By: Mike Brill – President of UD College Democrats
Immigration is a complex issue. There are 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the United States. It is clear that our current system is in need of reform. Comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform needs to be passed by Congress, and I am glad the College Republicans agree with our stance on reform.
Our immigration system needs a pathway to citizenship, increased border security, increased penalties for employers who exploit undocumented immigrants and increased funding to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
It is vital that there be a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the States. Allowing these immigrants to enter the formal economy will be beneficial for America as a whole. Their tax dollars will help reduce the deficit, their businesses will employ Americans and their workers will enter our workforce and take jobs that will benefit from their unique skillsets. Undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. should be allowed to earn citizenship within 10 years if they pay their unpaid taxes and refrain from committing felonies.
Border security is necessary to keep out those who wish to harm the U.S. and its people. It is important we curb human and drug trafficking along our Southern border, among other crime.
It is also vital that we invest in USCIS to streamline our naturalization and citizenship processes. USCIS needs to shift their focus away from deporting peaceful undocumented immigrants and towards making the immigration process faster and more efficient.
Finally, we must toughen law enforcement to crack down on employers that are hiring undocumented immigrants and working them in harsh conditions for low pay. We must be more vigilant in regards to such exploitation and must bolster the punishments for these employers.
Over 46 million Americans live in poverty. Over 10 million of those Americans are the working poor. The working poor are people who have jobs for at least half of the year, but still live below the poverty line. Many of these people work full time, 40 hours a week. The majority have children. Some are single mothers. The Bureau of Labor attributes the increasing numbers of working poor in America to low wages.
The minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour, $290 a week or $15,080 a year for those who work 40 hours a week. This annual amount is out of poverty if you are an individual, but not if you are one of the many single parents in America.
This is not a livable wage. Most people cannot imagine living on $300 a week. This money must go to food, clothing, daycare, utilities, rent and other expenses. A family of two or more cannot support themselves on $300 a week. This is not an economic issue. It is a human rights issue.
This is why the minimum wage should be increased to $10.10 an hour. Such an increase would reduce poverty, catch up with inflation and boost the economy.
There have been long periods of time in which the minimum wage has remained that same, as the cost of living has increased. In 1968, the minimum wage was $1.60. That had the purchasing power of $10.90 today. Our federal minimum wage is two-thirds of where it would be had it been tied to inflation. Single-earner families can no longer support themselves.
An increase would bring these families out of poverty. The Chief Economist of Equitable Growth Heather Boushey estimates that increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 would bring 6.8 million Americans out of poverty.
Some believe that these minimum wage earners are just teenagers. Actually, 88 percent of these people are adults, according to the Department of Labor. This is not an issue that can be dismissed by saying only young dependents make the minimum wage.
This issue does not only affect low-income families. It is beneficial for the whole economy. When low- to middle- income employees make more money, they spend it. The rich may save their money, while low-middle income earners spend their money almost immediately, putting it right back into the economy. This is called the multiplier effect. An increase in income due to an increased minimum wage would allow minimum wage workers to spend more. This spending would increase revenue for businesses. In this way, raising the federal minimum wage will help business, not hurt it.
This will also bring many low-income families out of poverty and into the middle class. They will no longer need the safety net programs such as SNAP and Pell Grants.
Raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 would boost the economy and would lift millions of struggling Americans out of poverty. However, it is important to remember that this is a human rights issue, not an economic one.