An Immigration Conversation

Rebecca Sufrin

Writing Intern

Traditionally known as an accepting and open-minded “melting pot,” the United States has been at the center of controversial discussions and policies regarding immigration that seem to defy our own ideologies.

This past Monday the Supreme Court rejected an Arizona law in a 7-2 vote that would require the display of proof of citizenship for anyone seeking to register to vote. This ruling will impact similar laws set in Georgia, Alabama, and Kansas and will likely prevent other similar laws from being created across the country.

Arizona has been at the forefront of immigration debate as it borders Mexico and its population was 30.1 percent Hispanic in 2011.

The ruling is seen as a victory for activists and supporters of Latinos who believed it would prevent other Latinos from attempting to vote. Still, the Supreme Court clarified that, “Arizona could still have other ways to assert its argument that it should be allowed to ask for proof of citizenship.”

One could infer that this leaves a door wide open for the continuation of racial profiling, which has become notorious in Arizona. This discrepancy emphasizes the striking ambiguity that exists within the immigration conversation: are we talking solely about immigrants who have come to the country illegally or the idea of immigration in general?

While the art of political debate and the ever-dividing relationship between Republicans and Democrats have grown to overshadow this question, it seems that the idea of immigration in general, especially Mexican immigration, has fueled the creation of policies with blatant stereotypical and racist undertones.

This is due in part to overarching fears that Americans hold about immigrants, especially those of Hispanic or Mexican descent. One common facet of this fear is that immigrants will somehow swoop in to the job market and take so-called American jobs. Or, many believe these immigrants will simply freeload. Both of which, many believe, would have detrimental effects to the American economy.

Charles Kenny, a writer for Businessweek, rightfully begs to differ with brilliant perspective. In a 2012 article, he writes that, “low-skilled immigrants in the U.S. had a higher level of employment and a lower rate of household poverty than native low-skilled populations.”

Kenny also connects the fact that many wealthy American families have been fortunate enough to be able to sustain large families because of , “cheap child care, much of it provided by undocumented workers.”

Furthermore, the author exposes the importance of Mexican immigrants to the future of the American housing market. As baby boomers seek to downsize as their children leave home, Mexican and Latin American workers will be looking to buy homes for their families and will thus sustain the 78 million baby boomers who will sell their homes.

And even further, results of a Harvard Medical School study that were just published in May showed that from 2002 to 2009, immigrants, “posted a Medicare surplus of $115 billion, while the American-born population logged a deficit of $28 billion in contributions.”

It is shockingly sad that while, “more than half of U.S. citizens think most unauthorized immigrants should be deported,” (Reuters/Ipsos poll) immigrants are actually directly sustaining American lifestyles and are paying for a Medicare system that they, themselves, are not even using.

Another large part of the American fear of immigrants is that national identity is being and will continue to be threatened as immigrants choose to either assimilate or not. My response to this boils down to one question: why are Americans so afraid of cultural differences if they are the very things that have helped create the America we know and love today?

To conclude, I will share the opinions of novelist John Green as he writes, “Nikola Tesla was an immigrant. So were Joseph Pulitzer and Albert Einstein and Igor Stravinsky. Rational, compassionate immigration reform is needed so that the next Teslas and Einsteins are not denied access to educational or entrepreneurial opportunities in the United States. The time has come.”