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Letter No. 58: Immigration reform now!

Felicia Persaud | 12/26/2013, 11:16 a.m.
Felicia Persaud

Dear Mr. President,

It’s almost the end of the year, and it’s a great time to look back on the ups and downs of immigration reform in 2013, especially since U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told us on Dec. 19 that it deported 368,644 immigrants globally in the 2013 fiscal year.

So the argument from the right that we need to close the borders first before there is immigration reform is definitely a mute one. Of the number of deportees iced, 82 percent were previously convicted of a crime. More importantly, 235,093 individuals who were apprehended along the U.S. borders while attempting to unlawfully enter the country were removed.

This means we now have to quit arguing over the borders themselves and look to those immigrants who live within the borders, who, as Vice President Joe Biden said recently, are undoubtedly American residents.

They live here, they work here, they pay taxes and they go to school, and to call them “illegal aliens” is not simply offensive, but also wrong. 2013 was a year when, to the thrill of many, the U.S. Senate passed its own comprehensive immigration reform bill.

But with the House quickly putting that on ice, the year ended on a note of heightened advocacy, especially from the brave children of immigrants, who should be commended for their courage in keeping this issue on the front burner.

The advocacy needs to be turned up come January 2014, with pressure put on John Boehner and those lawmakers who stand to lose their seats in districts where the Latino voting population is growing.

And now the argument needs to be drummed on the economic front:

  • Economic activity produced by illegal immigrant spending employs about 5 percent of the total U.S. Workforce.
  • Undocumented immigrants occupy over 3 million dwellings, or just under 4 percent of the total number of homes in the U.S.
  • A University of California, Los Angeles research study indicates immigrants produce $150 billion of economic activity, equivalent to the spending stimulus every year.
  • Nearly every dollar earned by undocumented immigrants is spent immediately, and the average wage for U.S. citizens is $10.25 an hour, with an average of 34 hours worked per week. This means that approximately 8 million U.S. jobs are dependent upon economic activity produced by illegal immigrant activities within the U.S.
  • U.S. schools are educating foreign students, but U.S. immigration law extricates them.
  • Immigration red tape means that the U.S. is losing its competitive edge in attracting immigrant entrepreneurs and innovators.
  • Skilled immigrants are facing barriers for credential recognition across borders.

As over 100 U.S. CEOs summed it up recently: “The U.S. needs immigration reform to retain talented foreign workers who have been educated in the U.S., attract talent to the U.S. and allow a freer flow of people into and out of the U.S. Immigration policy should mirror labor needs.”

Let 2014 be the year we finally deliver immigration solutions to match the era we live in.

Respectfully,

Felicia Persaud

The writer is CMO of Hard Beat Communications, which owns the brands News Americas Now, CaribPR Wire and Invest Caribbean Now.