Over the past several months, we’ve seen immigration reform take center stage on the Congressional floor.
The proposed plan drafted by the “Gang of Eight” would allow many people living here without documents to stay and eventually earn a path to citizenship. But some conservatives are opposed to this plan, dismissing it as simply “amnesty.” Instead, they would prefer throwing a blanket of cash over a problem that is too large to be swept under the rug. They would prefer to block all undocumented immigrants from ever becoming Americans.
It’s fairly easy when reading the latest news from out of Congress to become disillusioned and disappointed. The demands and actions from conservatives who insist on skirting the real issues indicate that they are far-removed from reality and the actual problems facing our country. From the failed sequester to our current immigration dilemma, Congress has shown to be largely incapable of reaching across the sandbox and playing nice. So it’s time the youth of America showed them how to grow up.
Generation Y, also known as the Millennial Generation, rival Baby Boomers in size and diversity. In 2012, voters from ages 18-29 made up 21% of the electorate. This group is expected to grow to one-third of the voting population by 2015. Generation Y is the most diverse generation in our nation’s history with 39% being non-white and Latinos accounting for the largest percentage of the population boom. And it is this generation that will inherit all of the problems if Congress keeps passing the buck.
About 1.7 million of our peers are undocumented and they face the tough transition from K-12 schooling to young adulthood, in which they’ll require legal status in order to live full lives and contribute to the economy. These young adults did not choose to come to America, rather they grew up as Americans. And they are the individuals who will be most affected by immigration reform.
Undocumented workers are more likely to be underpaid and to work off the books. They are more vulnerable to crime, abuse and negligence. Fiscally speaking, a young “dreamer” who is ineligible for college, unable to join the military, or whose parents are deported is more likely to become a burden than one who is able to pursue his or her goals. Studies have shown that it would be much more economically beneficial for the undocumented to work legally and pay taxes so that the concern that they are driving down wages corrects itself.
The government spends nearly 10 times as much on border patrol now than it did in 1993. And efforts to close the U.S. labor market from the world have clearly backfired. Currently, we have 11 million undocumented immigrants living in America; these are 11 million people with families and homes who are integral parts of communities.
Reform needs to happen, and most importantly it needs to happen soon. Tacking on years and waiting for the pipe dream of the border being 100% “secure” (which still hasn’t been properly defined) is not practical. It also isn’t economically sustainable or efficient.
As a generation that’s inheriting one of the most polarized populations and a still-recovering economy, it’s time we spoke up. So write to your representatives and make sure your voice is heard. It’s time we told Congress to grow up.