Why America Must Take a More Humane Stance on Immigration

By: Malachi Bouch, Contributor

When Helen Beristain’s husband was deported earlier this year it marked a turning point in the United State’s Immigration policy. No longer would we follow the Obama-era idea of deporting only those undocumented immigrants who had committed crimes, but we would now forcibly remove even those who had not committed any infraction short of entering the country. This policy not only has the potential to be dangerous in shaping the climate for new immigrants, but also wastes much needed federal resources. A study done in April earlier this year shows deportations are down overall from Obama-era practices, but the number of non-criminals being deported has increased. The number of harmful, or criminal, persons being deported has actually fallen since January of this year.

Recently, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) sent out a memo instructing their officers to arrest any undocumented immigrant they come across. Instead of only arresting those whom they’ve been instructed to now, any undocumented immigrant is liable to be detained, processed through immigration court, sat in a bed from anywhere between 1-10 days and then shipped out of the country, likely overnight. This is a gross waste of ICE resources, and a clear sign that the new administration is willing to violate the human rights of anyone not a citizen of the country. Instead of being “innocent until proven guilty” as is ingrained in our criminal justice system, we are taking the attitude of “guilty until proven legal.” Yet, the United States continues to have the audacity to be the world’s police, creating refugees in the name of “nation building” while tightening our immigration standards and forcing people out of the country. How are we supposed to be the “Guardian of Human Rights” and continue our aggressive foreign policy if we serve no purpose but to prop up regimes which eventually fail, while still never helping the actual people who are a part of them.

The United States, a country built by immigrants, would now rather forget it’s past in the name of some made up, fantastic pride that comes with being “American” than pursue economic prosperity. ICE estimates from earlier this year put the cost of deporting one immigrant at $10,854. With over 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, under the threat of deportation, that puts the cost of deporting all of these people at $119.349 billion. Other estimates put the cost in real GDP at over $1 trillion coupled with a loss in the labor force of over 10 million workers. That’s a lot of money to spend on deporting people from the country. It’s 1/6th of the military budget which is one of our biggest expenses. While allowing undocumented immigrants to stay has proven economic gains. The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy explains that allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the country boosts state and local tax contributions by $2 billion per year. This is largely because, even if they are undocumented immigrants, their w-9 forms still get approved. That means every undocumented immigrant who has a job, pays or has paid federal taxes. Not to mention sales tax every time they go out and pick up groceries, stop for gas on the way to pick up their kid from school or go to to the mall.

The New American Economy found that America’s foreign born population owned over 3 million businesses. Deportation on a massive scale doesn’t just harm our tax revenue, or the labor market, or just real GDP for that matter, it hurts small businesses and the people who own them. Imagine, if you would, that it’s 1946. Japanese Internment camps have just been shut down and the American-Japanese are allowed to finally return to their homes and businesses. Only to see their storefronts vandalized, glass broken, it was written “Japs not welcome here anymore.” Why’d this happen? They did nothing wrong but belong to a certain racial group, the country their ancestors moved from having done something they had no control over. Now imagine you’re the child of two illegal immigrants going to a school in Arizona, where immigration standards continue to become stricter and where the public has a general distaste for anyone they think to be an immigrant, legal or not. Now imagine your parents are deported. It wouldn’t be a storefront that is vandalized, there would be no returning to your home. It wouldn’t be there anymore, the life you once had, the life you once lived is gone. Instead of breaking a storefront the kids, poisoned by an anti-immigrant rhetoric, are more likely to physically harm you. To emotionally harm you. It’s a devastating picture, a devastating reality.

Now imagine for a second that you’re the parent. The “bully” isn’t someone on the school yard or in the halls. It is the United States Federal Government. A government which refuses to protect you, a government that doesn’t accept you, a government you pay taxes to. You give the Government your lunch money, and it says get out of my country. Don’t take the civil rights I give to everyone else for simply being born here, don’t stay here, don’t work here. Don’t even try to assimilate, don’t even try to join us, because we don’t want you. The anti-immigration movement has gotten so out of hand that the followers don’t trust anyone who looks Hispanic anymore. They’ve over inflated the “harmful” effects of undocumented immigrants they can’t tell the good from the criminals.

America needs to take a step back and re-evaluate its immigration policy before we alienate another ethnicity.

Image Credits: Luke Sharrett, NY Times