Immigration and Economic Justice
by Mittie Davis Jones, Economic Justice Covenant Program Task Force
When an alien resides with you in your land, you
shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as
the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were
aliens in the land
of Egypt: I am the Lord
your God.” Leviticus 19:33-34
Many people in the U.S. are facing difficult economic
times. Unemployment is at record levels, health care costs are high, education
expenses are rising, and housing foreclosures continue. During times of economic stress, people often
seek to identify the cause of their financial problems. Today, that list of
causes may include immigrants. But the facts say otherwise. Immigrants
contribute to our economy, pay taxes, and create jobs. More information is
Christians, we are called to love our neighbors. The Bible is unambiguous in
calling us to welcome aliens and strangers in our land, and to love them as we
love ourselves. Let us listen to the voice of the still-speaking God. Let us
read, reflect and understand the issues related to immigration. We will learn
how to respond to these sisters and brothers residing among us as we encounter
them in our daily living. And we will be guided in our decisions about social
policy and legislation.
Why do people immigrate?
Health insurance and health care
The Education of children
Higher Education and DREAM Act
Stories of Students Seeking to Learn and Stay in the U.S.
Employment, job safety, fair wages
Why do people immigrate?
In a world
becoming increasingly globalized, more people are leaving their homelands to
seek better lives and opportunities in new countries. The U.S. has long
been a nation of immigrants and we have consistently been conflicted about
this. We gratefully welcome immigrants and their contributions, but at the same
time we also exclude them, discriminate against them and, at times, inflict
grave harm upon them.
the late 2000s, some two million of our neighbors tried to enter the U.S. each year.
They left their homelands for numerous reasons including the lack of employment
or business opportunities, shortage of farmlands, lack of political or
religious rights, oppressive political and legal systems, famine, drought, or
civil war. They also come hoping to find a better life in the United States
with more job opportunities, higher wages, more cultural opportunities, a
reunion with relatives and friends, quality schools, and political
Of the two million
immigrants seeking to enter the United
States each year, about half accomplish
their goal. The other half (about one million people) are apprehended. In
addition, some 500 people die each year as they try to cross the border, double
the number of 10 years ago. Of the one million people who do successfully enter
the U.S. each year, about half have “papers” and the other half (about half a
million people) are unauthorized.
there were some 37 million immigrants in the U.S. Of these, 11 million were undocumented, down
from 12 million in 2007. Somewhat more
than half (54%) of the 37 million were from Latin America.
Slightly more than one-quarter (27%) were from Asia.
Europe was the birthplace of 12% and the
remaining 6% were from other continents. (See Figure)
are much more likely than the native born to live in metropolitan areas. See
How the United States Immigration System Works: A Fact Sheet
This fact sheet explains the U.S. legal
immigration system. The Immigration and Naturalization Act provides for an
annual worldwide limit of 675,000 permanent immigrants with certain exceptions
for close family members. Congress and the President determine an
additional number of refugee admissions. Historically, immigration to the United States has been based upon three
principles: the reunification of families, admitting immigrants with skills
that are valuable to the U.S.
economy, and protecting refugees.
The Economic and Political Impact of Immigration State by State: A Map
This interactive map
from the Immigration Policy Center http://Immigrationpolicy.org shows the political and economic power of
all immigrants, Latinos, and Asians. (IPC also produces an excellent electronic
newsletter, Immigration Impact.)
Health Insurance and Health Care
There shall be one law for the native and for the
alien who resides among you. Exodus 12:49
It is a myth that nation’s health care
system is collapsing from the burden of caring for documented and undocumented
immigrants. In truth, the large number of native-born Americans who lack health
insurance and skyrocketing health care costs are the major causes of problems
in our health care system.
Restricting undocumented and
documented immigrants’ access to the U.S. health care system threatens
our nation’s public health. Public health policymakers note that when
immigrants arrive in the U.
S. they are more likely to be healthier than
native-born individuals, yet as time goes on, their health deteriorates.
Undocumented immigrants pay
more in taxes for social programs than they receive in benefits. Immigrants who
work pay taxes to support Social Security and Medicare but many of them will
never benefit from these programs.
Medicaid and SCHIP Eligibility for Immigrants
immigrants are not eligible for Medicaid, Medicare, or the State Children’s
Health Insurance Program. Even legal permanent residents are barred from
participation in Medicaid or SCHIP during their first five years in the U.S.
Health Care Expenditures for Immigrants in the United States
“Lawfully Residing” Children and Pregnant Women Eligible for Medicaid and CHIP, November2010
This resource from the National Immigration Law
Center describes the
documented immigrants who are eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health
How are Immigrants Included in Health Care Reform?
sheet from the National
Center summarizes the
treatment of immigrants in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the
health reform legislation of March 2010.
Critical Care: The Role of Immigrant Workers in U.S. HealthCare
An Immigration Policy Center
analysis shows that immigrants are a critical component of the health care
workforce at both the high-skilled and less-skilled ends of the occupational
spectrum. Most notably, immigrants comprise more than one-quarter of all
physicians in the United
States, and roughly one-fifth of all nursing,
psychiatric, and home health aides.
The Truth About Costly Verification Systems, Unauthorized Immigrants and Health Care
Immigration Policy Center reports that past attempts to implement verification
measures to preclude undocumented immigrants from obtaining
government-subsidized health care have had the contrary effect of preventing
U.S. citizens and legal immigrants from receiving health care, while uncovering
very few instances of unauthorized immigrants trying to abuse the system.
Migration, Health & Work: The Facts Behind the Myths
shows the importance of Mexican immigrant workers in certain segments of the U.S. economy. A
high percentage of Mexican immigrants work in low-wage industries where health
insurance is rarely offered and they face increased risk of work-related
Are Immigrants Responsible for Most of the Growthof the Uninsured?
find that immigrants are largely not responsible for the increase in the number
of people without health insurance in this country.
Health Care Expenditures of Immigrants in the United States:A Nationally Representative Analysis
finds that health care expenditures are substantially lower for immigrants than
for US-born persons; immigrants do not represent a disproportionate financial
burden on the U.S.
health care system.
The Education of Children
You shall not deprive
a resident alien or an orphan of justice. Deuteronomy 24:17a
Educating immigrant children is a smart
investment. It is also an expression of God’s call to love our neighbors as
ourselves, a moral imperative for Christians. The issues of immigration and
immigration enforcement affect the children in immigrant families and the
public schools that serve those children.
Legal Issues for School Districts Related to the Education of Undocumented Children.
This excellent resource from the National School
Boards Association and the National Education Association helps school
districts understand their obligations to educate undocumented children. The
publication is designed to help school districts protect the right to a public
education for all immigrant children, a right that was guaranteed in a 1982
U.S. Supreme Court Decision. Your
congregation may want to bring this resource to the attention of your school
Educating the "other" children: education of illegal immigrants may benecessary.
Education is the largest public cost associated
with illegal immigration. But society benefits from educating these children
since they will probably remain in the U.S. as working adults.
Higher Education and the DREAM Act
Development, Relief and Education for
Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) addresses the tragedy of young people who were
brought to the U.S. before age 16, grew up here without documents, and graduate
from our high schools, but whose future is circumscribed by our immigration
laws. Currently, these young people generally derive their immigration status solely
from their parents, and if their parents are undocumented, most have no
mechanism to obtain legal residency, even if they have lived most of their
lives here in the U.S.
The DREAM Act would provide these undocumented
students with conditional permanent residency for six years. During that time
they would be able to work, attend college, or join the military. Upon
completion of two years of college or military service, they would receive
permanent legal status.
The DREAM Act: 2010
overview of this important legislation.
The DREAM Act – A Fact Check provides answers to basic questions about the DREAM Act.
The DREAM Act: Creating Economic Opportunities
DREAM Act would provide an estimated 2.1 million
undocumented children and young adults an opportunity to live up to their full
potential and make greater contributions to the U.S. economy and society.
National Immigration Law Center
provides numerous resources on the DREAM Act
including facts sheets, studies and reports, and polling results.
Stories of Students Seeking to Learn and Stay in
Coming Out Illegal
is the story of several high-achieving students
at UCLA, all undocumented, all facing an uncertain future despite their
academic accomplishments and the gifts they could share if they could exits
from the shadows into careers or graduate school.
Student's Arrest Tests Immigration Policy
tells the story of a 21-year-old student at Kennesaw State
University in Georgia who was
arrested for a traffic violation and charged with a felony for providing a
false address to the police. The student, who had been brought to the U.S. at age
eleven, was saved from deportation when the president of the university
petitioned for a year's reprieve to enable her to finish college.
Illegal Immigrants Spend Millions Extra on Tuition
describes the burden carried by families in Arizona, where (as in
many other states) undocumented students are denied in-state rates for college
tuition. Because nonresidents are charged more than the actual cost of
their education, Arizona's
colleges and universities profit from enrolling undocumented
Employment, job safety, fair wages
There shall be for both you and the resident
alien a single statute, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you
and the alien shall be alike before the Lord. You and the alien who resides
with you shall have the same law and the same ordinance. Numbers 15:15-16
It is well
with those who deal generously and lend; who conduct this affairs with justice. Psalm 112:5
Many U.S. citizens
are concerned that immigrants take their jobs. This creates divisions between
native-born and immigrant workers who become more easily victimized by an
unjust economic system. The real problem is too few jobs and the failure to
enforce workplace laws that should protect all workers. A good society can only
be built on justice for all – for immigrant workers and for workers born in the
Don’t Be Fooled: Immigration is NOT the Real Problem
American workers are worried about competition for jobs by immigrants. Many are
worried that job quality is deteriorating because employers can hire, and
abuse, unauthorized immigrants with near impunity. These are real fears. But
the true problem is not immigrants but weak and poorly enforced labor laws and
workplace protections. Most firms do not exploit workers, immigrant or
native-born. But some do and this is more common in industries that hire
low-wage, unauthorized immigrant workers.
Raising the Floor for American Workers: The Economic Benefits of Comprehensive Immigration Reform
immigration reform that legalizes currently unauthorized immigrants and creates
flexible legal limits on future immigration in the context of full labor rights
would help American workers and the U.S. economy.
Does Immigration Cost Jobs? Economists say immigration, legal or illegal, doesn't hurt American workers.
economists and other experts say there’s little to support the claim that
immigrants take jobs away from native-born workers. Study after study has shown
that immigrants grow the economy, expanding demand for goods and services that
the foreign-born workers and their families consume, and thereby create jobs.
There is even broad agreement among economists that while immigrants may push
down wages for some, the overall effect is to increase average wages for
Immigration Reform and Job Growth --Legalizing
Unauthorized Immigrants Would Boost the U.S. Economy
available evidence suggests that neither legal nor unauthorized immigration is
the cause of high unemployment and that the higher wages and purchasing power
which formerly unauthorized immigrants would enjoy were they to receive legal
status would sustain new job growth.