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Letter to the Editor Re: Everyone Benefits from Undocumented Immigrants

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 01020158 (posted Feb. 1, 2001)"

February 1, 2001

Letters to the Editor
The Miami Herald
One Herald Plaza
Miami, FL 33132

To The Editor:

Jorge Ramos’ recent column ("Everyone benefits from undocumented immigrants," January 30) is almost right on target. However, his solution misses the mark. Immigrants, including undocumented ones, helped sustain the economic boom of the last decade, are key to our future growth, and are improving the viability of Social Security and Medicare. They also are doing many jobs that would otherwise go unfilled.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, other economists and business leaders agree that immigration is part of the solution. Unfortunately, the solution Mr. Ramos highlights, a proposal by Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX), will not solve the problem. The Gramm plan would not allow immigrants who already are here and working to become legal permanent residents. That will help neither the thousands of employers who are desperately seeking long-term and permanent workers, nor those vitally needed workers who seek the opportunity to live and work here permanently. Furthermore, such a proposal would be burdensome to businesses by forcing them to constantly recruit, hire and train new personnel, thereby driving up their costs.

Mr. Ramos is absolutely correct when he says that both documented and undocumented immigrants have contributed enormously to America’s economic prosperity. During the 1990s, the U.S. absorbed large numbers of both documented and undocumented immigrants, and also saw the largest, most-sustained economic boom in American history, the lowest unemployment rate in nearly 40 years, and the lowest interest rates in nearly half-a-century. These same immigrants that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said helped sustain our historic economic growth now will be key to ensuring that our economy continues to be vital.

In terms of our benefit systems, Kenneth Prewitt, the Census Director, recently noted that without the immigrants of the 1990s, the Social Security and Medicare systems would be suffering because the U.S. would have more retirees receiving benefits than younger people working and contributing to the systems.

Mr. Ramos properly notes that immigrant workers take the jobs nobody else wants, particularly in the service industries. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2006, America will have a shortage of nearly 9 million workers. Independent economists report that the worker shortage will last for the next 20 years because it is based on demographics, not just skills training. As a Congressional hearing last year showed, the worker shortage is hitting the service sector particularly hard. Jobs in essential occupations (semi-skilled and unskilled) are going unfilled.

A true solution to the combined problems of worker shortages and undocumented workers must address the legalization of people who are already here and working, must ensure full labor and human rights protections for undocumented workers, must preserve family unity, and include adequate mechanisms for people to obtain permanent legal status.

Sincerely yours,

Maria Isabel Casablanca

Ms. Casablanca is Chairperson of the Southern Florida Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.