Opinion: Immigration reform would help the US, North Carolina

Opinion: Immigration reform would help the US, North Carolina

Cory Spiers

Before bigger issues emerged to capture the time and attention of North Carolina legislators, the issue of immigration reform stood as a major item on the annual agenda.

For many outside groups, this is still the case. The Charlotte Observer reports that a national group is attempting to persuade several North Carolina lawmakers to help implement immigration reform.

Immigration obviously polarizes a great number of people. The perception that immigrants negatively affect the economy and opportunities for other Americans is a commonly cited frustration.

This simply is not true.

The consensus among economists is that immigrants, legal and undocumented, help the economy in several ways.

Recent academic research suggests that on average, immigrants raise the overall standard of living of American workers by boosting wages and lowering prices, according to a 2010 report on economic factors of immigration by the Brookings Institution.

The survey also dispels another myth that immigrants tend to drain government services by citing a 2007 Congressional Budget Office report stating that immigration reform at the time would have left a $25 billion surplus.

Allowing immigrants in is also expected to help shore up the U.S.’s Social Security system.

Gordon H. Hanson in the article “Immigration and Economic Growth” put out by the Cato Institute in 2012 mirrors some of these claims, while also adding that immigrants, whether or not they are highly skilled, increase innovation.

Hanson does mention that the presence of low-skilled immigrants may have an effect on the wages of low-level American workers, but this does not tend to harm the economy as whole.

In national terms, immigrants create benefits. But is this true in North Carolina?

It appears so. The Immigration Policy Center reports that families headed by unauthorized immigrants in North Carolina paid approximately $318 million in taxes in 2010.

An updated fact sheet from the center, citing a study by The Perryman Group, shows that, should all undocumented immigrants be removed, the state would lose $14.5 billion in economic activity.

Clearly, immigrants of all classifications, whether or not they are documented, do make useful contributions to our society and economy, and a plan should be put in place to see that they are allowed to live and work here.

This is certainly an issue that has important ramifications for this state as well as the nation and needs to become a priority once again.

Hopefully, North Carolina legislators will help lead the way toward more sensible immigration reform.

Opinion: KEVIN GRIFFIN, Opinion writer