Comprehensive immigration reform has been a hotly contested issue in recent times across many states and on the national stage. But restrictive immigration policies will cause unintended economic consequences, adversely affect first class digital citizenship, and stifle entrepreneurship opportunities for minorities. The issues surrounding comprehensive immigration reform are of compelling public interest, as well as the national and economic interests of the technology, media, and telecommunication industries, which constitute one-sixth of our nation’s economy.
Hispanics – the largest group of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. – say their immigration status is the “most important factor” leading to discrimination against them. According to Pew Research Center, more than 60 percent of Hispanics say discrimination against them is a “major problem.” This problem ultimately discourages Hispanic immigrants from adopting broadband at home and hinders their participation in the mainstream economic market, which hurts our economy.
Fear of personal disclosure, deportation, and family division can make these immigrants hesitant to take advantage of our digital society. In fact, more than half of all U.S. Hispanic adults live in fear of deportation of a close friend, family member, or even themselves. As a result, these communities are less likely to obtain healthcare, seek employment, engage in civic duties, and pursue educational opportunities.
Hispanics also demonstrate concerns over online privacy, exacerbating the above problems when we live in an age where access to these opportunities is much easier with an Internet connection. Thus, to prevent the digital divide from widening and to ease their fears about personal disclosure on the Internet, we must educate these communities about the benefits of broadband adoption and digital literacy.
Comprehensive immigration reform can resolve these issues and provide an overall benefit to the economy and therefore all of American society. Currently, the discrimination that immigrants encounter drives them out of the mainstream economy and negatively affects their earning and spending power. If Congress enacts well-thought-out comprehensive immigration reform, this trend could reverse. The Center for American Progress found that comprehensive immigration reform would increase the U.S. household income tax collected by $5.6 billion by 2030 and increase the U.S. gross domestic product by at least $1.5 trillion over the next ten years, a figure that includes a consumption increase of $1.3 trillion. Undoubtedly, these projected earnings and consumption increases could translate into more computer and mobile technology purchases plus broadband adoption, which all improve digital literacy skills and boost our digital economy.
Comprehensive immigration reform can also improve small business ownership, a further benefit to the economy. In 2010, immigrants were nearly twice as likely to launch new businesses in the U.S. than their U.S.-born counterparts, and immigrants were more likely to apply for patents for business start-ups. In fact, they were responsible for the explosive growth in patenting per capita that year, which increased the U.S. GDP. However, if we don’t fix our immigration system, it will inhibit minority entrepreneurship and discourage future immigrant entrepreneurs from competing on American soil.
Immigrants have developed cutting-edge technologies and founded some of the nation’s top firms. First-generation immigrants and their children founded nearly 43 percent of U.S. Fortune 500 companies, including Google and eBay. Additionally, other sectors of our economy are heavily dependent on immigrant workers. Clearly, high-skilled and low-skilled immigrant entrepreneurs and workers have been and will continue to be vital to our economy.
The U.S. Hispanic population is also vital to the growth of diverse, niche legacy and new media. Currently, Hispanics constitute 16 percent of our nation’s population, but they only own “2.9 percent of full-power commercial television stations, and 4.5 percent and 2.7 percent of AM and FM radio outlets.” As this population continues to increase, the demand for Hispanic broadcast and digital media will continue to rise. This could help drive Hispanic media ownership and significantly bolster our nation’s economy.
Logical, comprehensive immigration reform would not only enhance diversity and innovation in the digital era, but it would expand opportunities for aspiring immigrant entrepreneurs and provide a boost to our recovering economy.
Hopefully, Congress is listening.