Letter to the Editor: Reader finds past immigration article to be ‘troubling’

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Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to the opinion piece published on October 12 by Mr. James Edmonds regarding the recent Alabama immigration law. I can only hope that this editorial was a weak attempt at farce because it concerns me that The Seahawk, an otherwise fine publication, would allow such blatantly racist diatribe to be published in its pages, thereby giving it some semblance of legitimacy. I will not try to stoop to the disgusting level of (non)humanity which Mr. Edmonds reaches in his vitriolic attack on those most vulnerable in our society, but rather, take him to task for his economic and constitutional ignorance.

Mr. Edmonds fails in his argument that it is a “well known fact” that competition (from illegal immigrants) is bad for the national economy. This is simply false. In fact, the opposite is true. There have been dozens of economic and policy studies examining the effect of immigrants in the workplace and concluding that immigrants (regardless of legal status) are generally a positive force on the economy. For example, Madeleine Sumption, policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan organization, states that immigrant workers create almost as many jobs as they occupy, and maybe more. Furthermore, David Griswold, director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, wrote that “The addition of low-skilled immigrants expands the size of the overall economy, creating higher-wage openings for managers, craftsmen, accountants, and the like. The net result is a greater financial reward and relatively more opportunities for those Americans who finish high school.”

Even conservative stalwarts such as Texas Governor Rick Perry, President George W. Bush and President Ronald Reagan understand the intricate relationship between the national economy and immigrant labor, and all three have endorsed measures to include undocumented immigrants into the mainstream on some level. Governor Perry recently defended his decision to allow illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition on humanitarian grounds that these students were brought here as children and now, representing the next generation of leadership, should live their lives out of the shadows. In 2004, President Bush called for an immigration system which serves the American economy and reflects the American dream. And President Reagan, before signing the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act into law – and subsequently granting amnesty to almost 3 million people – said, “One thing is certain in this hungry world, no regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters.”

While it is true that an influx of undocumented immigrants into the job market can adversely affect the wages of native workers who do not possess a high school diploma, this represents an increasingly small number of citizens. Moreover, these low-paying, low-skill jobs keep our consumer goods at low prices; increasing the real income for an overwhelming percentage of US citizens. Regardless of what the glib talking-heads suggest, immigrants contribute to the overall financial health of the US economy. The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, a non-partisan financial think tank, estimates that households headed by an undocumented immigrant contributed $11.2 billion in state and local taxes last year. 

I find it especially troubling that Mr. Edmonds would suggest that the US Constitution does not apply to someone living in this country without a visa. The Constitution is meant to protect the vulnerable in our society from the will of the majority.  Our founding fathers purposefully designed the document to uphold our ideals of freedom and to provide equal protection under law to all individuals living in our great nation, regardless of “legality”. Time and time again, courts have agreed with this notion and ruled that any individual living within our national borders is afforded the same fundamental and unalienable constitutional rights given to all Americans. Or perhaps Mr. Edmonds thinks that our Constitution should be ignored when it is convenient?

Jeremy S. Carter

 UNCW Class of 2008