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Can Documented and Undocumented Immigrants Revitalize the Economy?

7 pages
1762 words
University of California, Santa Barbara
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America is regarded as a common destination for immigrants. The common belief that immigrants drain the American economy and take up job opportunities meant for Americans cant be any further from the truth. Throughout the history of the United States, immigrants from around the world have kept businesses afloat and booming, the workforce vibrant and contributed significantly to the building of one of the greatest economic engines in the globe (MacKenzie 10). Both documented and undocumented immigrants, therefore, have the capacity to revitalize the economy. Based on an Economic Report published in 2013, immigrants promote innovation and creativity both directly and indirectly. They have over the years contributed to several business startups in the United States, and to the large labor force in the country. Immigrants also establish patents twice as much as the rate of native-born citizens and are therefore more represented in engineering and scientific occupations.

Evidence reveals that immigrants are highly entrepreneurial. Based on recent studies immigrants are creating businesses and in so doing revitalizing the United States Workforce. Studies done between 2006 and 2012 revealed that more than two-fifths of start-up businesses in Silicon Valley were founded by at least one immigrant (Economic Report of the President). Research by the Partnership for A New American Economy, an organization that advocates for more immigrants in the U.S workforce found that by 2011, immigrants accounted for approximately 28% of startup businesses (Economic Report of the President). Highly educated and highly skilled immigrants have built successful business ventures and even created jobs for native-born Americans (Peri and Sparber 401). Additionally, several international companies have invested, relocated and expanded into the United States, increasing employment opportunities for the Native Americans and contributing heavily to economic growth. Entrepreneurial immigrants reveal a culture of innovation and hard work amongst the immigrant population which is useful in the revitalization of the American Economy.

In Nashville, the number of immigrants has more than doubled since 2000. The immigrants are attracted to Nashville's booming economy which is amongst the fastest growing in the country. Notably, immigrants do not only intend to benefit from the booming economy but also contribute to it. Research by the Partnership for a New American Economy reveals that immigrants are more likely to start up a business as compared to Native American citizens (Enchautegui 109). They also contribute significantly to the success of local industries such as construction and healthcare industries (Nahm and Tani 611).

One third of internationally valid patents issued to the United States residents are held by immigrants. This reveals a culture of creativity and innovativeness which is a major boost to the United States economic productivity. Unlike the belief by a section of the U.S Population That Immigrants contribute negatively to job growth, research by Cato Institutes revealed that immigrants do not have any notable impact on the net job growth for the United States born workers (Enchautegui 113). This is mainly because, native-born and immigrant workers gravitate towards different jobs.

The presence of immigrants in the United States has resulted into a larger labor force. The United States needs both the skilled and unskilled immigrant laborers for increased productivity and investment. In 2011, New York immigrants made up to 44% of the city's workforce (Fasani 723). The presence of immigrants in the United States has strengthened several industries by providing a more massive labor force. The tourism, technology, agriculture, hospitality and housing industries have received a boost in the number of skilled and unskilled immigrant workers.

The growth rate and economic status of American cities with most immigrants reveal a pattern of steady economic growth. Los Angeles, New York, Houston, and Chicago are some of the main immigrant destinations and are regarded Americas economic powerhouses. These cities account for a large percentage of the country's Gross Domestic Product.

Several factors are at play in the contribution of immigrants to the U.S Economy. Language and the Legal status of an immigrant play a crucial role in the economic output of most immigrants. Immigrants tend to contribute more to the economy once they learn English and become legally recognized as citizens. Learning English goes a long way in assisting immigrants to adapt to the American society. Being able to communicate with the American people makes it easier for immigrants to settle and contribute to the economy easily. Immigrants can easily access jobs and bargain terms when they are knowledgeable of the English language.

Economic contribution by the immigrants varies by legal status. Undocumented and documented immigrants have varying wages, with the latter earning significantly more than the undocumented immigrant. A 1986 study on Mexican immigrants revealed that legally recognized immigrants earned 6% more than the undocumented immigrant. Additionally, a 2009 study revealed that the average hourly wage for a documented immigrant was 28.3% more than that of an undocumented immigrant. In this connection, its clear that in as much as both the documented and undocumented immigrant contribute to the United States economy, the contribution of a documented immigrants is significantly higher than those of undocumented immigrants.

Most undocumented immigrants operate in an underground shadow economy. Many employers take advantage of their illegal status to pay them lower wages and deny them job security or benefits. To ensure that the United States reaps economically from its immigrants, the immigration systems must hack into the shadow economy and set things right as far as the legalization of immigrants is concerned.

The contribution of undocumented immigrants to the economy is below average. These immigrants earn less and pay lesser taxes than their potential. America stands a chance to gain from the legalization of immigrant status. When undocumented immigrants are granted legal status and citizenship, they are likely to contribute significantly to the United States economy. In this connection, undocumented immigrants can be more useful to the United States when they are documented that when they are not. A lot of innovation and skills are put to waste with the delaying processes of documenting immigrants. Once an immigrant is eligible for documentation, the immigration system should not hesitate in granting such an immigrant a legal status (Ngai 90). This should mainly be extended to entrepreneurial immigrants who are highly skilled, and knowledgeable and are likely to contribute to economic growth.

Citizenship and legalization of immigrants are potential economic boosters. Providing a roadmap to the legalization of undocumented immigrants gives them legal protections that will automatically reflect on adjusted, higher wages. It also promotes investment in the training and education of immigrants which pays off in the form of better wages in the workplaces. Documenting immigrants increases their access to better-paying jobs, encourages mobility which in turn increase the returns on the immigrant's labor skills (Orrenius and Zavodny 577). Immigrants can easily start-up businesses and create employment opportunities.

Through legalization, immigrants are able to invoke their employment rights like every other American citizen. These employment rights are often denied to undocumented immigrants due to their constant fear of deportation. When undocumented immigrants are granted citizenship, their bargaining power increases in relation to their employers. Consequently, this reduces the chances of overexploitation that most undocumented immigrants are victims of. A documented immigrant is better equipped to contest unjust practices in the workplace such as unlawful termination, or exploitation and can negotiate for fair compensation (Enchautegui 110). In the case of abuse or mistreatment, documented immigrants have the right to file a complaint in court. In this regard, legalization of immigrants acts as a critical factor to the economic growth of the United States. Immigrants who are granted legalization and citizenship contribute heavily to the economy through higher wages which accounted for higher taxes.

Immigrants who have acquired a legal status are guaranteed a long-term membership in the American society. These immigrants can invest in their education such as learning English or acquiring a masters degree or a Ph.D. while in the United States. Better education leads to highly skilled and knowledgeable immigrants who are conversant with the local systems. Such immigrants have the capacity to contribute significantly to the economy of the United States. Most immigrants have shown a determination to work harder and increase their chances of becoming useful in their new home. They are focused not only on gaining from their legalized status but also giving back to the American society.

Most immigrants make their way to the United States in their pursuit of greener pastures. This mentality drives them to work hard to improve their lives. Immigrants are a hard-working lot whose presence in the country is more of a blessing than a disadvantage. Over the years, they have proved to be resourceful and contributed to the economic growth of the United States in several ways. This is particularly evident in the fast and steady economic growth in cities that have the greatest immigrant population. Their entrepreneurial spirit has enabled the growth of employment rates made possible by immigrant businesses (Dixon, Johnson and Rimmer 28). In as much as some immigrants do not display high levels of hard work, most immigrants are hardworking, and their presence in the United States has served as a major boost to the economy.

In conclusion, immigrants, both documented and undocumented have contributed to an economically revitalized United States. The contributions of documented immigrants are far much higher than those of undocumented immigrants who are subject to lower wages and exploitation in the workplace. Immigrants are a significant factor in the growth of the U.S economy. Legalizing the status of immigrants who are highly skilled and knowledgeable is likely to result in more growth for the U.S economy. Several economic studies reveal that the United States has a lot more to gain by legalizing the status of undocumented immigrants and in so doing, giving them an opportunity to contribute to the economy to their maximum potential. The immigration system must therefore strive towards granting citizenship to immigrants who have the potential to add value to the economy, keeping in mind the positive impacts that immigrants have on the economy.


Works Cited

Dixon, Peter B., Martin Johnson, and Maureen T. Rimmer. "Economy-Wide Effects of Reducing Illegal Immigrants in U.S. Employment." Contemporary Economic Policy 29.1 (2011): 14-30. Web.

Enchautegui, Maria E. "The Job Quality of U.S. Immigrants." Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society 47.1 (2008): 108-113. Web.

Economic Report of the President. March 2013, p. 156.

Fasani, Francesco. "Understanding The Role Of Immigrants' Legal Status: Evidence From Policy Experiments." CESifo Economic Studies 61.3-4 (2015): 722-763. Web.

Kallick, David D. "Immigrant Small Business Owners: A Significant and Growing Part of the Economy." Fiscal Policy Institute. 2012.

MacKenzie, Debora. "Immigrants Aid The Economy, Stupid." New...

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