Immigration reform has become an extremely divisive issue in the U.S., with serious implications for the business community.
According to a SBS study, immigrants represent 17% of new businesses owners and are currently 30% more likely to launch a business than non-immigrants. Additionally, immigrant-owned businesses generate $67 billion in income per year – almost 12% of total U.S. business income.
As employers and entrepreneurs, small business owners have a vested interest in the immigration debate. Regardless of your location or current hiring practices, it's imperative to have a clear understanding of the arguments for and against immigration reform.
- Demand for low-wage workers. A primary argument for immigration reform is the assertion that immigrants play an important role in meeting the demand for low-wage workers, filling positions that U.S. citizens refuse to work.
- Price stability. In conjunction with the low-wage worker argument, employers argue that without a steady supply of low-wage, immigrant laborers, increased labor costs would result in higher prices for consumers – and could potentially lead to high inflation rates.
- Economic & tax gains. Legal and illegal immigrants who work and/or reside in the U.S. contribute to the tax base and the economy. In addition to purchasing products in the U.S., these workers pay sales tax and other taxes just like U.S. citizens.
- Job competition. Opponents of immigrant hiring assert that immigrants (legal and illegal) take jobs away from U.S. citizens. Although employers argue that citizens won't work many of the positions filled by immigrants, opponents counter with the claim that immigrant labor distorts the market and wages in ways that make those jobs unattractive to citizen applicants.
- Population concerns. Another major concern in immigration reform is overpopulation. Porous borders aren't a realistic option for anyone. Even now it can be difficult to estimate the number of people who are in the U.S. illegally and lower immigration barriers could cause a tidal of wave of non-citizens to stream into the country.
- Burden on infrastructure. Critics also point out that immigration dramatically impacts the educational system and other existing infrastructure. Further reforms would only increase these burdens and possibly push systems to the point of collapse.