California has a long history of immigration, and part of our strength comes from welcoming those who come from other countries, regardless of their personal reasons for immigrating.
More that 1 out of every 4 Californians, over 10 million people, were born outside of the United States; and 25 percent of these newcomers, or 2.4 million people, arrived here without documentation. Half of California children have at least one immigrant parent. We have the largest population of immigrants of any other state and many of our industries are dependent upon the work that they do.
Most immigrants are adults of working age. As of 2016 64% of immigrants were in the work force, as compared to 63% of US-born workers, However, their median income is generally around 24% lower than that of their US-born counterparts. In this article, we will explore three primary ways we become better by not just allowing immigration, but by welcoming, and perhaps even encouraging it.
First, our communities become stronger. Studies have shown that cities with high populations of immigrants are safer. Data shows that immigration is associated with a decrease in crime and poverty. Immigrant children tend to be less involved in criminal behavior, perhaps because of strong family bonds as well as their deep spiritual connections, and more likely to graduate from high school than ever before.
Communities also strengthen as a result of increased revenue. Immigrants pay taxes, social security, purchase food and clothing, rent homes, donate time and energy to community projects, open new businesses, and take less from the federal government than they contribute. Immigrants are not eligible for government aid of any type until they have been here for at least 5 years, and undocumented immigrants are not eligible at all, even when they spend decades paying in to our system.
Next, immigration encourages greater diversity in our communities. US-born citizens, who travel infrequently, gain a greater understanding and acceptance of different cultures, have more opportunity to learn new languages, and enjoy the social changes that immigrants bring to our communities.
Cultural diversity leads to tolerance and greater acceptance of others. In a more globally focused world, immigration provides contact with other cultures that non-travelers wouldn’t otherwise enjoy.
The final, and perhaps most important benefit that immigrants bring to California, is economic. While there are certainly people who immigrate here from every socio-economic group, they are mostly either highly educated, or less educated workers. Here in California, we rely on both groups.
Highly educated immigrants include professionals such as doctors and other healthcare providers, scientists and engineers, as well as highly skilled technological innovators. In fact, according to the PEW Research Center, newly arrived immigrants are even more likely to hold a bachelor’s degree than their American born counterparts.
Hiring these immigrants has led to greater innovation and better products being made by US companies. When innovation grows, the economy grows. Given the large number of these highly educated immigrants to California, it becomes apparent that one of the reasons we are now the 5th largest economy in the world is the result of our immigration policies.
While these workers are an obvious boon to our economy, less educated immigrants are also beneficial. These workers typically take the jobs that their native-born counterparts don’t want: jobs in agriculture, construction, household and food services, and temporary work are commonly filled by this group of immigrants.
Immigrants are also more likely to move to areas where there is a shortage of workers, enabling growth in local economies that might otherwise stagnate or collapse.
While some have argued that immigrants take jobs from native workers, the reality is that because of language barriers and legal status, non-immigrant workers are typically not in occupational competition with immigrants. In fact, new immigrants are primarily competing against previous immigrants for the same jobs, while natives work in higher paying jobs where language is not a barrier.
These reasons alone should give us pause when we consider shutting the doors on immigration. This country is built on the blood, sweat, and tears of immigrants. With the exception of indigenous tribes, all of us are here because we or our ancestors immigrated. Defining ourselves as Californians requires that we honor and acknowledge that we ourselves are the products of many generations, from all over the world, who came here to create a better future.
by Cynkay Morningsong, CNP Supporter