicans and Democrats have yet to unify a measure that would create a law that would hopefully repair the system in the US, home to the largest immigrant population in the world.
House Speaker John Boehner is preparing a list of principles of the Republican position so "that there can be a productive discussions bipartisan with the White House so that it is not 'my way or the highway' so that we can see a proper way forward," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told the press.
The Contentious Border Security Issue
For Republicans, a strong border security is an important element in immigration "making sure that occurs first so that we won't see a continuing problem of illegal immigration."
With this pronouncement, we are going to likely see another sticky stalemate in the deliberations for an immigration law.
I believe that border security should not be a requisite to passing an immigration law because securing borders is a national security matter and should be treated distinctively and seriously regardless of an immigration reform act.
Government says that the borders are currently secured by at least 80%. If we are to close the gap, it will require more time and resources to do so. And as such, should an issue so complex as immigration be tied to securing our borders, when by nature, this is mainly a police enforcement matter?
Clearly, there is more to immigration than border security. Issues on the Dream Act for children of undocumented aliens, overstaying aliens, overly extended waiting periods of family petitions, and emphasis on professional work visas have to be addressed. These cannot wait until the borders are absolutely sealed. They are distinctly important and have to be addressed to create an immigration law that is economically sound for the economy.
Strict enforcement of border security remains a 24/7 national security responsibility of the federal as well as local governments. That's that. Congress must simply move on discussing details of a multi-faceted comprehensive immigration act, the economic benefits of which will be huge and with multiplier effects.
The US is the hottest destination for immigrants all over the world. But the current immigration system provides only limited channels for legal, permanent economic migration, especially for low-skilled workers which the country actually needs to make its economy moving.
Economic Benefits from an Immigration Law
A comprehensive immigration law in the US would not only mean family reunification. It would also create a robust economy. Businessmen are quick to cast away fears that immigrants will steal the work supposedly for Americans. In my own experience, many immigrants would do the jobs that the native Americans won't do. They are more complimentary than competitive in the jobs market, and are likewise more entrepreneurial.
A study on 'The Economic Benefits of Immigration' by Diana Furchtgott-Roth recently published by the Manhattan Institute of Policy Studies confirms my own observation:
"Opposition to immigration is as old as immigration itself. American anti-immigrant groups have long feared the possibility that immigrants drive native born workers out of jobs. However, this occurs only in the negligible proportion of occupations where native-born and immigrant skill sets overlap. Many economists have shown that immigration increases the wages of native-born Americans.
Immigrants have been founders of many companies that have grown to billion dollar giants, such as Google and Yahoo!. Many immigrants have different skills from the native-born population, and complement the skills of the U.S. labor force. Immigrants make the economy more efficient by reducing bottlenecks caused by labor shortages, both in the high-skill and low-skill area."
According to the Roth study, a huge economic boon would be created if a growth-oriented immigration policy would allow a greater number of immigrants to legally enter, stay, and work in the US.
In understanding the impact of creating more job visas, the study estimated that if no green card or H-1B visa constraints had existed in the period 2003-07, an additional 182,000 foreign graduates in science and technology fields would have remained in the U.S. "Their contribution to GDP would have been $14 billion in 2008, including $2.7 to $3.6 billion in tax payments. Three hundred thousand H-1B visa holders would also have remained in the U.S. labor force, earning $23 billion in 2008 and generating $34--$47 billion in tax revenue over the next decade."
Roth said America's goal should be an immigration policy that fosters economic growth that requires finding a way to allow people who want to work here to come legally. "If we are counterintuitive, we will be economically wrong."
The writer based in New York City and runs her own online magazine called OSM! (awesome) on www.justcliqit.com. A journalist for more than 25 which dates back to her university days in hometown Cebu, in the Philippines, she writes mainly on immigration, human rights, women, and culture and arts. Her recent third book, "Biting the Big Apple: Memoirs of a Journalist Turned Immigrant" tells of her story as a political asylee in the US and is available at amazon and on www.justcliqit.com.