Here we go again. Yet another letter to the editor ("Illegal immigrants steal American jobs," Jan. 3) blaming undocumented immigrants for all of Maryland's employment and economic problems. And, like all such letters, its argument instantly breaks up once it makes contact with the facts.
Contrary to popular belief, many "illegal" immigrants entered the country lawfully and only fell out of lawful status because of the complexity and expense of trying to navigate an immigration system that is almost designed not to work for anyone. Moreover, they are neither liars nor public charges. They live honest lives and work hard to pay taxes for benefits they may never receive such as Social Security and unemployment benefits.
According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, for 2010 alone, undocumented immigrants in Maryland paid $275.2 million in state and local taxes. In fact, according to the Perryman Group, if all undocumented immigrants were removed from Maryland, the state would lose $15.3 billion in economic activity, $6.8 billion in gross state product and over 70,000 jobs. And, on a national level, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that if the comprehensive immigration legislation passed last summer by the U.S. Senate was enacted, it would add nearly a trillion dollars in federal tax revenues.
What about those terrific jobs that the undocumented are "stealing?" Well, they are largely jobs that involve manual labor performed under stressful, unpleasant conditions and therefore are frequently difficult to fill, in places such as farm fields and nursing homes where outsourcing will never be an option. If those who object to those jobs being performed by out-of-status immigrants want to lead by example and take them back, immigration advocates would have no reason to object as immigrants contribute to American society in almost every profession at every level.
Given these facts, making sure that everyone on the road is properly trained and licensed to drive, regardless of their status in the U.S., is hardly a major concession and helps to promote public safety for everyone. For that matter, in-state tuition promotes enrollment at local schools and helps students who are "stateless" by circumstance and not choice to have a chance at a future either here or elsewhere.
It's sadly and deceptively easy to turn the most vulnerable among us into scapegoats for problems that can only be solved by critical thinking and cooperation. But, when it comes to immigrants, the American way is to do all that we can to keep faith with the people who have come here to keep faith with the American dream. We all benefit when we do more than worry about whether their papers are in order.
Cynthia B. Rosenberg, Baltimore
The writer is chair of the D.C. chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
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