Putting it in Perspective: Our Broken Immigration System and the 2012 Elections

Posted by Ilanit Sisso on Mon, Oct 10, 2011 at 11:38 am

With concerns about the current state of the economy, healthcare, and the low unemployment rates, why should our presidential candidates care about immigration reform? Aside from the economic benefits that would flow from comprehensive immigration reform (there is wide consensus that it would boost America’s GDP, decrease unemployment rates, and increase the country’s revenue), there are two other reasons:

First, presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle should care about immigration reform for basic ethical reasons. There are over 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States, a population that could fill the stands in over 138 football stadiums.

The reality is that we cannot keep ignoring 3.5% of the people living in the United States who are not accounted for. Hard-working immigrants who are currently contributing to this country should be able to “come out of the shadows” and be allowed to regularize their status if they meet certain key criteria. These individuals must have access to some of the basic rights that we often take for granted, like the right to be reunited with their families, the right to seek a better standard of living, and the right to live free from persecution and abuse. Undocumented immigrants are often subject to exploitation by employers and by others who coerce them with the threat of turning them over to the authorities. While some protections are in place, many are not aware of them, and a vast majority of undocumented immigrants are fearful of reporting crimes against those who take advantage of them for fear of deportation.

Second, presidential candidates should care for practical reasons. Latinos encompass the largest minority in the United States and the number of Latinos is projected to triple in size. According to the Pew Research Center, by 2050, Latinos will make up about 29% of the population in the United States, compared with 14 % in 2005. By 2050, Caucasian Americans are estimated to become a minority in the United States.

Latinos are increasingly becoming a more influential electoral group. In order to “win over” the Latino vote, presidential candidates will need to address key concerns of the Latino community, including immigration reform. Moreover, even though the economy will be a key issue in the upcoming elections, 72%of all Americans support a pathway to citizenship, according to the Pew Research Center. Candidates on both sides of the aisle will need to lay out a realistic plan to fix our broken immigration system that addresses key national security concerns, the current undocumented population, and a viable plan for future flow of immigrants.

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