The United States is in a transitional economic moment, moving from the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic through a period of recovery to a more traditional economic expansion. Things are trending in the right direction: inflation is slowly coming down, gas prices are decreasing, we have record job creation, consumer spending is high and we are rebuilding supply chains and manufacturing hubs domestically. While the Biden administration's economic policies have helped fix roads and bridges and foster remarkable small business creation, there is a big opportunity for continued economic expansion; we must find more workers.
Remarkably, there are currently more jobs than workers, which means businesses cannot grow to their full potential because our current labor force cannot meet market demand. The solution is obvious: We must immediately increase the size of our workforce. To bring America to a soft economic landing in which we can keep lowering inflation and strengthening our economy, we must provide a path for immediate legal status to the 11 million undocumented workers who already here — and offer them a path to citizenship.
While the country's mood is sour, new narrative research shows that some are hungry for a mentality of shared prosperity, a fundamental belief that America possesses a wealth of resources, plenty for all of us. But that isn't just about money, natural resources, food or housing — it's about the potential of the American people. In a recent Future Majority poll, 85% of Americans agreed with the statement, "We must invest in America because Americans are worth it. When you invest in Americans, our potential is limitless."
A mutually beneficial process that benefits both immigrant and U.S.-born workers, and that unlocks and creates shared prosperity, is a powerful antidote to the divisive MAGA narrative.
This notion of a mutually beneficial process that benefits both immigrant and U.S.-born workers, and that unlocks and creates shared prosperity, is a powerful antidote to the divisive MAGA narrative that is tearing our country apart. This idea is much bigger than our labor market; it speaks to what makes our country unique. Our nation is strong because anyone can come here, become American and work to solve big problems that contribute to the innovations that improve everyone's lives.
Voters in general want an America that's better for everyone — that's more free, more harmonious and multiracial, where everybody has an opportunity to thrive. They want to live in a country that can be made distinctly better in ways we haven't seen before. Gretchen Barton from Worthy Strategy Group notes that on the issue of the economy, voters from moderate to liberal are comfortable with immigration when they view it as mutually beneficial for all involved:
Voters desperately wish for a world of reconnection, within families and communities or across borders. They long for a world of integration, where everyone can bring the best of themselves to join up, solve problems together and be better. That is the key to meeting this moment, with solutions for creating greater community and integration mutually beneficial to our economic well-being.
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According to Daniel Costa, director of immigration law and policy research at the Economic Policy Institute, providing a pathway to citizenship for immigrant workers who are already in our labor market would mutually benefit both our economy and the undocumented workers themselves. These workers often face horrific working conditions and exploitation:
Five percent of our labor market right now has no rights because they are working without documentation. They live in fear of reporting labor violations because they and their families can be deported. We have seen with Dreamers that their wages doubled after getting DACA, so why wouldn't we find a way to provide a pathway to citizenship to increase wages for all workers and bring stability to our economy?
Providing undocumented workers with a pathway to citizenship is not only smart economic policy and the moral thing to do. It's largely popular across ideological lines. A recent poll from the National Immigration Forum shows that more than 75% of conservatives, moderates and liberals supported the idea of "Republicans and Democrats working together this year on reforms that could help lower food prices by ensuring a legal, reliable workforce."
Democrats must embrace a mindset of shared prosperity, in which the tremendous gains of our economy can be shared equitably. The U.S. is the wealthiest country in the world. We are at our best when we adopt a growth mindset — one that allows people who are drawn to our country to help grow the economy and pay into the system, and to do so with dignity and the ability to participate fully in American life.
In this transitional economic moment, we have a crucial opportunity to do the right thing: Provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and turbocharge our economy. Now is the time to create greater opportunity for all, rebuild our country and honor and integrate those who are already here, and who have become American in every way but their documentation.
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