by Francisco J. Treviño
Tulsa, Oklahoma – As business owners, we are aware of the dangers of alienating ourselves from the surrounding community and make conscious decisions each day to further involve ourselves with the public. We do best when we can engage, collaborate, and interact with others. From adapting to customer preferences to creating the most efficient workspace for employees, for us to thrive, we cannot do this alone.
As we celebrated Immigrant Heritage Month, we were reminded of the gifts that newcomers bring to our country, and we realize that for many of us, our ancestors were in fact immigrants at one point. Whether our employees and customers have lived in this country for their entire lives or just a few months, we value them and weigh them equally, regardless of their documentation.
We seek to learn from others, not take away their place in this country. There are many lessons that we can learn from those who have experienced different lives than us and have grown up in diverse environments; our businesses are a testament to the growth that can be had with those not like ourselves.
Faced with the threat of deportation, our Oklahoma businesses fear the drastic effect this may have on our local community, coworkers, customers, and friends. This looming reality has sent shock waves of fear to both those with the risk and those with no risk of being deported. We are one community, and with this potential devastating event, we must come together to speak up in favor of immigration reform.
Locally, immigrants have become integral parts of our business structure, and we would not have the success we do today without this dedicated group of Oklahomans. On a daily basis, we rely on those who moved to this country to work, live, and raise their families here. This important population provides us with help as members of our staff; our businesses prosper with their loyal patronage. In taking away this group of hardworking individuals on the basis of their immigration status, our local businesses may not stay afloat and face the likely reality of an economic downturn. When our community members are taken away, no one wins. We will suffer, they will suffer, and our local economy will suffer.
Furthermore, this potential, forthcoming deportation will have hazardous effects on our larger economy. We will essentially drain ourselves of a diligent group of contributors and our tax dollars. Rather than using government money wisely, we will tear apart families and friends and spend between $400 to $600 billion dollars to send undocumented immigrants away. In Oklahoma, we would lose thousands of our employees; the entire country could expect to lose 11 million individuals overall, bringing our real GDP down by $1.6 trillion dollars.
Deporting those without documentation would take 20 years to complete, but it will certainly take decades more for us to recover financially from the loss of business. In such a callous move, we will lose so much.
Contrary to the detrimental effects of deportation, legalizing our undocumented community has quite promising potential for our economy. It has been suggested that legalizing these individuals could reduce our government deficit by nearly $900 billion dollars, increase our wages by 0.5%, and increase state tax revenues by over $700 billion dollars.
This move would also help to alleviate our Social Security crisis with an additional $700 billions dollars into the reserves, allowing us to reach retirement with less fear and uncertainty. Rather than putting our economy into a disastrous state, legalizing these individuals would provide our economy with room to flourish and opportunities to invest in places like education or local infrastructure.
Ethically, economically, and logically, it does not make sense to deport the families so crucial to and loved by our communities, and during their time of uncertainty, we must stand up and speak for them and their contributions to society.
If we want to move forward, we need to adopt new policies that allow us to abandon the outdated immigration policies. When Congress faces the commonsense immigration reform next year, we must do what we can to ensure they vote in the direction of economic prosperity. As Oklahomans, we need to hold our representatives in Washington D.C. accountable of what we sent them there to do and that is to do the work of the people. They need to stop using scare tactics in order to get reelected. I know that I will do just that in November.
As business owners and operators, we know we cannot stand to lose this helpful, indispensable population; as moral individuals, we know we cannot allow our government to demolish the lives of our friends.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Treviño is executive director of the Tulsa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.