by Jacob Beiler, Melody Sagastume, and T.J. Vasquez

Should undocumented immigrants within the United States be given a legal status to be able to remain in the country? This question has brought a great deal of controversy because it fuels mixed emotions, starting from the fear of supposed invasion to sympathy toward the innocent U.S.-born children from undocumented parents. But for the prosperity of America, it is beneficial to have immigration reform in which undocumented immigrants within the nation receive a legal status.

With more than 41.7 million immigrants living within the United States’ borders in 2013, 11.7 million are still considered undocumented. That is about 3.66% of the U.S. population. While the percentage may seem small, that percentage includes families that live “under the radar”, that they take certain precautions in their everyday lives to not draw attention that could risk deportation.

While many Americans take some privileges for granted, such as having a driver’s license, many undocumented immigrants long to be granted these privileges. Having to be constantly attentive to their moves, undocumented immigrants contribute the least to the crime rates within America. Among men age 18-39, the 3.5 percent incarceration rate of the native-born in 2000 was 5 times higher than the 0.7 percent incarceration rate of the foreign-born.

Sadly, these are numbers that are scarcely seen, because the media portrays a stereotypical image of how undocumented immigrants act. Many Americans are quick to assume that undocumented immigrants are violent human beings because they broke the law by entering the nation illegally. Yet many do not know that most immigrants come to America looking for economic opportunities, avoiding any actions that would make them return to more difficult lives in their homelands.

Additionally, the new wave of immigrants has enhanced the economic landscape of the United States. Those who are opposed to comprehensive immigration reform are quick to say that immigrants steal jobs. Despite this argument, many immigrants are actually self-employed and contribute to the American economy in this way. Having their own businesses, immigrants are able to employ both foreign-born and native-born Americans.

Immigrant-owned businesses make up 18% of all U.S small business and these businesses generate more than $776 billion annually. Immigrants, for the most part, positively contribute to the American economy, along with creating new jobs for native-born Americans.

A negative impact that arises economically from high levels of immigration is that uneducated immigrants can cause a greater fiscal burden relative to educated immigrants. The reason that many of those uneducated, undocumented immigrants are less likely to continue on with higher education is due to the lack of benefits they receive. While all native-born Americans can apply for FAFSA and other government financial aid, many of the undocumented immigrant students are limited in terms of their access to these over-abundant opportunities given to other Americans. Approximately 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school each year. With immigration reform, America prospers. Immigrants contribute greatly to the U.S. economy, along with positively influencing social life. But even with statistics, many will oppose immigration reform. Even so, it is evident that opening our doors to undocumented immigrants will aid the prosperity of the nation.

This editorial, written by Jacob Beiler, Melody Sagastume, and T.J. Vasquez, is the basis for a documentary project conducted within the Contemporary Questions course, an honors class for first-year students. On Monday, November 23, the Contemporary Questions class will be presenting all of their documentary films at 6:00p.m., in Canterbury Hall.