Opinion | Susan Knopf: Immigration — rearview mirror

Through the holidays, I noticed pedestrian immigration on the southern border kept popping up in the news. It’s a hot right wing finger-pointing issue.

For the record, immigration has been a flash point conversation for more than 100 years, according to Forbes. Biden didn’t cause, ignite, or exacerbate the issue. Fifteen years and three presidents ago, when George W. Bush tried to get bipartisan immigration legislation passed, his own party failed him. Maybe Republicans need a rearview mirror.

This week, Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise claimed fentanyl primarily comes from the southern border. According to the U.S. government, China is the primary source of fentanyl, which is trafficked in a variety of ways.

Blaming Mexico or China for drug overdoses in the U.S. is like blaming grocery stores for obesity. We need to solve our drug problem. We need to educate our people and help support them so they don’t turn to drugs.

Our nation’s addiction to drugs has fueled chaos south of our border. Violence is part of the ethos of the illicit drug trade and drives out good families and business owners. According to the Harvard Gazette, up to 90% of guns seized in Mexico at drug trafficking crime scenes come from the U.S.

Where do decent people go when their peaceful towns are destroyed by drug cartels? They walk to our border, praying for mercy and an opportunity for a better life.

What caused the problem? Our hunger for drugs. We can’t blame the victims of our crimes. We must cease to be an illegal drug market. Grocery stores don’t cause obesity. We must create a culture that fosters good health and good choices.

We have sought to regulate immigration since our independence from Britain, according to Pew Research. When you look at the succession of legislative attempts, you see immigration laws have largely reflected our prejudices and not our pragmatic economic needs.

Forbes highlighted the scholarly and robust research of two economics professors from
Stanford and Princeton Universities. They found today’s immigrants assimilate well, succeed financially and compare favorably to European immigrants of the past. Perhaps most importantly the study stated, “Immigrant success does not come at the expense of U.S.-born workers.”

Here in Summit County we have a great many hard working people who have no path to citizenship. I have a local friend whose daughter cannot study to be a teacher. She was brought here as a child, and she has no working papers. What possible good are we serving to disenfranchise local people? We don’t need fewer local workers. We need more.

Across our northern border, Canada accepted 405,000 new permanent residents in 2022, the greatest number in the country’s history, according to the BBC. The Canadian government announced it plans to attract and admit 500,000 new permanent residents per year, bringing in 1.5 million new immigrants by 2025. Canadian economists and politicians have figured out immigration spells growth.

Right now our per capita gross domestic product is higher than Canada. Will that continue to be true as Canada attracts people and we continue to repel them?

Harvard University professor Louis Gates was detailing the genealogy of actor Edward Norton — as he was listening to his ancestors’ stories, and reeling from the revelations, Norton said, “Everybody was an immigrant. Everybody’s ancestor came from somewhere.”

Gates replied, “Everybody came here fleeing something.”

Norton wondered why this common immigrant story doesn’t bind us together with a sense of pride.

I wonder the same thing. My grandfather talked about fleeing persecution in Russia. He finished his life in a beautiful home in the Hollywood Hills, overlooking Los Angeles. On his journey from Russia to L.A. there was a stop in a 9-foot-by-9-foot dirt floor shack on the outskirts of Paris, where he lived with nine members of his family. Three brothers slept on a repurposed door that was chained up to a wall during the day.

This journey of hardship strengthened his resolve, and he became a business owner who employed more than 100 people. Today’s immigrants do the same for our economy.  Numerous economic studies demonstrate that immigrants produce long-term positive economic growth for our economy. Their businesses add jobs.

We disserve ourselves, and cost ourselves money by making the path to citizenship a long, expensive process.  Let’s address two economic problems with one stroke. Let’s create an efficient path for working papers and citizenship, thus eliminating our border issue and addressing the workforce shortage.

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