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From Long Island Wins: August 16, 2011

The Recession

I’m not a big fan of roller coasters. I certainly don’t like the actual ones. I can barely even look at them without getting a little nauseous. But I don’t much care for the metaphorical ones, either. Specifically, I could do without the stock market falling into a terrifying descent, rising back up, and then tumbling some more.

It’s certainly no fun. We’re staring down the threat of another recession, and it’s hard to say where we’ll end up. However, we’ve seen record drops followed by chaos, and that doesn’t exactly inspire me with confidence.

And politicians seem a little stuck for solutions. Instead of boosting the economy, the government seems to have agreed – barely – on a plan that will mostly cut vital programs like Medicare, Social Security, and public education. And instead of clearing policy space for a focus on jobs, it looks like there’s more austerity to come.

But sitting unnoticed in plain view is a simple, obvious plan that would do wonders to strengthen the economy and unleash a lot of entrepreneurial and labor talent.

Ready for it? It’s immigration reform. This part, you know: our nation’s immigration system is broken. But know this: fixing the system is a way to create jobs.

Right now immigrant workers are coming here, working hard, and renewing our communities. On Long Island alone, immigrants contribute $10 billion a year to our economy. But for millions of immigrants, there isn’t a pathway to come to this country legally. Many of them pay taxes, but they can’t come out of the shadows or contribute to our economy.

The President and Congress have at their disposal the potential to create billions in economic growth – a broader tax base, new businesses – but instead they’re still wasting money on a failed policy and a broken system. We’re spending money to deport immigrant workers who are contributing to the US economy, when we could be maximizing their contributions.

States like Arizona have accidentally made a strong case as to why we need immigration reform. When Arizona declared war on immigrants with SB 1070 – giving police permission to stop Latinos who they thought might be undocumented – it did more than cost the state tourist revenue. It cost them some of their best and most diligent workers, and many of their consumers. The trickle-down economic effects have reached far into the economy of that state, and will be felt for years to come.

Passing immigration reform and letting workers earn a path to citizenship if they pay taxes and learn English is a good idea at any time. But the current economic maelstrom makes the need for immigration reform that much clearer. We can’t afford to throw away tax dollars on bad policy. If we do, we’ll be stuck on a bad ride with no end in sight.

Maryann Sinclair Slutsky is the campaign director of Long Island Wins, a campaign promoting policy solutions to local immigration issues. Visit their website at www.LongIslandWins.com.