Something bigger than the Super Bowl and the Oscars has kept us glued to our TV screens for the past few months. The presidential election has stayed at the forefront of the media and our minds. After watching a variety of Republican debates where candidates spoke poorly about immigrants, my question as a young Latino voter is: How do they not see the tremendous benefits that the Latino population brings to our country?
A major driving force in this year’s presidential race is indeed the topic of immigration. The way undocumented immigrants are portrayed by GOP presidential candidates specifically has taken away from the real contribution that they bring to the economy of the United States. Mainstream economists have thoroughly debunked many of the general stereotype of immigrants as takers, finding that immigrants are a net positive for the economy and pay more into the system than they take out.
The political consensus has deemed immigrants a draining part of society, but can we really say this and forget the $11.64 billion in state and local taxes that immigrants pay? Ironically, considering how undocumented immigrants are not accounted for in the census, they are taken into account when the United States is handling the topic of money. Not to mention that if Obama’s immigration policy would be fully enacted and immigrants are given lawful permanent residence, they would pay $14.1 billion in state and local taxes … essentially increasing their contribution to the economy as well as their personal income.
“It is oftentimes difficult explaining these concepts to family members who do not speak English — the language barrier isn’t the issue, it’s the idea of trying to comprehend why a country wouldn’t want you here anymore when all you do is work the jobs for little pay that no one else would bother to do.”
The immense cultural benefits that Latinos bring to the U.S. economy is tangible revenue. Whether this being food, architecture, landscaping, education, or politics, Latinos have become prominent members of American society. They are part of its fabric. Studies show that 1 in 8 people in the United States is an immigrant. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, unauthorized immigrants comprise 5.1 percent of the U.S. workforce. Statistically speaking, if all undocumented immigrants were removed from the U.S., the country would end up losing $551.6 billion in economic activity. Talk about déjà vu: With the removal of immigrants, we could have another George W. Bush economic turmoil.
The economic and political power of immigrants cannot be underestimated. Though we have continuously witnessed Donald Trump’s disdain for the Latino community, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, both of Cuban heritage, have also taken tough stances on immigration. After a series of primary setbacks and on the verge of obscurity, Rubio sits in a difficult position and needs leverage wherever he can find it. For example, Rubio has said he would revoke Obama’s 2014 executive action that protects as many as 5 million adults from deportation.
GOP candidates like Trump, Rubio and Cruz fail to realize that the very hard jobs being done that nobody wants to do in the United States are being done by undocumented immigrants. From my personal family experience, there isn’t anything more uneasy than the idea of having a country that does not want you here. It is oftentimes difficult explaining these concepts to family members who do not speak English — the language barrier isn’t the issue, it’s the idea of trying to comprehend why a country wouldn’t want you here anymore when all you do is work the jobs for little pay that no one else would bother to do.
Although undocumented immigrants are not typically welcomed here, there wouldn’t be an economy without them. Latinos help the economy prosper. With this year’s presidential campaign on the headline of every major news outlet, we can only wish that Latinos will be counted as Americans and correctly referred to as makers, not takers. The 2016 presidential election will make history, and hopefully our next president will remind us why this country was built by immigrants and that in order to grow as a nation we must be conscious of how we treat large and important contributors to the U.S. economy.