Talking Points: Why PA Should Welcome Immigrants

Immigrant Families Make Pennsylvania A Better Place to Live

Children of immigrants are more likely to live with both parents. The percentage of immigrant children living in single parent households is only about 16% compared to 26% for children born in the United States.

Immigrants are a crucial part of the Pennsylvania workforce. Ninety percent (90%) of the new job growth in 1996-2000 in 16 states, including Pennsylvania, was due to immigrants. This is of particular importance in Pennsylvania which has one of the oldest workforces in the country. Immigrant workers tend to be younger than native born workers and are contributing more to our social security system.

Immigrant workers pay income taxes and their employers pay payroll taxes. The IRS and community tax clinics across the country actively encourage workers to pay their taxes regardless of their immigration status, under the premise that doing so is an investment in their futures.

Family Unity is Being Undermined by Immigration Policies

Most immigrants enter the United States legally under family sponsorship. About 500,000 family members receive permanent residency each year in this manner.

There are lengthy delays and quota systems for those who wish to enter legally for work or to join their families. A legal permanent resident of Mexican descent must wait six years for his spouse or children to join him.

In the United States today, one in 10 children live in with a "mixed-status family" where at least one parent is an immigrant/noncitizen. Any laws that criminalize or deport immigrant parents will tear apart families and leave hundreds of thousands of children without any family.

Immigrants Work With Law Enforcement

Studies have consistently demonstrated that immigrants tend to commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans. Contrary to popular perception, foreign-born residents are going to prison in smaller proportions than their share of the population at large.

Local law enforcement agencies have built trust and a spirit of cooperation with immigrants groups. In turn, immigrant groups provide valuable assistance to law enforcement agencies in order to prevent and solve crimes.

Immigrants are not a Drain on Public Benefits

Undocumented immigrants are already barred from all major public benefit programs in Pennsylvania. They are not eligible for cash welfare, food stamps, full-scope medical assistance, disability benefits or subsidized housing. In fact, the participation rate among legal immigrants in the food stamp program is alarmingly low.

Legislation that seeks to bar immigrants from other services threatens the public health and safety of citizens and legal immigrants:

  • Victims of domestic violence often flee abuse without verification of citizenship. Requiring a domestic violence victim to prove she is a citizen could keep citizens and lawful immigrants from getting help at shelters.
  • Victims of natural disasters are often left without verification of citizenship. Requiring someone who has lost his or her home due to flooding to prove he is a citizen could prevent citizens and lawful immigrants from accessing services in the event of a natural disaster.
  • Victims of crime are often left without verification of citizenship. Requiring a victim of a crime to prove she is a citizen could prevent citizens and lawful immigrants who are victims of assault, rape and robbery from getting help from victim services agencies. Public safety will be compromised if local and state police are limited in their ability to work with undocumented immigrants. If those without documentation fear being turned over to immigration authorities, they will not come forward when they are victims of or witnesses to crimes. This will allow dangerous criminals to remain on the street.

Immigrants Want to Learn English

Immigrants make greater use than native born residents of English language training. They enroll in English as a second language classes to: improve, advance or keep up to date in current job; train for a new job; meet academic credential participation; prepare for the US citizenship test; and better communicate and be a role model for their children.

Once enrolled adult ESL learners tend to stay in class longer than other adult learners. ESL is the fastest growing area of instruction in the field of adult education.

The demand for ESL classes has been growing each year, resulting in reports of shortages of available programs and long waiting lists in many parts of the country. Recent studies show that program waiting lists often number in the hundreds and thousands. (In Allentown one ESL program reported a waiting list between 300 and 500 individuals).

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