Demographics & Immigration

Progressives in the Rocky Mountain States often despair of seeing federal immigration
reform that is practical, humane, enforceable, and serves the economic needs of the
United States.

Unfortunately, too many members of Congress seek vindictive strategies that punish
those who have crossed illegally, while at the same time creating unreasonable
roadblocks that prevent foreigners from entering legally to reunite with families and take
jobs that American employers need filled.

Facing a possible stringent hiring clampdown, many businesses are worried how they
would fill millions of jobs. A group called Texas Employers for Immigration Reform has
begun a televised public education campaign called We All Need Workers , stressing the
more than $17 billion in state gross product contributed by Texas’ immigrants.

Every state in the union has experienced an influx of immigrants, both legal and illegal,
and they often put strains on the fabric of communities. Here in the Rocky Mountain
Region, particularly the Southwest, the financial and social strains are compounded by
environmental degradation caused by millions of people tramping across both private and
public lands. Clearly, action must be taken to bring a realistic solution this untenable
situation.

Western Progress believes the Western Governor’s Association has created a viable
proposal for balancing the needs of the United States for border security and economic
viability, while maintaining the humanity that makes Americans proud of our country.
They have appealed to Washington to move on that plan.

In the face of Congressional stalemates, many states and cities are taking matters into
their own hands, often with a fear-based, heavy-handed approach. The Latino Justice
Project tracks local anti-immigration efforts . Western Progress urges progressives to be
vocal in discouraging legislators and voters from lashing out angrily in frustration.
Instead, Western states should look at the economic realities.

Take for example, the economics of educating the children of undocumented immigrants.
Many of these children are U.S. citizens, and the rest are unlikely to return to their
parents’ home country. They are children who can grow up to be tax-paying,
contributing members of our communities. Surely we want them to fulfill their highest
capability, rather than being forced into an underground economy of low-wages and
maltreatment. Nationally, the Dream Act , if passed by Congress, would allow certain
illegal immigrant children to attend college at in-state tuition. According to the
Migration Policy Institute , ten states have extended in-state tuition status to those
children, while three states have restricted access. Western Progress firmly believes our
states make a good investment by educating all their children.

And what about health care? The Bush Administration has reversed its policy, now
allowing infants born to illegal immigrant mothers to be automatically covered by
Medicaid for one year. Western Progress applauds that decision as a step in the right
direction. It is not only morally right, but financially smart to keep children healthy.

Some states try to save money by denying services to immigrants, but those efforts can
backfire. Colorado experienced that. Colorado’s law barring benefits going to
undocumented immigrants saved the state zero, while costing the state $2 million to
enforce ! Meanwhile, the Bell Policy Center found that taxes paid by undocumented
immigrants offset a large share of federally mandated services like K-12 education,
emergency health care and incarceration costs.

The economies of our eight Rocky Mountain States would falter without the labor pool
and spending provided by immigrants. We look forward to a day when our federal
government will recognize that it’s wiser and more practical to control immigration by
allowing needed workers into this country legally. Until that day, our states can take a
progressive stance that promotes both an economic reality and our humanitarian values.

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