The partial shutdown of our federal government over a border wall dispute is now dragging into its fourth week. In the continuing rancor, fundamental truths about immigration and immigrants are being ignored or distorted.
Here are some facts – each one backed up and verified – that we voters and our leaders need to keep in mind as we consider how to move forward to solve this short-term crisis and the long-term challenge to reform our immigration policies.
- It is legal for immigrants to cross our border at any point and present themselves to law enforcement to seek asylum. The vast majority of immigrants do just that.
- Illegal crossings are at historic lows. That’s quite the opposite of some false narratives. The number of people trying to cross into our country illegally is at a historic low. In fact, between 2000 and 2016, during the terms of Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic President Barack Obama, successful illegal entries fell 91 percent.
- Americans who were born in this country are more likely to commit crimes than immigrants. Immigrants who are tenured professors at University of Cincinnati and migrant farm workers alike know all too well that a DUI, let alone committing a felony, could jeopardize their American Dream. The higher an area’s concentration of immigrants, the lower the rate of violent crime and property theft.
- Immigrants at the southern border are fleeing crime and poverty. Mothers, fathers and children know the peril that they face making the dangerous trek from their homes in Central America and Mexico. But the northern triangle of Central America – El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala – is rife with gang violence and hopeless poverty that drive families to seek a new life in the United States, just like immigrants from Europe, Asia and Africa have done since our country’s founding.
- Immigrants invest in our economy. In Ohio alone, Immigrant-led households in the state pay an estimated $3.1 billion in federal taxes and $1.3 billion in state and local taxes annually. Immigrant-owned businesses employ roughly 122,500 workers.
Greater Cincinnati is a healthy community, but it’s not growing as fast as cities in the West and South. The growth we do enjoy depends on immigrants bringing their talents, their energy and their enthusiasm to our workforce, places of worship and schools.
Existing strong border security has successfully reduced the number of criminals entering our country. But antipathy toward the law-abiding families eager to bring their talents to our country threatens to slow our economy and ruin our well-earned reputation as a beacon of freedom.
Our future depends on healthy growth that is spurred in large part by welcoming new Americans to our community. For selfish reasons, we need more immigrants in our community. For selfless reasons, enumerated in the Bible, the Quran, the Talmud and our Constitution, we are called to welcome the stranger.
Steve Driehaus is executive director of Cincinnati Compass and a former member of the United States House of Representatives.
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