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Letter No. 48: Immigration reform now!

Felicia Persaud | 10/17/2013, 11:22 a.m.
There are 200 Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives, yet only eight are so supportive of comprehensive immigration reform, ...
Felicia Persaud

Dear Mr. President,

There are 200 Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives, yet only eight are so supportive of comprehensive immigration reform, the civil rights issue of 2013, that they were willing to get themselves arrested on Oct. 8.

Congratulations to Reps. Joseph Crowley and Charles B. Rangel of New York, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Al Green of Texas, Luis V. Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Raul M. Grijalva of Arizona and John Lewis of Georgia for standing up for immigrants, especially the 11-plus million undocumented who are living in the shadows.

So where were the 192 others, and especially where were those other Democrats from New York? Reps. Grace Meng, Yvette Clarke, Carolyn McCarthy, Nydia Velasquez, Carolyn Maloney, Louise Slaughter, Gregory Meeks, Hakeem Jeffries, Timothy Bishop, Steve Israel, Jose Serrano, Dan Maffei, Bill Owens, Paul Tonko, Michael Grimm, Elliott Engel and Sean Maloney? Guess they did not get the memo, or they all stayed behind to help bail out their eight colleagues.

It’s especially disappointing that those with immigrant roots, including Asian-American Meng and Caribbean-American Clarke, did not see the need to stand up for this issue and the lives of millions, including American-born children, who are torn apart by deportations.

It’s sad, especially since the American Immigration Council last week released a report that showed that how throughout the United States, “examples of the role immigrants play in promoting economic growth and community development abound.”

In New York, 31.2 percent of all business owners in New York and 36 percent in the New York City metropolitan area were foreign-born as of 2010, higher than the particular metro area’s foreign-born share of total population. New immigrant business owners had a total business revenue of $12.6 billion in that year alone—22.6 percent of all business income in the state.

In Georgia overall, almost 16 percent of all business owners were immigrants in 2010, and in the Atlanta metropolitan area, that figure was even higher at 21 percent.

In 2010, in Missouri, 4.6 percent of all business owners were foreign-born, and new immigrant business owners had a total revenue of $650 million. Additionally, the immigrant share of business owners was 8 percent in the St. Louis metropolitan area—a rate higher than the foreign-born share of the total population.

In 2010, in New Jersey, 28 percent of all business owners were immigrants, comprising over 22 percent of business income in the state.

In Oregon, many immigrants and refugees have become entrepreneurial farmers of crops from their native countries—including Burma, Bhutan, Cambodia and Nepal—selling their produce at local farmers markets in Portland and throughout the state.

The state of Washington is home to many successful companies with at least one founder who was an immigrant or child of an immigrant, including large businesses such as Nordstrom, Weyerhaeuser Company, Costco Wholesale and Amazon.com. Those four companies together employ over 250,000 people and bring in $180 billion in revenue each year.

Most of all, U.S. Department of Labor 2011 figures show that of all H-1B labor certification applications approved for immigrants nationally, including in states that are not even immigration friendly, the average annual wage of these immigrants are higher than the state’s median household income or per capita income.

In your budget negotiations, Mr. President, isn’t it time to address these numbers and get the other side to see the economic sense immigration reform makes now more than ever—especially as we try to figure out a way to bring in more to the coffers of the United States than we spend?

Respectfully,

Felicia Persaud

The writer is CMO of Hard Beat

Communications