Immigrants in the United States are often stereotyped, criticized and frequently deal with attacks directed toward their work ethic and decisions for leaving their home country.
Distasteful and brutal rhetoric against immigrants has amplified in recent years, conditioning some Americans to perceive immigrants as lazy and accuse them of stealing jobs from “deserving” citizens. This dangerous narrative blinds the public to the economic growth and technological advancement that immigrants provide.
Immigrants are worthy of respect in the United States and should be able to pursue greater opportunities. However, the American people need to educate themselves on the immense role immigrants have played in cementing the foundation of America through their unwavering determination to secure a better future.
Despite being consistently dehumanized and labeled by some as crime-riddled job nabbers, a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reveals that immigrants are actually responsible for strengthening the U.S. economy.
Propelled by high ambition to succeed without misusing American resources, a large portion of immigrants create their own jobs. According to the 2011 Current Population Survey, 7.5% of the foreign-born population is self-employed. Self-employment allows immigrants to create new job opportunities for Americans.
Immigrants are also known to work at high rates by quickly responding to worker shortages. And for some industries, they make up more than a third of the workforce. Also, children born to immigrant families are upwardly mobile, essentially securing the U.S. economy. Immigrants also contribute by paying taxes, paying an average of $11.64 billion in state and local taxes per year.
With harmful stereotypes overshadowing immigrants’ strengths and the opportunities that emerge through them, the American people have unintentionally barred immigrants from making even greater strides to help the nation’s economy and further our success as a country.
The reality is that immigrants are often responsible for working back-breaking jobs that many Americans would not want to have due to exploitation and minimal pay.
One example of these is farmworking. According to Farmworker Justice, a nonprofit organization that empowers and seeks farmworkers’ rights, it is reported that immigrants make up approximately 75% of the workforce. The National Immigration Forum stated that undocumented farmworkers contribute $9 billion to the fruit and vegetable industry alone. However, labor shortages are responsible for the closing of small farms across America, missing over $3 billion in annual GDP growth.
Much of the reason why there is so much misinformation surrounding immigrants and their value is the fact that many of the insults against them, especially by former President Donald Trump, are fueled by racism and xenophobia. Due to Trump and his policies banning six Muslim-majority countries from traveling to the United States and partially building a wall barring the Mexican border, the image of immigrants for Americans has evolved into stereotypes revolving around racial prejudices and fallacies.
The answer to resolving immigration issues in the United States isn’t depriving immigrants of jobs or painting them as antagonists in American history. It also isn't narrowing humanitarian benefits, increasing enforcement or decreasing legal immigration, as our former administration made many believe. Instead, government officials need to step up to provide greater opportunities for these individuals, and the American people need to realize they would be nowhere without the help of immigrants in their communities.
Unfortunately, names of white immigrants like Albert Einstein, Joseph Pulitzer, Madeleine Albright are highly regarded over immigrants of color. A few examples of immigrants of color whose inventions made American history are Samar Basu, the inventor of rechargeable batteries, Jerry Yang, the co-founder of Yahoo! and Luis Miramontes, the co-inventor of one of the first ever contraceptive pills.
No matter the race or ethnicity, all immigrants deserve appreciation as they are imperative to the development of the U.S.
A new president in the White House springs hope for immigrants and opportunities. Since his inauguration, President Biden has promised important policies regarding immigrants during the first 100 days of his presidency. One of these policies includes the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which will establish a system for agricultural workers to earn temporary status with an eventual option to become a permanent resident. Although it has yet to hit the Senate floor, it’s a step forward in the right direction.
Americans can be confident that the tides will start to change for undocumented immigrants — but not without substantial work from both citizens and government officials to change dehumanizing misconceptions. It is crucial for policies to be set in place for the protection of immigrants, and the American people need to correct their own prejudices in the hopes that immigrants’ accomplishments will finally be rewarded.