In 2016, President Obama officially declared June as Immigrant Heritage Month, citing that “one of the remarkable things about America is that nearly all of our families originally came from someplace else… It’s a source of our strength and something we all can take pride in. And this month – Immigrant Heritage Month – is a chance to share our American stories.”
Fear not in today’s hyper-partisan world – this is an issue with bi-partisan support. In 2017, Governors and mayors representing 48 states issued a combined 185 proclamations recognizing June as Immigrant Heritage Month. Governors included: North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (R); Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R); New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D); Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D); Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R); Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R); California Governor Jerry Brown (D); Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval (R); New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu (R); Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R); and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R), among others.
It can easily be argued that America has a broken immigration system. So why celebrate immigration? Immigrant Heritage Month is a celebration of heritage, culture, and diversity. It is an inclusive platform where all individuals – regardless of where they are from or how long they have lived in the U.S. – can celebrate their heritage and share what it means to be an immigrant (or the ally of an immigrant) in America today. The culmination of millions of Americans coming together to celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month is also a reminder of the countless contributions made by immigrants to our communities, our economy, our culture, and our collective American identity.
The main reason we need to embrace and fix immigration is the United States faces a troubling demographic problem. Our country is getting older. Ten thousand Baby Boomers are turning 65 every day. Many of them are retiring and leaving the workforce.
Living longer and healthier is great news for those getting older, but we need people to replace those who retire. Despite fears that robots will take away all of our jobs, the need for workers won’t be going any anytime soon.
There will be 35.3 million job openings through 2024—mostly due to retirement. Combine that with an economy that’s expected to create 9.8 million additional job openings and a U.S. birthrate that is declining, it’s obvious that the U.S. economy will need more workers. Eagle County isn’t exempt from this problem; we are aging faster than the US average, and the resulting pressures on our business community are widespread.
Immigration is an important piece to this demographic puzzle, and no, immigrants don’t “steal” jobs from American workers. This argument is based upon the assumption that there are a fixed number of jobs in our economy. Experience shows us this isn’t true, and Colorado depends upon immigrants. We would likely see our labor force and output decline as a result of removing the entire undocumented workforce.
Still, some argue that immigrants steal jobs; however, researchers haven’t found a correlation between immigration and high unemployment at the regional, state, or county level. Not only are immigrants not stealing jobs, research shows a positive link between immigration and economic growth. Immigrant workers help boost wages, as studies on both the national and state levels have shown. This is because immigrant skills complement and improve the productivity of native-born workers, increasing their wages.
Immigrant Heritage Month is a celebration of heritage, culture, and diversity; take the time to recognize the importance of our immigrant community to the overall economic vitality of Eagle County.
Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com