It’s time, actually long past time, to talk about serious immigration reform. In a little over a month, it will be the ten-year anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. We have had a decade to come up with a solution, and yet with just over a month to go, we are no closer to a solution than we were ten years ago. We are not even talking about it. Sure, we are talking about the border, we are talking about walls, and we are talking about drugs. What we aren’t talking about is the people. Especially not the people that are already here.
It seems that many of our leaders would like to ignore the inconvenient reality that our country depends on millions of immigrant laborers already in our county. Many of these folks are here without proper documentation, keeping our store shelves stocked and our produce harvested. No one really wants to talk about this. Instead, the narrative always seems to focus on the idea that “they are coming to take our jobs.” Driving around town it is more difficult to find someplace not hiring than one that is. We have a labor shortage. Especially in the industries which rely on manual labor and our service industries.
Perhaps we should be less worried that people are going to take all the jobs available and more worried that there are not enough people willing and able to fill the jobs we already have. So, knowing how much our country depends on immigrant labor, why can’t we seem to agree on meaningful immigration reform?
I am sure that there are many reasons, but I think that the biggest is that it is easy to ignore a problem that you do not believe directly affects you. However, you might be surprised at how much it does impact you. The fresh produce you eat? More than likely multiple undocumented workers helped get it from the field to your table. And without their labor, you may end up paying even higher prices in the grocery store.
With over 3,500 DACA recipients in the state of Idaho contributing over $150 million to Idaho’s economy annually, it is highly likely that you have interacted with an undocumented immigrant in a professional setting. You may have taken a college course together. I should note that while immigrants often contribute to programs through taxes (including sales tax) they rarely reap the benefits of those programs. For example, DACA recipients may attend college, generally, but are not permitted any federal financial aid or federal loans.
We need to move forward with real, practical solutions to this issue. It’s time to stop making excuses, passing the buck to the next group of leaders. A good place to start might be to take a look at the US Citizenship Act of 2021, currently winding its way through congress. This act finally creates the path to citizenship that DACA recipients have been waiting nearly ten years for. They — and us — could benefit from a clear-eyed approach to addressing the realities we live with.
David Roth is a member of the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee and a candidate for U.S. Senate.