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What We Stand For

Our Common Vision & Belief in Immigrants

“More than any other nation on Earth, America has constantly drawn strength and spirit from wave after wave of immigrants. In each generation, they have proved to be the most restless, the most adventurous, the most innovative, the most industrious of people. Bearing different memories, honoring different heritage, they have strengthened our economy, enriched our culture, renewed our promise of freedom and opportunity for all.”

President William Jefferson Clinton, June 1998

Immigrants permeate the fabric of America. We believe that immigrants are an integral part of our society, its goals and its values — the backbone that helps make this country great, they set us apart from every nation in this world.

Immigration is Right for America

Immigrants greatly contribute to American society.

  • Immigrants show positive characteristics. A Manhattan Institute report showed that immigrants are more likely than are the native born to have intact families and a college degree and be employed, and they are no more likely to commit crimes.
  • High levels of education for legal immigrants. According to the New Immigrant Survey, which measures only legal immigrants, “The median years of schooling for the legal immigrants, 13 years, is a full one year higher than that of the U.S. native-born.” The New Immigrant Survey is a project headed by the Rand Corporation’s Jim Smith.
  • Immigrants help with the retirement of baby boom generation. While countries in Europe and elsewhere will experience a shrinking pool of available workers, the United States, due to its openness to immigration, will continue healthy growth in its labor force and will reap the benefits of that growth. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan has stated that “Immigration, if we choose to expand it, could prove an even more potent antidote for slowing growth in the working-age population.”
  • Foreign-born expertise aids U.S. research and development. Foreign-born scientists and engineers make up 28 percent of all individuals with PhDs in the United States engaged in research and development in science and engineering, helping to spur innovation.
  • Immigrants contribute to entrepreneurship. Inc. Magazine reported in 1995 that 12 percent of the Inc. 500—the fastest growing corporations in America—were companies started by immigrants.

Our understanding of the meaning of American patriotism would not be complete withoutconsidering the pride and commitment immigrants demonstrate on behalf of the United States.According to the U.S. Department of Defense:

  • More than 60,000 immigrants serve on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • Immigrants make up nearly 5 percent of all enlisted personnel on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • Nearly 7 percent of U.S. Navy enlisted personnel are immigrants.

Historically immigrants have made significant contributions to the defense of America:

  • More than 20 percent of the recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor in U.S. wars have been immigrants, a total of 716 of the 3,406 Medal of Honor recipients have been immigrants.
  • 500,000 immigrants fought in the Union Army during the Civil War.
  • A special regimental combat team made up of the sons of Japanese immigrants was the most decorated of its size during World War II.
  • Major U.S. weapons, such as a more advanced ironclad ship, the submarine, the helicopter, and the atomic and hydrogen bombs were developed by immigrants.
  • On July 3, 2002, President Bush recognized the contributions of immigrants in the U.S. Armed Forces by signing an executive order that provided for “expedited naturalization” of noncitizen men and women serving on active-duty since September 11, 2001. The order granted some 15,000 members of the U.S. military who served fewer than three years the right to apply for expedited citizenship in recognition of their service.
  • After the passage of Section 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 143,000 noncitizen military participants in World Wars I and II, and 31,000 members of the U.S. military who fought during the Korean War, became naturalized American citizens, according to White House statistics.
  • At a time when Americans value patriotism more than ever, immigrants demonstrate that they are a part of this spirit through their service in the military. Paul Bucha, President of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, has stated: “I put to you that there is a standard by which to judge whether America is correct to maintain a generous legal immigration policy: Have immigrants and their children and grandchildren been willing to fight and die for the United States of America? The answer right up to thepresent day remains a resounding ‘yes.’”

Immigration Does Not Take Jobs Away from U.S. Citizens

It is not true that immigrants take jobs away from Americans. Here’s why:

  • Immigrants do not increase unemployment among natives. States with relatively high immigration actually experience low unemployment. Economists believe that it is likely immigration opens up many job opportunities for natives. They wrote, “First, immigrants may expand the demand for goods and services through their consumption. Second, immigrants may contribute to output through the investment of savings they bring with them. Third, immigrants have high rates of entrepreneurship, which may lead to the creation of new jobs for U.S. workers. Fourth, immigrants may fill vital niches in the low and high skilled ends of the labor market, thus creating subsidiary job opportunities for Americans. Fifth, immigrants may contribute to economies of scale in production and the growth of markets.”
  • Research on immigration’s labor market consequences on minorities has also yielded information that suggests little negative impact. In her study on immigration’s impact on the wages and employment of black men, the Urban Institute’s Maria E. Enchautegui concluded, “The results show that in the 1980s black men were not doing worse in areas of high immigration than in other areas and that their economic status in high-immigration areas did not deteriorate during that decade.” The National Academy of Science study The New Americans, while finding there may be some impact of immigration on some African Americans locally, concluded that “While some have suspected that blacks suffer disproportionately from the inflow of lowskilled immigrants, none of the available evidence suggests that they have been particularly hard-hit on a national level.”
  • Even studies of more highly skilled occupations, (e.g., registered nurses), find no strong evidence of displacement.”
  • Immigrants fill niches at the high and low ends of the labor market. This will be increasingly important in the future. As the U.S. population ages, many skilled workers and professionals will retire, leaving gaps for employers. Meanwhile, as jobs in the skilled professions become more attractive, natives will continue the trend of gaining higher levels of education and abandoning lower skilled jobs. (Today, less than 10 percent of native-born Americans have not completed high school.) That will create gaps at the lower end of the job market, as the demand in health care, hospitality, and other service jobs increases as the U.S. population ages.
  • There is no such thing as a fixed number of jobs. Contrary to the belief that an increasing number of people compete for a static number of jobs, in fact, the number of jobs in America has increased by 15 million between 1990 and 2003, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (U.S. Department of Labor).6Between 2000 and 2010, more than 33 million new job openings will be created in the United States that require only little or moderate training, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This will represent 58 percent of all new job openings.

Immigrants are not a drain on the U.S. economy or treasury.

Here’s the truth about immigrants, taxes and the economy:

  • All individuals who work in the United States are required to pay federal income taxes. The only exception is if they are exempted due to their level of earnings, a provision of the tax code that results in no taxes, or a bilateral tax treaty.
  • Significant total taxes are paid by immigrants. Immigrant households paid an estimated $133 billion in direct taxes to federal, state, and local governments in 1997, according to a study by Cato Institute economist Steve Moore.
  • State level tax payments approximate natives. Immigrants in New York State pay over $18 billion a year in taxes, over 15 percent of the total, and roughly proportional to 3 their size in the state’s population, according to a study by the Urban Institute. Average annual tax payments by immigrants are approximately the same as natives—$6,300 for immigrants versus $6,500 natives.
  • Long-run benefit. The National Academy of Sciences concluded that “Over the long run an additional immigrant and all descendants would actually save the taxpayers $80,000.”
  • States come out ahead. In Congressional testimony, University of California, Berkeley economist Ronald Lee, the principal author of the fiscal analysis in the National Academy of Sciences study, concluded that a dynamic analysis, with the appropriate assumptions, would likely show that 49 of the 50 states come out ahead fiscally from immigration, with California a close call.
  • Some of the Academy study is misused. Professor Lee testified that some have misinterpreted the Academy study’s use of the annual costs of immigrant households to argue that immigrants are a large fiscal cost to states. He has stated that “These numbers [annual costs of immigrant households] do not best represent the panel’s findings and should not be used for assessing the consequences of immigration policies.” He found that it is misleading, on an annual basis, to calculate the schoolage,native-born children of immigrants as costs caused by immigrant households but not to include the taxes paid by those children when they enter the workforce.

Professor Lee also testified: “Reducing immigration would make it more difficult to support the health and retirement of the baby boom generation.”

  • Overall economic benefits of immigration. The report by the National Academy of Sciences also found that immigrants benefit the U.S. economy overall, have little negative effect on the income and job opportunities of most native-born Americans, and may add as much as $10 billion to the economy each year. As a result, the report concluded, most Americans enjoy a healthier economy because of the increased supply of labor and lower prices resulting from immigration.
  • Economists agree on immigration’s benefits. In a poll of eminent economists conducted by the CATO Institute in the mid-1980s and updated in 1990, 81 percent of the respondents opined that, on balance, twentieth-century immigration has had a “very favorable” effect on U.S. economic growth.14 Moreover, 56 percent of the economists polled believed that more immigration would have the most favorable impact on the U.S. standard of living, while another 33 percent felt that the current levels of immigration would have the most favorable impact.

Information was provided courtesy of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, of which Attorney Heather L. Poole is an active member and Executive Board member for AILA’s Southern California Chapter. For more information on AILA, go to www.aila.org.

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