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Author Response: “Why the Debate on Immigration is All Wrong”

Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario

A few years ago, in a conversation with my husband’s oldest brother, I said that I thought the only solution to illegal immigration was to help create jobs in the handful of countries that send about four in every five undocumented immigrants to the U.S.

My husband’s brother, assuming I was talking about U.S. foreign aid, got very angry. He reached for his pant pocket and yanked out his wallet. He slapped it down on the picnic table. “This is my money!” he told me. No one, he said, was going to use his hard-earned cash to help a bunch of people in another country he didn’t even know. Continue reading

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Why the Debate on Immigration is All Wrong

Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario

Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario

by Sonia Nazario, author of Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a  Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother (Random House 2007).

Congress and the Obama Administration are again proposing new “solutions” to curtail illegal immigration. Sadly, they are the same tired ideas that have been tried — and failed — in the past. No one is proposing the one thing that would work.

First, a few facts. In recent years, driven by a dearth of jobs in the U.S., illegal immigration has dropped . Still, half a million people continue to enter the U.S. illegally each year; in all 4% of the population in the U.S. is undocumented. In Los Angeles, 4 of 10 people are from another country.

The benefits of this influx are clear. These migrants do some of the most backbreaking, dirty, dangerous jobs U.S.-born workers largely won’t do—and for rock-bottom wages. Immigrants’ low wages keep some businesses from closing or going abroad in order to compete. A 1997 study by the National Research Council, still considered the most objective and authoritative on the effects of immigration, found that immigrant labor also lowers the cost of food and clothing for all of us. Indeed, 5% of every good or service Americans buy is cheaper because of immigrant labor. That means more Americans can avail themselves of essential services offered at lower prices—like child care. Now, the downside….
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