Influx of immigrants raises social, economic questions

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A recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center projects an increase in the percentage of foreign-born residents of the United States within the next several years. The study concluded that more of the workforce will be foreign-born, most of whom will be unable to vote because they will not be citizens.

This increase will cause tensions among American residents as non-citizen immigrants realize that they are contributing economically, but not getting the same benefits as citizens, such as voting and Social Security benefits.

Legal or not, immigrants are still pouring into this country en masse, and most of them are coming to make better lives for their families by getting better jobs in a more stable environment than the one they left behind. While many Americans complain that immigrants are “stealing” our jobs, they are, in fact, helping to support the population of elderly and minor citizens through their work.

Face it — Americans are getting older, and as they age, they retire. Elderly Americans often rely upon government programs such as Social Security and Medicare in order to survive after retirement, and these programs have to be funded by taxes taken from paychecks. As the country ages and Baby Boomers continue to retire, more of our citizens will depend upon this aid, and far fewer will be working to help fund it.

An immigrant workforce can — and will — help this. With the projected rise in immigration rates, we will see a rise in the percentage of the population (legal or not) who are able to work. This will allow for the proper funding of government aid programs.

But how can we justify this? The new immigrant population — who at first aren’t even able to vote — will be paying for programs to aid the American elderly when they aren’t eligible to receive such benefits themselves — that is, unless they become citizens, which many immigrants can’t afford to do.

The government’s policy should change to allow for the fair treatment of immigrants. It’s time to realize that foreign-born residents make up a significant part of our population, and even if they can’t afford to become citizens, they should receive some sort of financial benefits for the taxes that they pay.

The study reported that about 82 percent of the increase in population by 2050 in the United States will be due to immigration, while percentages of the white and black populations in America will drop or remain unchanged. The projected population in 2050 is only 47 percent white and 13 percent black. Because most of the new working population will be immigrants — and mostly Hispanic immigrants — the cultural divide in America will become more pronounced. Hispanic workers will be paying to support the non-Hispanic elderly population, creating a tense cultural situation. We need to narrow this gap and make it possible for immigrants to be on an equal level with the native population.

The bigger issue than the cultural problem, however, is that most of the immigrants who will be supporting the elderly aren’t able to vote — meaning that they can’t vote against taxes or vote for Social Security reforms. They have to pay without being represented, which seems almost tyrannical. Even if they are here illegally, it’s never right to tax someone without their input.
In addition to financial issues, there will be another hotly debated issue in the forefront of politics — that of the languages of the United States, and whether or not an official one should be selected. With such a large number of Hispanic immigrants arriving, it is difficult to ignore the language barrier that will be emphasized with this influx. Currently, many people believe that English should be the only official language of the country; the nation was, after all, founded by English-speaking leaders, and English is a huge part of our history.

This is a very valid point, but we shouldn’t completely ignore the growing use of Spanish by American residents. A good solution would be to incorporate both languages, but in very different capacities. Because English is such a large part of our country, it should be the only official language of the United States; Spanish, however, should be considered an unofficial language at most, as we should expect that immigrants will respect our traditions and learn our language upon choosing to live here. No matter what, immigrants should be able to communicate with the citizens of the country into which they move.

To accommodate Hispanic immigrants, many businesses have begun offering services in Spanish, and it is increasingly common to see Spanish directions listed on products and signs with Spanish translations. Since the number of Hispanic citizens of the United States will only increase in the coming years, it is necessary that we find a solution to the language barrier problem.
The answer may be to teach new Americans English, or to offer all public services in both English and Spanish. Both of these potential solutions, though, will undoubtedly create other problems. For instance, who will pay for the new immigrants to learn English? Is it right to ask taxpayers to do so? And what about the rest of the population, those who don’t speak Spanish?

Solving this problem is not a process to be taken lightly. There are many issues at stake, and every solution has its setbacks. In other countries and cultures, immigrants must assimilate themselves into the community and learn the local language — and the United States should not necessarily be different. The same should be true of immigrants arriving to the United States. Immigrants should learn English; the only question is in how to do it in the fairest way possible — for both citizens and non-citizens.

Whether we look at the issues in the economy or the issues concerning language, the increase in Hispanic residents of the United States will require changes in government policies, as well as changes in the ways the country operates. The question lies, then, in how the changes will be implemented, and whether they will be beneficial for our country.