[W]hat drives economic growth is economic development
Washington, DC (Vocus) April 15, 2009
The United States African Chamber of Commerce (USACC) supports the Obama Administration and its plans to begin tackling the long overdue subject of immigration reform, as early as May of this year. The President has pressed for reforms that will reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the country by cracking down on border security, providing a means for the undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to regularize their status, and removing incentives for illegal immigration. Many wonder, however, if now is the time to take on this troubling task that has divided the country for years.
The economic debate has taken on greater precedence and relegated the issue of immigration in the White House and across the nation. However, there are many immigration reformists that suggest that the two issues are inseparable and that now more than ever, we are in need of a new immigration policy, a fact, which in and of itself, will help fuel the dying economy.
As the millions of Americans that make up the Baby Boomer generation work there way into retirement, the U.S. is in need of a labor force to replenish the outgoing workforce and support retirement systems and the social security administration. Immigrant individuals, families, and businesses have shown great potential in being able to fill the gap left by the retiring segment of Americans. However, immigration law can be crippling to families and the economy. With undocumented immigration, families are forced to live underground and are disadvantaged by not having the multitude of options and resources available to mainstream American families. As one expert stated, “[W]hat drives economic growth is economic development,” and undocumented immigration deprives whole communities of opportunities for economic growth.
Immigrant communities that have flourished in terms of economic development have proven themselves to be a vital component to economic growth. The buying and selling power of many ethnic groups within the U.S. is astronomical. A recent study on the Emerging African Market, commissioned by the ACC, reveals the 50 billion dollar purchasing power of the 1.3 million African immigrants in the U.S. In addition, revenue generated by African-owned businesses in 2002 was in excess of 88 billion dollars. While these figures seem large, they grow exponentially, taking into consideration that African immigrants only make up 5% of the total documented immigrant population in the U.S.
Immigrant groups also promise to have a positive impact on international trade and the competitiveness of the U.S. in global markets. Immigrants are often bilingual or multilingual and have knowledge of other cultures, being raised in multicultural settings. As globalization becomes more of a reality, it is apparent that in order for the U.S. to compete in a globalized market, the U.S. needs to foster the development of skills and abilities, like fluency in foreign languages and multiculturalism.
There are also risks associated with continuing to operate with a faulty immigration system in place. The turn of the century saw a new phenomenon, never before seen on such a scale. In every corner of the planet, the doors for immigration and emigration were flung open wide, and people began traveling and relocating to a myriad of new and different places. As people have grown more and more knowledgeable about immigration and new possibilities for relocation, it is evident that immigrants will begin to look to places other than the U.S. We run the risk of losing brilliant minds and the necessary labor force to compete on an international level with countries like India and China.
The USACC urges Congress and President Obama to increase legal immigration from Africa and to take into consideration the important contributions of all immigrant groups, including immigrants from the 54 countries on the African continent. The USACC is the leading advocacy organization for U.S. African relations and emerging African markets. The USACC is the umbrella organization for African chambers of commerce and professional trade and business associations throughout the United States and abroad.