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  • Upstart CEO: Can Immigration Reform Help Fix America’s Fiscal Crisis?

    Immigration reform starts with considering the domestic population first.

    Upstart: Gamechangers

    I keep hearing about how states and cities are distressed and financially overwhelmed, which seems to be the case, yet there is a “third rail” conversation that is purely political – somewhat ideological, but maybe a big component to America’s current financial and labor solution, but unfortunately has not surfaced as a point of emphasis: not by Democrats, not by Republicans, not by Independents, not by progressive groups or conservative groups – not by anyone.

    I’m talking about Immigration Reform.

    Now before you start; I am not anti-immigration, merely pro-solution – definitely pro American dream. I only considered immigration, as a result of the states and cities deficit conversation, because it seems that cutting essential benefits for the middle class, even for the poor are in play like never before, yet not one governor, senator or even one labor leader, has talked about reforming immigration in any of their policy positions, in terms of the states and cities financial crisis – why?

    And I am not only talking “illegal immigration,” and not just Hispanic entries: I’m interested in the effect of all immigration, and how states and cities are welcoming would-be Americans, yet current immigration policies, both legal and illegal, create an immediate and impactful stress on state and city infrastructures, where municipalities have to pay the costs for these new arrivals, while taxes go up, services go down and jobs become less.

    I’m interested in knowing the “real” immigration numbers – in terms of what comes in from their labor and contributions, and what is absorbed by cities, states and the federal government, as result of their trying to live through improved circumstances in America.

    The other reason I became interested in this topic, I was pointed to a book, The Case Against Immigration, The Moral, Economic, Social and Environmental Reasons for Reducing U.S. Immigration Levels Back to Traditional Levels, by Roy Beck. Beck stated that cities with immigration:

    a. Have 40 percent more people living in poverty.
    b. Have 60 percent more high school dropouts.
    c. Have twice as many violent crimes.
    d. Have twice the level of unemployment.
    e. Have twice the level of welfare dependency.
    f. Have more than seven times as much crowded housing as defined by the Census Bureau.

    I thought about the money and manpower dedicated to each from A-F. In New York City, where I live, you end up adding large numbers to the poor, many who are there already: add more students to the schools – many who need additional services, while increasing class size, but still fail to graduate. It seems as if money is going out, but how is it being reconstituted and from where? Crime, especially in a big city, is troubling, evolving and continually metastasizing, but the immigration costs become exponential – not only the victimization of individuals, but the police, court and detention costs skyrocket as well.

    There is also tremendous pressure on social service programs and subsidized housing, so my point: what is the cost of these outlays from cities, states and the federal government, as opposed to the costs being associated with sustaining a healthy-middle class, who will end up paying for any immigration reform out of their wallets. And how do states, cities and the federal government proceed fairly, but at the same time limit the swelling of immigration, until they have an excellent and actionable immigration reform plan?

    I respectfully disagree with many immigration advocates, who say that America needs immigrants for their “brainpower:” for their sense of entrepreneurism, as if American intelligentsia and innovation is inferior to anyone’s. As someone invested within enterprise, I take issue, and am offended by such an offering. Why would we recruit someone to do what we should be doing for ourselves in the first place – what’s the benefit? Isn’t such a proposition kind of how America fell into the ditch: by outsourcing engineering, technology and medical industries – by outsourcing our vision for the future?

    Now with many foreign countries improving their living conditions and connecting their economies to global industry, more foreigners are matriculating in the United States, but returning to their indigenous homelands – they should be proud of their history and culture to want to improve it – to want to be part of, as Thomas Friedman says in Hot, Flat and Crowded, a “flat world.” Why aren’t American institutions: government, corporate and academic, creating a “Manhattan Project” for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), which would collaborate with a “Million Entrepreneur Mission,” to create one-million more entrepreneurs, while doing so by investing within infrastructure, reducing barriers to business ownership, developing forward-thinking job creation, strengthening national security and building a more robust tax base, which could lower taxes for the middle class if spread around – all matters in the immediate and long-term interests of the American people.

    I am always in favor of pluralism – always for diversity in thought, culture and possibility, and I do believe America should have generous and path-to-citizenship type immigration reform. I say this as an African American, even though immigration, at least this unchecked immigration, uniquely hurts African Americans and all other populations with a high level of poor, semi-skilled/non-skilled workers. As Beck stated, “Poor black Americans – as well as the lower proportions of white, Hispanic, Asian and indigenous Americans in poverty – need entry-level jobs. And they need a tight labor market that drives the wages of those low skill jobs high enough to support a family above the poverty line. A federal policy that allows any unskilled immigrants is by its very nature a compromise that sacrifices the needs of impoverished Americans, especially the black underclass. Such immigration also compromises any efforts to move people off welfare rolls.”

    In my soon-to-be-published book, Hemorrhaging, The Blood of Black Men, I wrote, “In another instance, which again is connected to the unemployment or underemployment of black men, is a virtually unknown phenomenon, especially within black epicenters. American immigration policies work adversely and disproportionately against blacks – black men in particular. This is a larger issue that cannot be covered comprehensively in a few paragraphs, but American immigration policy makes it hard for black men to get jobs that don’t require at least a high school education, because immigrants are sought-after and hired  for low-end service, agricultural and manufacturing jobs that were once a stronghold of black men – employment that was long-term and where black men acquired transferable skill-sets to upgrade their positions and pursue better lives….Employers advocate the current immigration policy, because they can depress wages and deny benefits, so they push emerging populations into those positions, which push many black men out onto the streets. The policymakers do understand this, but corporate interests dictate this policy, which tells me that America’s desire to right the wrong of past discrimination is much more rhetoric than practice. Without the ability to work through a living wage or to have honest work available to them – like all other Americans – it should not be surprising that many black men have trouble keeping their families together and eventually they seek renewal and revenue through the underground economy.”

    But this is not about denying immigrants, who want a better life, and seek it here in America – God Bless them: this is about the costs and stresses on macro and micro economies, including labor, education, health care, social service, public safety and infrastructure, and the direct and peripheral costs associated with it – this is about the “real-world” that policy makers are not living within, and how their no decision-decisions make it much worse. This is about the imbalance between the unaffordable and unfair bill the middle class gets stuck with, while providing services for others, both legal and illegal immigrants, yet many of their own services are reduced, while costs go up for those same lessened services, due to the explosion of immigration.

    I have been reading what many pro-immigration activists state as their reasons for enhanced immigration, more specifically from OpportunityAgenda.com, when they say,”Commonsense immigration reform will ensure fairness and accountability in the labor market. It will create a level playing field for workers and employers, lift wages for low-wage workers, punish unscrupulous employers who undercut their honest competitors, and increase tax compliance and revenues.” They also say “Immigration should show compassion and uphold the nation’s values.” Also see: Dream Act.

    I believe America should be compassionate and uphold the nation’s values, and yes, it has to be done through common sense, but not by only providing humanity and opportunity for those who wish to enter American soil, but for those already here as well: I believe immigration reform starts with considering the domestic population first. A saturated, low-skilled labor market will never lift wages, it will undoubtedly reduce them. But in fairness, it must be noted that many illegal immigrants do pay taxes, which is hardly ever mentioned, yet most immigrants will never receive tax refunds (due to not wanting to compromise the uncertainty of their immigration status) or social security benefits – so what are the real immigration numbers?

    I became intrigued by the debate that states and cities are having with public workers about benefits and pensions. I always thought that the tradeoff was reasonable pay, but great benefits. I thought that’s how municipalities made many unattractive jobs – jobs that really were not growth-oriented, somewhat attractive, and how they sustained and created a larger middle-class.

    I ask, even the most left-leaning, the most compassionate, the most magnanimous tax payer, are you willing to absorb these outlays “uncapped,” while seeing these same costs inflate annually? Then the corollary question becomes – what is the benefit of immigration to those people footing the bill, because they have absolutely nothing to do with those costs, yet somehow they have become responsible for them.

    As a New York City progressive, I believe there will need to be some adjustment to the pensions, even a contribution to their own health plans by state and city workers, the numbers are just the numbers – but let’s be honest – is it the worker’s fault for taking a seemingly good deal, which they thought would provide a safety-net after retirement, or is it the fault of states and cities, many that have been mismanaged, some that have been corrupt and most that did not consider long-term implications of creating such a deal? Yet no one is looking at the other costs – the conspicuous costs, which if addressed might complicate a politician’s reelection campaign – the costs that are right in the middle of this and all other fiscal conversations – the costs associated with immigration?

    There has to be fairness and compassion: first to those who’ve made contributions to America, then to those, who are willing to do so – but it has to be fair, transparent and lift people up. I think immigration reform will provide clarity, provide humanness and decency, provide guides for corporate, labor, education and infrastructure evaluations, but most of all – it will not ask one group of people, to absorb the lives of others, at their own expense.

    Never to offend — open to being enlightened on this subject.

    Good luck.

    Calvin Wilson
    CEO, Upstart
    Upstart: Business and Management for 20-40 Year Old Professionals

    Filed Under: Gamechangers

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