Top 10 arguments for immigration reform

Sources for the following include: the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Cato Institute, the Federal Reserve, the National Academy of Sciences, the Social Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and The Urban Institute.

1) The separation of family is a painful reality of immigration, whether through the deportation of family members or the separation of families apprehended at the border. When families are sent to detention facilities, they can be separated for years. No detention facilities, whether government-run or privately run, allow families to stay together.

2) Immigrants do pay taxes, whether income tax, sales tax or property tax. Sources vary as to how much income tax undocumented immigrants pay, but more than half pay state and federal taxes, and they contribute billions of dollars per year to the Social Security system.

3) Immigrants fill jobs in key sectors, often where the response does not meet the high demand, such as in agriculture, meat-packing plants and other low-skilled positions. As the number of native-born low-wage workers in the United States has declined steadily, unskilled immigrant workers have helped offset the need for such workers.

4) Immigrants help put food on America's tables. For years U.S. agriculture employers have been unable to fill the need for farm workers - labor that is physically and emotionally draining. The American Farm Bureau Federation supports a guest worker program that would allow employers to legally hire a sufficient number of temporary farm workers to meet their needs. Without guest workers, the U.S. economy would lose as much as $9 billion a year in agricultural production, and 20 percent of current production would go overseas.

5) Those immigrants who want to follow the process of obtaining legal residency face long years of waiting for their paperwork to be processed. The system is backed up and the issues are complex. In the meantime, their lives are put on hold, because they cannot marry legally, obtain Social Security cards or continue higher education.

6) The U.S. government spends billions of dollars annually - $17.9 billion last year alone - to detain (sometimes for two years or more) and deport people who have no criminal record and have crossed the border to reunite with families, find employment, escape violence or simply to survive. In fact, the majority of undocumented immigrants have not committed any crime other than the civil offense of being in the country without legal status. As one example, the border town of El Paso, Texas, which is home to a large immigrant population, has been named the No. 1 safest city in the United States with a population of 500,000 or more.

7) Increased security at border points of entry, such as at the bridge in El Paso, has delayed crossings by as much as two hours and has hurt the economy, as long waits discourage would-be shoppers and visitors to the United States.

8) An underground labor market not only affects wages and working conditions, it enables workers to be treated inhumanely and, as such, indirectly affects all human beings as members of the body of Christ.

9) Putting more tax money into better securing the border may deter, but will not prevent migration into the United States, as long as the root causes of economics are not addressed.

10) Americans can help to improve situations that cause people to flee their homes through informed awareness and more conscientious consumption. For example, purchases of free trade products such as coffee and chocolate will help small farmers in Latin America stay on their land.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2013