Immigrants are People Too!

Bringing Empathy to Immigration and Refugee Crises

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

Have you ever thought about the reason why you were born where you were born?

Was it a deliberate decision, divine intervention, or complete luck?
Do you ever think about how different your life would have turned out had you been born somewhere else?
If you were born in the US, what would it feel like to have been born out of the US?
What would you do to get the safety and security that you have now if it werenโ€™t given to you?

Today we are talking about an often divisive and very stagnant issue in American politics: immigration (I promise weโ€™ll have a light-hearted subject soon!).

This month, immigration has been the hot topic of discussion because of a series of competing crises:

  • Afghans who worked for and supported the US during the war are now hoping to be welcomed into the US to avoid Taliban persecution. Our slow immigration bureaucracy and right-wing vilification are hindering those efforts.
  • Dreamers, who were brought to the US as children and have only ever known the US as their home, have been waiting for years for Congress to pass a path to citizenship for them. This week, an unelected official nixed the Dreamerโ€™s pathway to citizenship in the Climate & Human Infrastructure $3.5T Reconciliation Bill so Democrats are back to the drawing board.
  • After another deadly climate crisis-induced earthquake, the assassination of their president, and general human rights abuses, Haitians are attempting to seek asylum in the US. Over the weekend, the US responded to a group of Haitians seeking asylum at the Mexico border with horse reins, obscenities, and arrests. Weโ€™ve all seen the horrific photo by now.

Time travel is great and all, but I am tired of going to bed in 2021 and waking up in the 1800s where US officials are vilifying black and brown lives.

Get the Facts

Immigration has been a divisive issue since the founding of the US. And the debate is often filled with disinformation designed to scare Americans (mainly white Americans) into thinking immigrants are ruining their way of life in some form or another. However, itโ€™s often the case that the disinformation claims are the exact opposite of the truth.

So letโ€™s layout a few common claims, how theyโ€™re wrong, and how immigrants actually help our society.

  • Asylum is Legal 

    • Contrary to the way the media frames it, itโ€™s completely legal to enter the US and apply for asylum. In fact, you have to be in the US or at a port of entry to apply for asylum, so itโ€™s pretty crazy that weโ€™re still deporting asylum seekers without question. 

    • Asylum seekers are people who fear for their lives and safety in their home country and are seeking protection in the US. And they are human beings. Human beings who have survived unknown dengers and traveled through treacherous territory. 

    • Ask yourself what you would do if the country you lived in was so dangerous for you and your family. Would you do everything you could to give your child a better life? 

  • Immigrants Pay Taxes 

    • The argument that immigrants are a โ€œburden on the US economy and governmentโ€ is a scare tactic designed toโ€œ otherize immigrants and indicate they can never be a net positive to our society.

    • In reality, immigrants pay taxes (through payroll, sales, and even property taxes) and do not get the benefits that US citizens receive like Social Security or Medicare. Immigrants might actually save both programs without getting a single dime from them. 

  • Refugees and Asylum Seekers are Rigorously Screened and Vetted 

    • Refugees go through the most demanding screenings than any other individuals that are allowed into the US including background checks, fingerprint tests, interviews, health screenings, security agency reviews, etc. 

    • Refugees have come from difficult situations, are typically women or children, and are simply looking for a safe place to live and thrive (isnโ€™t that what we all want?)

Immigrants Help America

Now that weโ€™ve debunked some of the top concerns (and there are many more), letโ€™s discuss the exciting part, the way immigrants have been a net positive for America and are needed more than ever.

They are Entrepreneurs who Spur the Economy

While immigrants make up 13.7% of the population, they make up 30% of new entrepreneurs. This includes tech startups like Google as well as small businesses that help power local economies like gas stations and restaurants. Most immigrants traveled thousands of miles to make the US their home. If they were able to make that journey, they certainly have the perseverance and drive to support their new local community.

They Grow the US Economy

The GOP likes to say immigrants are sucking social services dry, but theyโ€™re actually doing the opposite. An astounding fact is that immigrants become a net economic positive for the country within only 8 years of arrival.

Immigrants can Reinvigorate Rural Communities

While rural communities are typically more fearful of immigrants simply because they live in very white spaces, rural communities could benefit the most from immigration. First, they help combat the population decline (immigrants helped nearly 4 out of 5 rural places stave off population declines). This helps keep rural hospitals, schools, and other important services running. Their entrepreneurial style helps to liven up Mainstreet with new grocery stores and nail salons.

They Fill Badly Needed Jobs

In 2018, the labor participation rate of foreign-born adults was higher than native-born adults (65.7% vs. 62.3%). And while the familiar adage is that immigrants take American jobs, that has been easily debunked. In the COVID era, restaurant and other low-paying jobs are sitting empty and immigrants could help fill those jobs.

Immigrants Support Declining Birth Rates

The American population is aging. An aging population leads to a decline in the workforce, a strain on certain industries (elder care), and a reduced demand in others (housing). Immigration is the best solution to ensure we have enough in the labor force to meet the demands of our aging Baby Boomers.

Take Action

Immigration is a very complicated issue and one that I cannot do justice in one article. If you are looking to understand the topic more, here are some great resources.

  • Sign: Immigration Equality, the nationโ€™s leading LGBTQ+ immigration rights organization has a petition to condemn the expulsion of Haitian Asylum seekers
  • Read: The George W. Bush Institute (yes that one) has good resources on what immigration can do to the United States.
  • Watch: If you did not see Minari last year, I highly recommend watching its portrayal of an immigrant family starting a farm in a rural town

Immigration will become more and more common as the climate crisis displaces entire cities, countries, and islands. With the United States being the #2 CO2-polluting country, we owe the rest of the world our support and effort to house climate immigrants who are just looking for a steady life.

๐Ÿ—ผ๐Ÿ—ž: Newsletter

Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist whoโ€™s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.

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