Immigration is an economic issue
I have been reading the “Unauthorized: Illegal Immigration in Colorado” series with great interest. Immigration is an emotional issue that inspires strong responses on both sides of the issue. For some it is a political issue, others an economic issue and still others a human rights issue. Whether the idea of a melting pot, cultural cohesion, national security or illegal behavior defines one’s perspective, the truth is that the world is marked by the hard facts of globalization. When Dutch voters rejected the E.U. constitution last spring, many called this anti-immigrant reaction to the ever-growing number of immigrants in the country. In Spain, when hundreds of would-be immigrants made international headlines by rushing barbed-wire fences between Melilla and Morocco, the socialist government was forced to re-evaluate its immigration policies. As the gap grows between rich and poor countries, global migration patterns will increase and influence economies and labor markets everywhere. According to the Immigration Policy Center, if the United States is to maintain a 3 percent annual growth in the economy, the labor force must continue to grow. The growth of the labor market is primarily in less-skilled areas, like those we see here in Summit County. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, “somewhat greater than one in six unauthorized workers is in the leisure and hospitality industry (18 percent) or the construction industry (17 percent).” Native-born workers fill fewer than 8 percent of the jobs in these industries nationwide.Ultimately, the immigration debate raises hard questions that cannot be addressed solely through human rights legislation, economic calculations or national security. Information and education equal power and positive change. As a community, I hope we continue to examine all aspects of immigration including cultural diversity, economic development, language attainment, human rights and so on. Our immigrant population here in Summit County is a part of the tapestry that makes our community home. I encourage everyone to view members of our community as individuals and recognize that immigration is a complicated global issue that needs to be addressed on a global and federal level with all the facts and sensitivity we can muster.
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