Wednesday, 17 July 2024 19:43

Immigration changes must aim to retain best, brightest

Monday, 13 April 2015

The history of America is rich in stories of immigrants coming with nothing but a small suitcase of clothes and a dream of a better tomorrow. Odds are good that there is a story like this in your family heritage.

Although we may not always notice, immigrants play a key and vital role within our society and economy.

The annual "Global Goes Local" conference recently touched on these themes at St. Cloud State University. The conference covered topics from the economic impact of immigrants to different political efforts.

I can't say I agree with everything from the conference, but it shines light on a system that needs reform.

I grew up at a time when the demographics of my hometown of Melrose were quickly changing. According to the 2010 Census, the Latino population has gone from just a few to nearly 23 percent of the town's population of about 3,600 in the past 25 years.

Admittedly, it did take some time for the different cultures to mesh. What I see now, however, is encouraging.

There are Hispanic businesses in town that are providing a taste of another culture, including an authentic Mexican restaurant that I highly recommend.

Assimilation is also very visible in local schools. Take a look at any of our sports teams, be it football, wrestling or even the state champion basketball team, and you will find Hispanic students.

All this leads me to think of our current immigration system and the need for reform.

For the first 143 years of our country, America had open borders. Immigrants flocked to the U.S..

We began restricting who is allowed here around 1914.

A return to the days of open borders certainly would have its challenges. As the economist Milton Friedman pointed out, you can't have both open borders and a welfare state. This could incentivize people to come for all the wrong reasons.

The threat of increased terrorism also would be ever present.

But America needs immigrants. Our economy needs immigrants.

There is a myth out there that immigrants take jobs from locals. This is an unsupported worry.

 In fact, immigrants typically take jobs that involve low-skill or manual labor that other Americans don't typically want.

Modern agriculture is also dependent on immigrant labor. If you speak to dairy farmers with bigger operations, you'll quickly understand the need. Stearns County, after all, is the No. 1 dairy county in Minnesota.

Without immigrants, farmers would struggle to find help and meet demand. Agriculture in Minnesota is a $75 billion industry, making it a key economic function for our state.

That being said, we are a nation of laws. I disagree with the president's executive action on the subject. Reform needs to go through the proper legislative process. That may mean a slow process, but it is the right process.

Critics, such as the Center for Immigration Studies, tend to focus on the negative impacts of immigration on the welfare system. Others point to free education for people who are in the country illegally and higher health care costs associated with emergency room visits.

Yet deporting every person who is in Minnesota illegally would remove $4.4 billion in economic activity, according to the Immigration Policy Center.

Reform can come in a number of different ways. The idea of amnesty has received support from both political sides. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush favored this measure.

I'd rather see a greater expansion of the guest worker program and student visas. What sense does it make for colleges and universities to teach foreign students just to send them back home after graduation?

Shouldn't we want to keep as much talent as we can in this country?

It's time for meaningful immigration reform in this country. It's too important to ignore any longer.

Source: SC Times

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