We were quite disappointed in Maryland Matters’ opinion column “Frank DeFilippo: Coming to America” (April 22). Concerns about the lack of assimilation of immigrants have been raised by some in the native-born population ever since the United States became an independent nation. They gave rise to the Nativist movement that continues to this day and is well reflected in DeFilippo’s racial and ethnic polarization piece.
We are a stronger society when we recognize that we are constantly evolving. Contrary to DeFilippo’s portrayal, today’s immigrants are – culturally and financially – active components of our communities.
Today’s immigrants are entrepreneurs, workers, taxpayers, and consumers. They add trillions of dollars to the U.S. economy. In 2015, Latinos had an estimated after-tax income of more than $687.8 billion. That figure is equivalent to almost one out of every 10 dollars of disposable income held in the United States that year. Foreign-born Latino households made up a sizeable portion of that figure: their spending power was estimated to total $322.1 billion that year.
Yet DeFilippo argues that today’s immigrants are having it “so good” thanks to the “social welfare support system” that they take advantage of.
Let’s take a deep look at one of the most essential welfare sectors in the nation: health care. How do immigrants affect the health of the nation? In the U.S., immigrants work fervently in poultry farms and agricultural fields to grow the fresh produce we need for a healthy life. They are the construction workers who build our hospitals and nursing homes. They staff nursing homes and retirement communities, caring for others’ loved ones as they age. They work as doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. And they work as health-promoters in communities, tackling illnesses and preventing them from spreading.
Let’s go even deeper on this sector and look at Medicare. The reality is that immigrants are subsidizing Medicare’s core trust fund. In the period from 1996-2011, immigrants contributed $182.4 billion more to Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund than was expended on their benefits. Immigrants generated multibillion-dollar surpluses in the trust fund during every year examined in a 2014 study by the Partnership for the New American Economy, a group that brings together more than 500 Republican, Democratic, and Independent mayors and business leaders united in making the economic case for streamlining, modernizing, and rationalizing our immigration system.
Finally, DeFilippo’s piece perpetuated a framework of anti-Latino and anti-immigrant sentiment instead of exploring the policies that are at the heart of the conversation taking place today. Today’s immigrants are facing policies that are dehumanizing: separating children from their parents and terrorizing communities through raids to the point that children are being caged and raped in detention centers.
Furthermore, there has been increased vetting for legal migration, including the Muslim ban, an attempt to end programs like DACA, TPS, and DED, and a lack of political will to find solutions to our outdated immigration system. These official policies have been buffeted by increases in nativist hate crimes to the point that the U.S. hosts paramilitary groups at the border holding families at gunpoint.
To use DeFillipo’s language, we struggle to see how the “brown” people, and our friends “the illegals” are getting it “so good.”
CASA is the largest member-based Latino and immigrant organization in the Mid-Atlantic region.