Comprehensive Immigration Reform–Will It Happen?

The right wing of the U.S. Congress has for years expressed concern about passing the far reaching immigration reform that President Bush has advocated. However, the irony is that there are multiple reasons why immigration reform would benefit the United States economy, the social security system, our education system, and our country’s security–which these same Republicans would be in favor of if the issue of immigration was not part of the discussion.

The United States is at present the World’s only military “superpower”, and there is a huge financial cost to the government in maintaining that position. With our military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, we have strained our military’s manpower and budget. Just think of it–if we were to give legal status to the approximately 20,000,000 undocumented immigrants already in the United States, many of whom are of military age and who meet the characteristics deemed desirable for soldiers, there would be a tremendous increase in the available pool of potential recruits.

It is this writer’s opinion that many of these immigrants would be thrilled to have the opportunity to receive the military pay, additional education, health insurance and other benefits the military provides, as well as the reduced waiting period for citizenship from 5 years to 3 years that those in the military are eligible for. For the military, the substantial benefits would also include the large class of needed new soldiers to lower the pay and incentives that is currently required to attract new recruits.

As for our economy, the influx of low cost labor that comprehensive immigration reform will provide through legalization of currently undocumented laborers, and through a “guest worker” program, will have numerous benefits that will spread throughout our economy, Not only are these hard working undocumented laborers an integral part of our work force, they permit us to compete for business in the global economy, which would not be possible without the ready and available supply of low wage laborers. It is estimated that there are presently 12,000,000 undocumented laborers that are gainfully employed in our economy, If these workers were deported, we would lose approximately 10% of our current labor supply. Industries such as hotel, travel, restaurant, agriculture and construction would be devastated if we were to deport the undocumented agricultural laborers, and prices in these industries would inevitably skyrocket. Anti-immigration advocates have the misguided notion that lower priced immigrant labor takes away high paying American jobs, but it is clear that if many of these companies could not find cheaper labor, they would simply close their doors.

Another overlooked and significant benefit to the economy of legalizing the undocumented workers, and adding a guest worker program, is that more workers would be paying into the tax system. If all of the undocumented workers were paying taxes, it would comprise a substantial sum of additional tax revenue.

Another very important reason to legalize the undocumented workers that are in this country already is the issue of Social Security. To fix this thoroughly broken system, we must have more workers paying into the system. Even massive tax increases would fall far short of the necessary tax revenue. In order to fill the quotas of workers we will require to support the Social Security System in the next 20 years, when there will be a huge spike of retirees from the baby boomer class seeking their well earned benefits, we will need to either start having many more children or increase the immigration quotas.

There is also the issue of driver’s licenses. At present, it is illegal for undocumented workers to drive, since they can’t obtain driver’s licenses. Therefor, many undocumented workers are forced to drive illegally to earn a living in this country. This is obviously dangerous for both the public at large and the workers themselves. If these workers could get their driver’s licenses, they would have to be trained to be better drivers; would be able to obtain the mandatory insurance to protect those who might be injured in accidents with these workers; and very importantly, for a security standpoint, they would be in possession of a picture ID, which would be permit tracking by the government for driving infractions, to begin with. Additionally, If we were to document all of the undocumented people in this country with driver’s licenses, for example, , we would be able find out who the workers are, and potentially separate criminals and terrorists from the good, hard working people. This is certainly an issue that the conservatives of this country could have no dispute with.