by Tyler fahey
One of the most controversial topics in our nation is the U.S. immigration policy. President Trump continues to demand legislation that would pay for a massive wall across the U.S.-Mexico border to stop the flow of illegal immigration.
Since Trump entered the political arena, there have been a lot of talking points, and no serious policy discussions. Congress has failed to address the dysfunctional immigration laws that require people to wait several years to gain citizenship.
Meanwhile, more and more employers are saying that the biggest threat to the growth of their businesses is the worsening labor shortage. This shortage will only worsen as Americans’ birth rates continue to decline. In May, federal officials said the U.S. fertility rate in 2017 hit a record low for the second straight year.
Does it sound like a good idea to build a wall to keep immigrants out when employers can’t find enough workers to grow the economy?
For centuries, illegal immigrants have worked the types of jobs that American-born citizens refuse to work. For “legal” and “illegal” immigrants, why don’t we offer a couple of solutions that will keep rewarding those who want to earn their keep?
First, job-work programs.
My idea is a lot like the college work-study programs at Loras and elsewhere. People with financial needs are eligible for tuition assistance from the government in exchange for their work. Just as students earn a diploma with hard work and determination, immigrants can earn citizenship status.
Let’s say we offer them a stipend while they are working towards gaining legal citizenship status. Let them work, get paid, feel valued and fill positions of need.
Secondly, the U.S. must address the worsening shortage of workers in the skilled trades.
I learned about an approach being used in the information technology industry, which also is battling a shortage of qualified workers. Some companies are offering tuition assistance for students who could enter the IT industry with a degree in computer science, software engineering, and many other fields.
That’s great, but what about those who can’t afford to attend a four-year college, much less even a two-year vocational school? What if companies could arrange apprenticeships for potential immigrants to work for their companies while also working toward gaining citizenship?
Why waste taxpayer money on a wall, an idea that even Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, has frowned upon in the past? Yes, it would cost money to initiate the types of programs I’m talking about, but don’t we want to invest in the types of people who built this nation into what it is.
My ancestors in the 1800s were Irish Catholics who were severely mistreated. Now the president and others are reenacting that ugly period in American history, when Irish Americans were demonized and treated as second-class citizens.
Now try to visualize what the U.S. would look like now if those Irish Catholics had never been allowed in the country. Would the U.S. be the economic superpower that it is?
I believe that many, if not, most Americans believe everyone should be valued and accepted in humanity. All have value in society, regardless of race, origin, disability, and socioeconomic status.