Unlike immigrants who lack high school degrees because they come from countries where the opportunity to earn a degree is not universal, high school dropouts from the U.S. have already demonstrated they lack the very attributes that low-skilled immigrants have in abundance, including initiative and discipline. And American high school graduates rarely take available jobs picking tomatoes, processing chickens, cleaning toilets, or cleaning houses and caring for children so their mothers can work.
And it's not just the jobs these immigrants fill; it's the taxes they pay (even illegal aliens pay taxes, including two-thirds who pay payroll taxes, as well as sales and property taxes as homeowners or renters). Yes, they use services, which places an unfair burden on states and localities where they are concentrated, but they are also helping the Social Security system stay afloat with their payroll taxes. And the biggest cost of low-skilled immigrants is educating their children. But schooling immigrants' children means the second generation will move up the economic ladder. The evidence is already in; these second generation Americans do better than their parents and perform better than third and higher generation Americans from the same ethnic groups.
If the 11 million illegal immigrants already living here followed the GOP platform prescription and self-deported, the result for the country would be a disaster equivalent to a neutron bomb wiping out a major city. If 11 million people suddenly disappeared, millions of homes and apartments would suddenly go vacant, which would destroy a housing market that is already on life support. It would bankrupt many businesses, including large swaths of the food and hospitality industries. It would put thousands of Americans out of work, shutting down assembly lines for the cars and trucks these immigrants currently purchase, requiring layoffs of teachers and support staff for educators who currently teach their kids, and closing local stores in which these immigrants shop.
It's good that some in the GOP are softening their rhetoric -- but the party will have to do better than offering a plan to bring in a few thousand more skilled immigrants if they're serious about fixing the problem.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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