Today, nearly 1,500 economists sent a letter to Donald Trump and top Congressional leaders highlighting how immigrants contribute to the economy and urging Congress to pass immigration reform.
Economists: immigrants contribute to the economy
As the letter said:
Immigration is one of America’s significant competitive advantages in the global economy. With the proper and necessary safeguards in place, immigration represents an opportunity rather than a threat to our economy and to American workers.
The letter was signed by economists from across the political spectrum, including former officials from the George H.W. Bush and Obama administrations, and six Nobel laureates. The letter follows a National Association of Business Economics survey last month of 285 economists, which found that a clear majority believed Trump’s opposition to immigration to be a mistake.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, one of today’s letter signers, emphasized to CNN Money that America enjoys immigration benefits from both highly skilled and so-called low-skilled workers, as well as from immigrants who have come to reunite with families. “They don’t all have to be STEM workers,” he said, referring to the many ways immigrants contribute to the economy.
American farms: We can’t operate without immigrant labor
Echoing the point of today’s letter are news articles lifting up immigrant contributions to American industries from agriculture to restaurants to fashion. In agriculture, growers in Massachusetts, dairy farmers in Ohio, farmers in California, and chile growers in New Mexico have all stressed the same thing – they need immigrant labor, and Trump’s crackdown on immigrants seriously threatens their livelihood.
As one Massachusetts farmer said, having immigrant laborers in “absolutely crucial,” and that if ICE doesn’t raid area farms, “that will be a huge help.”
Agreed Rick Ledbetter, a chile farmer in New Mexico: “A Mexican immigrant labor force is needed if the [chile] industry is to survive.”
In California, the USDA has estimated that a farm worker shortage has cost farmers millions of dollars a year as crops are left to rot in the field. Meanwhile, researchers at Texas A&M have estimated that a complete loss of immigrant labor in dairy farming would cut US economic output by $32 billion – resulting in 208,000 fewer jobs nationwide.
Fashion and restaurants need immigrants too
Meanwhile, in fashion, Fwd.us and the Council of Fashion Designers of America released a white paper this week about current immigration policies and their impact on the fashion world. When fashion students come to the US, for example, many of them must leave after graduating, taking their talent with them. Furthermore, one-fifth of American clothing manufacturing workers are undocumented and forced to live in the shadows. As New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said, “creating barriers for immigrants hurts our economy and weakens fashion businesses.”
Finally, Fortune this week highlights the story of Cristina Martinez, who was formerly one of the 1.4 million American restaurant workers who are undocumented immigrants. Now that she and her husband Ben Miller own South Philly Barbacoa – one of Bon Appetit’s 2016 picks for the best new restaurants in America – they are mobilizing the restaurant industry to advocate for the million-plus undocumented food workers. Currently, they are drafting a resolution asking Philadelphia’s City Council to recognize the contributions immigrants make. “Undocumented workers make the beautiful dishes that you’re eating,” Martinez said. “Let’s take an honest look at the systematic issues that criminalize so many immigrants.”