Why immigration reform will help strengthen the middle class

Jan 21.DC 1

As we continue to gear up in the fight for immigration reform, we have seen immigrants thrown under the bus during the health care debates. Unsurprisingly, immigration gets tossed into the debate as a wedge issue, sure to destroy any hope of a sensible, grounded policy debate.

When it comes to discussions about the economy, its no different. Time and time again I've heard people yell about how immigrants are "taking away jobs" or that immigration reform in the current economic climate is "crazy" or "impossible". I have stood with others who have argued calmly that immigration reform would actually help bolster our economy and that the contributions of immigrants (regardless of status) to this country are invaluable.

A new report from the Drum Major Institute clearly outlines why immigration reform would help not only immigrant by all American workers, especially the middle class. We have been making the case for a while that when we promote an economy that exploits undocumented immigrants, we are promoting an economy that can exploit all workers, regardless of status. The new report from DMI gives even more credit to those claims.

From Principles for an Immigration Policy to Strengthen and Expand the American Middle Class:

In the depths of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Americans have nevertheless rejected the impulse to blame immigrants for their economic woes and instead show strong and growing support for legalizing undocumented immigrants. This report was written to encourage a new immigration reform package driven by the needs of the nation’s middle class and low-income American workers striving to stay afloat through the economic crisis and earn a middle-class standard of living.

We reveal that the American middle class relies on the economic contributions of immigrants both authorized and undocumented, but also that the exploitation of undocumented immigrant workers threatens to drive labor standards down for current and aspiring middle-class workers.

You can click here to read a full version of the report, but I think there are two major takeaways from the publication:

  • Immigration reform is necessary. Current immigration policy fails the middle class because it is disconnected from our nation’s economic reliance on undocumented immigrants, and threatens to undermine the middle class because these undocumented workers cannot exercise workplace rights.
  • Immigration reform can be done in a way that strengthens not only immigrants' rights but ALL worker's rights

I think that this angle on the push for immigration reform is clearly shown in the unprecedented support campaigns like the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign have seen from Labor unions. This is not just about immigrants, its about all Americans.