Land of the Pilgrim Pride
My country tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the Pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountain side,
Let freedom ring
As I ruminate over the lyrics of this melodious tone and the moments that inspired Samuel Francis Smith to etch it into the trenches of the collective American conscience as a declaration of appreciation, I cannot help but be disturbed at our current state of affairs regarding immigration. America has exchanged its sweet taste of liberty for the bitterness of exclusion and xenophobia. No diaspora has had to scuff at the taste of this bitterness more within the last two decades than those of Latino origin. For in the descendants of Latinos we find a sect of people that have been vilified, marginalized and pushed to the margins of American society by the media.
Land of the pilgrim’s pride; what an interesting verse given our present reality. Pilgrims, my friends, are the animating feature of the heart of America. The fabric of our great nation still shows the hand-prints of pilgrims known and those lost in the tides of history. A pilgrim is a person that takes a long journey or immigrates, often for religious reasons. Jesus, going to Egypt for refuge; the Prophet Muhammad, traversing the terrains of the Arabian desert from Mecca to Medina; David, hiding in the kingdom of the west bank from Saul; a humble east Asian prince, traveling through the country side of neighboring provinces empathizing with those suffering are all pilgrims.
Many politicians on both the left and the right should be reminded of this fact. For too often they say that illegal immigrants hurt the American economy and take away jobs from hard working Americans in order to gain support from their constituents. Not only is this assertion fallacious in most instances, but it regulates the moral compass of America to a system of dishonorable capitalism via fear. While a legal means of immigration is ideal, a consideration for a just path to citizenship for value-creating families who migrated non-traditionally should be a priority.
Equally important, immigrants stimulate the economy “because immigrants not only work, but also spend money, the increased demand for goods and services will create jobs and raise wages throughout the economy,” as stated by Rachel Friedberg, a Brown University economist. When illegal immigration is looked at from this perspective, one realizes that illegal immigrants in the work force also provide more consumers within the market. Illegal workers build houses, but they also buy homes, which aides in a fast growing housing market. This means that although illegal immigrants are not required to pay income taxes like “native” citizens, they are still required to pay property tax, sales tax and in isolated cases file income tax. This is done by filing an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, according to the Internal Revenue Service. In fact, it is estimated that ten million unauthorized immigrants pay taxes. All of these methods help stimulate the American economy, contrary to the commonly held belief that immigrants are a liability.
Undocumented immigrants in the workforce that assimilate into the culture of the United States also help grow the economy through their second generation. A recent study by Goldman Sachs shows that, although illegal immigrants have less education than native-born Americans, the second-generation of immigrants are slightly more educated than their native-born counterparts. As a result, the wage disparities are closed which causes increased competition within the workplace. One can also deduce that since the second generation of unauthorized citizens are considered “native-born” that these individuals are allowed to engage in the free market system by opening small business, with recent studies stating that 11.6% of business in the United States, equaling 67 billion dollars, are owned by immigrants. By engaging in these actions, the descendants of illegal immigration aide the U.S. economy in creating jobs for both unskilled and skilled workers. This will, over time, help the American workforce, not harm it by taking away jobs.
So the next time we talk about illegal immigration, let us consider the potential anchors of our economy that we happily depart for “economic freedom.” Consideration should be given to the Dream Act not only because it is morally right, but also because of the potential human capital it will provide. More than that, these dreams are our moral obligations to foster. In the immigrant we find a charismatic child that grew up to shake the foundation of the world and by his teachings inspired the edicts that shape our nationalistic ideology. In the immigrant, we find the reformer of the entire Arabian peninsula and lessons that have spurred the fastest growing religion in modernity. In the immigrant we find a kingdom and a covenant restored to the Israeli people. In the immigrant we find Gautama Buddha, the great teacher that appealed to world empathy and guided us into a path that behooves each and every one of us to understand the plight of suffering for the other. More than that, in the immigrant we find the clarion call to let freedom ring from the mountainside of economic and social justice to the mountaintop of citizenship, molding the very edifice of American society.