President Trump made it clear in his State of the Union address to Congress and the nation that his administration wants fundamental change in America’s immigration policies.
But you didn’t need to wait for his speech Tuesday night. Immigration and repeal of the Affordable Care Act have been front and center for the Trump administration, and earlier in the Trump campaign for the presidency.
Having failed, again, to fully eliminate Obamacare, the president has now turned his attention to making changes to the way we deal with immigrants, both legal and otherwise.
It is no small matter. For example, the fate of perhaps more than a million young people brought to this country as children illegally by their parents rests with Congress and the president. So do the economies of many states, whose business owners rely on labor provided by undocumented workers.
The personal-finance website WalletHub has recently compared the overall economic effects of having large foreign-born populations. As you might reasonably expect, California is one of those states having the greatest impact from foreign-born workers.
The data was compiled from studies of everything from the median family income of households of immigrants — legal and illegal — to what those workers contribute to local, state and regional economies.
Folks living here on the Central Coast already know about the effects of having foreign-born workers in our midst. Local businesses — especially in agriculture — have been relying on foreign-born workers for many years.
The bottom line is the overall impact of such workers on California’ economy is massive. This state is second only to New York when it comes to dollars being generated and circulated within the state by foreign workers.
California is No. 1 when it comes to jobs created by immigrant-owned businesses. We are first in the number of foreign-born STEM workers. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. No major surprise there, because California is home to Silicon Valley.
California is eighth in the total economic contribution of international students per capita, and ninth in the total number of jobs created because of the presence of so many international students.
WalletHub’s data deals mostly with legal immigration economic outcomes, but it doesn’t require much of a leap to realize the overall impacts of illegal workers. For evidence, walk into just about any service-related business, and chances are you will find one or more undocumented workers.
That’s certainly true of local agriculture operations, whose fields are filled with seasonal workers, a high percentage of whom will not have the necessary “papers.”
If you interpret this editorial as making a case for excusing illegal immigration, you are wrong. Crossing borders into the United States without being properly authorized to do so is a violation of federal law, and has been for many years.
What this editorial seeks to do is highlight the importance of that specific work force to our economic well-being, and to argue that immigrants — both legal and illegal — need a new set of rules and guidelines.
So far, President Trump’s general attitude seems to be to shut down America to all but the very best and brightest immigrants. That might work for the tech industries, but such a policy would strangle the flow of reliable workers in non-tech fields.
Not to be forgotten in the immigration debate now before Congress is that America is a nation of immigrants. All of us except Native Americans have immigration as an integral part of our heritage and history.
Congress and the Trump administration need to get this right.