The United States is a nation of immigrants. For 500 years, we have experienced a constant flow of people from around the globe. My family came from Germany in 1860 and was part of the westward migration of hardworking families who settled the plains of Nebraska and converted what early explorers called “the great American desert” into the breadbasket it is today.
At Ellis Island, the interpretive displays note that while immigrants built America, immigration policy has always been controversial. The same holds true today, but it is time to move forward once again.
As has always been the case, America needs an immigration policy that contributes to the workforce that our country needs for agriculture, manufacturing, technology and services. We have learned from farmers in California, Colorado, Alabama and Georgia that without this workforce, agriculture literally dies on the vine. Our high tech companies and emerging commerce sectors need skilled workers through the expansion of HB1 visas and programs that enable foreign students, who graduate from our great universities, to stay here and work after graduation.
Beyond addressing workforce needs, our nation will benefit by bringing millions of undocumented immigrants out of the darkness and into the light with jobs that pay taxes and offer a path to earned citizenship. The result will be more taxpayers, stronger families and better citizens. This policy change will be a body blow to the black market economy because experience shows a 14 percent rise in income when a head of household becomes a full citizen.
We must ensure our borders are strong and we must provide the technology to employers so that we can have real verification of legal status. Any path to citizenship must also verify that individuals do not have criminal backgrounds and can meet their responsibility to society.
On March 11-13, the Chamber will be taking a large delegation of business and community leaders to our nation’s capital. We, along with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other elected officials, will be advocating for comprehensive immigration reform and many other issues critical to creating jobs and growing the Los Angeles economy. Join us next month in bringing common sense and business “know how” to our nation’s capitol. You will be glad you did.
And that’s The Business Perspective.
The Business Perspective is a weekly column by Gary Toebben, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, produced with the input of Public Policy staff.