The Integral Immigrants

September 26, 2007

They’ve lived among us. Sold us goods, provided us with services, patronized our business, and boosted the economy in the process. While there is a negative association with immigrants in a lot of communities, some are finding out just how important immigrant populations can be. Although people are outwardly only talking about illegal immigrants (that way xenophobia can be justified since it is “not their foreignness, but rather that they are criminals”) a lot of the same resentments are echoed privately about legal immigrants.

I’ve never understood the reasoning. I believe that they should try to find more legal ways into the country, but I also think the US should provide more legal ways into the country. I agree there needs to be some way for them to contribute more in taxes to support the services they use like the schools and hospitals. But I also understand how important to our economy they have become. Many of the salons, restaurants, and other places I go, employ illegal immigrants in some way. Whether they are pumping my gas, planting flowers outside an apartment building, cleaning the movie theatre at night, or taking my dishes away at a restaurant, they are doing something. They are working, and working hard. And in my book that is what should make an American. Strong desires to work hard and get ahead in life are or should be core American values. But there are millions of Americans citizens in the United States who don’t work and don’t see a problem with that. In fact some of them probably are against immigrants who are willing to come here under dangerous circumstances and work in terrible conditions just to have the opportunity to see some American money. People will argue they steal jobs, long after sociologist proved for the millionth time that they aren’t taking the jobs you or I would work. And so what if they get educated and move up in the world or their children do? Isn’t that what America is about.

According to a NY Times article, people in a New Jersey town are finding out just how integral the immigrants have become. A little more than a year ago Riverside, NJ because the first town in Jersey to enact laws to penalize anyone who rents to or employs illegal immigrants. Hundreds of immigrants left the small town. People were initially happy as the noise, crowding and traffic decreased. But then the real consequences of such legislation began. The businesses that had large immigrant customer bases were destroyed. Hair salons, restaurants, and local shops started losing business so fast, many had to close. The economy is shriveling, and now the already strained budget needs to accommodate multiple lawsuits that arose in response the ordinance. Seeing what the ordinance was doing to the town, they were forced to rescind it. They were the first town in New Jersey to enact such legislation, but they are not the first whose economy forced them to rescind it.

I’ll leave you with a quote from their Mayor, “I don’t think people knew there would be such an economic burden. A lot of people did not look three years out.”

Article: Think Twice Xenaphobes