For 400 years, immigrants have come to our shores for an opportunity to build better lives for themselves and their families, despite the many barriers they had to face. Legislation before the U.S. Senate offers common-sense reform of our country’s immigration process that deserves to become law.
George Washington said of newcomers: “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respectable stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions, whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.”
Yet this nation has not always been so welcoming. Each new wave of immigrants has faced real struggles — finding employment, and housing and educating their children.
“They faced resistance from those who were already here,” President Obama recently said. “They faced hardship. They faced racism. They faced ridicule. But over time, as they went about their daily lives, as they earned a living, as they raised a family, as they built a community, as their kids went to school here, they did their part to build a nation.”
Today’s immigrants have showed grit while contributing to the nation’s society and economy. In 2011, immigrants started 28 percent of all new businesses in the United States.
But our current immigration system is a patchwork of policies and programs. The mismanaged system breaks up families and disrupts the economy. Its maze of regulations offers no straight line to becoming a fully participating U.S. citizen. It needs to be fixed.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the legislation before the Senate will reduce the federal deficit by $197 billion over the next decade. The Center for American Progress projects that currently undocumented workers would pay $414 million more in taxes over that period if the legislation is enacted.
The immigration legislation offers no easy road for millions of immigrants. They will have to wait more than another decade for their moment to wave the flag as full-fledged citizens of the United States. But it will change the process for the better.
The American flag that we will fly at community events on July 4 to celebrate Independence Day is a symbol of this nation and all the immigrants who have built it over the centuries. Passage of comprehensive immigration reform will keep the flag a powerful symbol to our new citizens.
David Levine is chief executive officer of the American Sustainable Business Council. Brian Rothenberg is executive director of Progress Ohio.