Thursday, June 16, 2005

Changing the way we think about undocumented immigrants

The Pew Hispanic Center's new study on the undocumented population in the United States has some interesting findings. A few could help refocus the debate on immigration in this country: male undocumented immigrants participate in the labor force at a higher rate than native born Americans (at a pretty astonishing 93%), a quarter of undocumented immigrants have attended college, and the level of education among recent undocumented immigrants has actually been increasing in recent years.
It would be great if we could hear about all the good things immigrants do for this country (for example, the April 5, 2005 New York Times article that reported that "the estimated seven million or so illegal immigrant workers in the United States are now providing the [social security] system with a subsidy of as much as $7 billion a year") instead of being bombarded by fears about terrorism and the overuse of public services. Sure, there are a lot of reasons to be concerned about the porous U.S.-Mexico border, but the fact remains that the vast majority of immigrants come here to work and should not be treated as potential terrorists. A serious attempt at immigration reform could shore up the border and stop forcing hardworking immigrants underground. But the conservative anti-immigrant faction seems to have gotten to Bush, who I always thought (against reality, I see now) just might do something good for immigrants, just as another good immigration reform bill has a chance of moving forward.

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