Op-Ed - On Immigration, America Will Reap What She Sows
There comes a time of reckoning for all of us in which we are called upon to do right by others. As we look to recover from a devastating pandemic, we have also been blessed by the opportunity to live up to our values by embracing those seeking refuge and opportunity and by honoring the contributions of our undocumented friends and neighbors, many of whom have risked their health as essential workers keeping our country running in difficult times. North Carolina has long benefited from the invaluable economic and social contributions of our immigrant communities, communities with origins in Africa, Europe, Latin America, and all corners of the globe. Immigrants comprise eight percent of the state’s total population, yet over 325,000 of them remain undocumented. Although undocumented immigrants pay over $1 billion in federal taxes and $564 million in state taxes, their well-being, stability, and security remain in constant jeopardy. During the pandemic, the nationwide labor shortage hit North Carolina particularly hard, especially in farming communities in Eastern North Carolina. Undocumented essential workers also risked their lives to keep North Carolina afloat, powering the agricultural, construction, food service, transportation, and healthcare sectors. Providing lasting protections for these and other undocumented workers is a moral imperative given their contributions; but in addition to our moral obligation to care for our neighbor, not doing so would also be damaging to the strength of our communities and economy. The United States Congress is the closest it has ever been to passing massive, impactful immigration reform. This remains one of the most significant opportunities in our history to provide lasting protection for millions of our undocumented friends, neighbors, and loved ones. We cannot let this opportunity slip through their fingers. The majority of North Carolinians agree—it is long past time for humane, common-sense immigration reform. Time is running out to pass legislation in 2021 that will honor the social and economic contributions of immigrants in North Carolina and across our nation. The recent intimidation, mistreatment, violence, and deprivation shown toward Haitian immigrants further highlights the urgency of this issue. It is up to Congress to exhaust all possible options and deliver solutions before it is too late. America remains a beacon of hope and opportunity in the world. When we value all people, we are not only showing compassion to others but accepting their contributions into our communities. As a people and a community, we should expect compassionate and common- sense immigration policies from our leaders in Washington.