Why we should be thankful for undocumented immigrants

Why we should be thankful for undocumented immigrants

A political cartoon in the Indianapolis Star by Gary Varvel showed what looks like a Mexican family breaking into a house as a white family enjoys a Thanksgiving meal.

It read, “Thanks to the president’s immigration order we’ll be having extra guests this Thanksgiving.”

The cartoon implied that undocumented immigrants come here to steal our food and mooch off the United States, but the editors of the newspaper said the cartoonist meant to criticize conservatives.

The cartoon was edited to first remove a stereotypical mustache on a Mexican father. And then the newspaper finally took down the offensive cartoon and issued a sort of apology.

Not only was this cartoon mean-spirited and racist, it missed the point of Thanksgiving as the indigenous people helped the Pilgrims, or the first immigrants, survive.

President Obama will travel to Chicago Tuesday to talk about immigration. Rather than demonize the undocumented, we should be thankful for the undocumented.

Here are five reasons why:

1) Many of the people who harvest the fruits and vegetables you will eat this Thanksgiving are undocumented. It is estimated that more than 50 percent of farmworkers are undocumented, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

And let’s be honest. Most U.S. citizens don’t want to work in the fields and when Stephen Colbert announced a national campaign to recruit American farm workers a few years ago only a handful of people applied.

2) The president said in his immigration speech Thursday that the undocumented should pay taxes but they already do.

The undocumented paid an estimated $10.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2010, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP)

3) The undocumented also pay Social Security and without their contributions Social Security would have a shortfall.

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the undocumented have paid $100 billion over the past decade into this program that they won't benefit from.

4) Our economy can’t survive without the labor of the undocumented.

Did you ever see the movie, “A Day Without a Mexican?”

Removing all the undocumented would not create jobs for U.S. citizens. The undocumented make up around 5 percent of the U.S. labor force, according to Pew Hispanic.

By some estimates 8 to 10 percent of the undocumented in the U.S. operate businesses.

Deporting all the undocumented would mean a loss of jobs and hurt the economy as the numbers of consumers, workers and businesses impacted would be severe.

5) The undocumented help the housing market. Not only are they renters but by using a government issued ITIN number some of the undocumented have bought homes.

A study by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals found home purchases by undocumented workers could total $60 billion in mortgages over the next few years.

Our neighborhoods would be more barren without that investment.

Instead of blaming the undocumented, let's be thankful for what they contribute.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE VIDEO

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