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A Declining Nation Courtesy of the GOP: The U.S. Economy Cries Out for Pro-Immigrant Policies While Republicans Play Anti-Immigrant Politics

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Washington, DC – We keep saying it: getting our economy right means getting immigration policy right. These days, a growing chorus of voices is saying it, too. This week, new reporting from NPR and a think tank report put the need for pro-immigrant policy in sharp relief, while examples from Florida, Texas, and Nevada make it clear that prominent GOP leaders are more interested in pandering to hate than in growing the economy. 

A NPR story, “Wide swaths of the U.S. are experiencing a significant demographic shift,” notes: 

(at 1:21) More people died than were born in half of all states in 2020, something that has never happened before [in the United States] … (at 2:32) There is one reason the U.S. has historically been able to grow its population: immigration. But restrictions in recent years have affected immigration.

A recent report by the Institute for Progress is entitled, Immigration Powers American Progress. It concludes: 

Our stagnant immigration system is actively repelling top talent, which feeds skepticism about immigration. The ability to attract global talent has always been one of the United States’s most powerful resources, to the great benefit of the world. We run the risk of losing it.

In Florida, Aida Levitan and Mike Fernandez write an op-ed in the Miami Herald, “DeSantis’ anti-immigrant policies are inhumane and will hurt businesses in Florida.” Levitan is a board member of the IMPAC FUND and president of The Levitan Group while Mike Fernandez is the chairman of the IMPAC FUND and co-chair of the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) Board. They are among the Cuban Americans brought to the U.S. as children during the Peter Pan or Pedro Pan airlift. Their op-ed notes in part: 

Florida is experiencing a severe labor shortage, like the rest of the nation. One in four workers in our state is an immigrant, making up a crucial part of our labor force. They are the backbone of our healthcare industry and kept our businesses running as essential workers during the pandemic … As workers, business owners, taxpayers and neighbors, immigrants make contributions that benefit everyone.

Yet, some politicians continue to whip up their base and raise funds by generating fear and hate toward immigrants, attacking immigrants through orders and legislation. A recent executive order by Gov. DeSantis commands state agencies to stop issuing or renewing licenses for shelters (fully funded by the federal government) that temporarily house unaccompanied immigrant children while they are waiting to be placed with a relative or sponsor. These children are vulnerable, as we know from our own experience, when we came to the U.S. as children.

…On the other hand, House Bill 1355 and Senate Bill 1808 take aim at state contracts with businesses that transport migrants of all ages into Florida. This legislation would further deny basic services to immigrant families. It will also hit Florida’s top industries especially hard.

In Texas, Nexstar News’ Maggie Glynn writes, “Increase in legal immigration could help solve Texas’ labor shortage. The story, highlighting the need for immigrants in Texas, comes at a time that leading state Republicans are competing for who can seem more hostile to immigrants and describing migrants and asylum seekers as threats. The story notes:

While much of the state’s leadership over the last year has focused on the crisis at our southern border, there’s another border crisis: legal migration is at its lowest in decades. It was already on the decline before the pandemic, and then shutdowns worldwide made the problem worse.

… Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows migration to Texas, specifically, decreased by nearly 50% from 2020 to 2021. For industries experiencing worker shortages, like the service industry, ramping those numbers back up can be part of the solution. ‘Immigration reform is probably the closest thing to a silver bullet, because it gives us the ability to bring a significant number of new employees online very quickly,’ Kelsey Erickson Streufert with the Texas Restaurant Association said this week.

And in Nevada, a blistering op-ed in the Nevada Independent from Martha Menendez, “Immigrant hating season is here,” calls out Nevada Republicans for their anti-immigrant stance. Menendez, Nevada based legal manager for Justice in Motion, writes:

Campaign season is upon us! You know how I know? Because everyone’s doing their absolute most to demonize immigrants.

… Hate is powerful – fear even more so – so I understand why these folks feel it is necessary to stoke our basest instincts in order to win points within a party that rewards xenophobia and dehumanization. I mean, it worked wonders for 45, their dear leader, so it makes sense that the playbook has forever changed. But if you break it down even a little the effects of their policy positions would be devastating to everything else they claim to stand for. They promise a strong economy but target and demean 25% of Nevada’s workforce. They speak of family values but hold views that threaten thousands of Nevada families with permanent separation. They point to their faith as a reason for opposing a woman’s right to autonomy over her life and body, but seem to have zero empathy for the women and children dying at our doors, begging us to help.

According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice: 

Republicans’ animosity toward immigrants is not only an ugly violation of core American ideals, but undermines America’s historical reliance on immigrants to sustain America’s economic growth. The only wall the Republicans have successfully built is to wall out progress, wall off opportunity for all Americans, and wall off and harm the US economy.