Immigrants are a critical component of the United States’ economic and social well-being. They create businesses, boost wages and expand the economy, pay taxes, invest in local communities, and pay into social safety net programs. In the United States, immigrants are concentrated in highly skilled STEM fields and in low-wage labor jobs that would otherwise go unfilled.
The history of immigration in the United States has been a long and complex one. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the Quota Act of 1921, restrictionists and racists tried to control the flow of foreign-born people into the country. They argued that immigrants were taking jobs from American citizens, threatening the culture of white Americans and contributing to a closed society (Higham 1988; Jones 1992).
Although it is a common misconception that all immigrant groups have low-wage employment opportunities in the U.S., a substantial fraction of immigrants work in high-paying jobs and are more likely to own businesses than nonimmigrants.
Some immigrants also provide services that help the country’s residents, such as doctors and teachers. They also play a role in the development of the arts, music and sports.
In the United States, there are four primary types of legal immigrants: family members (spouses, parents and children), students, employers and humanitarians. In addition to these, there are many other types of legal immigrants, including temporary workers and refugees.
While there are several different kinds of legal immigrants, they share a number of traits, such as education and skills and a desire to build a life in the United States. Despite the fact that some groups are more likely to be targeted by restrictions than others, all legal immigrants contribute to the economy in significant ways.
They are more likely to start and operate businesses than the average US citizen, increase business formation rates, hire workers, export goods and services, and increase tax revenue from their incomes.
For example, in the past year alone, undocumented immigrants have generated more than $79.7 billion in federal taxes, $41 billion in state and local taxes and $18.4 billion in payroll taxes. Their contributions to the economy also support government actions such as building roads, improving schools, modernizing water systems and running courthouses.
Moreover, they are consumers whose spending power uplifts both the national and local economies. In addition, they are often the first to take advantage of new technologies that are not available to US citizens.
Because of their diverse backgrounds, they make a range of contributions to the American economy and culture. They have a vital role to play in the future of the country and must be allowed to continue to do so. If we are to maintain our thriving economy and vibrant society, we must welcome and protect all who wish to live and work here. We must offer them the opportunity to improve their lives and become Americans, ensuring that they and their children are fully incorporated into the fabric of our nation.