By Alan Gomez
July 03, 2017
The Fourth of July has long been a day when foreigners swear their oath of allegiance to the United States to become citizens. It is an annual reminder that the U.S. has been a nation of immigrants since its founding 241 years ago.
That tradition will continue this holiday period, when nearly 15,000 people will be sworn in as U.S. citizens at dozens of naturalization ceremonies, from George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate in Virginia to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans to the ship deck of the USS Hornet off the coast of California.
What’s changed dramatically over the decades is where those immigrants come from, what roles they play in the U.S., how they’re treated by native citizens and the debate over the millions who have entered the United States illegally over past decades.
Today, immigrants make up 13.5% of the U.S. population — 32 million here legally and an estimated 11 million illegally. The percentage is lower than the massive influx during the late 1800s but far more than the immigration slowdown that followed World War II.
While Mexico has provided the largest flow of immigrants during the past generation, an increasing number of people are now arriving from Asia, Africa and other Latin American countries. They are changing the makeup of U.S. cities and stretching into small towns unaccustomed to all the new faces.
The flow of foreign-born people into the U.S. — as legal visitors and undocumented immigrants — continues to shape the nation’s economy in profound, and highly contested, ways. A landmark study from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine last year found that first-generation immigrants cost U.S. taxpayers $57.4 billion a year.
President Trump cited that figure during his first address to a joint session of Congress in February as a reason to restrict immigration — a key theme of his 2016 campaign. But he omitted the second half of the report’s sentence: that second- and third-generation immigrants create a net benefit of $30.5 billion and $223.8 billion respectively.
The report’s bottom line is that immigrants are a big plus for the U.S. over time. Yet Trump continues to focus on the negative aspects of immigration. His administration has increased arrests of undocumented immigrants, implemented a temporary travel ban on people from majority-Muslim countries and all refugees as an anti-terrorism move and pushes for a border wall with Mexico.
And in the days leading up to the holiday weekend, Trump voiced support for bills passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday to increase jail terms for undocumented immigrants and withhold federal money from so-called “sanctuary cities” that protect them.
“Trump’s radicalism on immigration is unprecedented in modern times,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a Washington, D.C.-based immigration advocacy group. “There’s a historic challenge to our nation’s tradition of welcoming refugees and immigrants. It’s up to us whether we are going to survive this era and emerge with a stronger sense of inclusive patriotism that makes us proud.”
Trump’s supporters disagree with that assessment, arguing that the president is simply following through on his campaign promises to stop the flow of illegal immigration and support a controlled level of legal immigration that serves U.S. economic interests.
Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that advocates for lower levels of immigration, said Trump won in part by promising to reform the immigration system to help, not hinder, the plight of struggling American workers. Mehlman said there is “no evidence” that the Trump administration has discriminated against legal immigrants, or that it’s conducting mass roundups of undocumented immigrants.
“Some of this hysteria is being hyped and whipped up by the advocates, telling people, ‘You’re under siege,'” he said. “If you tell them that enough, they start to believe it. All Trump is doing is recognizing that laws are meant to protect American workers.”
The battle over the proper role of immigration in the U.S. won’t let up anytime soon. Trump’s temporary travel ban is in effect, his administration will continue pushing for a border wall and immigration supporters continue mobilizing to fight back on all fronts.
Only one thing remains certain: As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, thousands of people will raise their right hand, swear their oath and become the latest members of the United States of America.
Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2tCeVYj
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com