LatinaLista — Tomorrow, the United States of America is 231 years old.
What has become a cliche, courtesy of the immigration reform debate, that our nation is a nation of immigrants, has never been more true than tomorrow.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), more than 4,000 immigrants will raise their right hands and officially become new citizens in ceremonies across the country tomorrow.
In fact, for the first time in its 35-year history, 1,000 immigrants will begin their path to realizing their American Dream at the ultimate dream-making factory of this country — Walt Disney World.
The ceremony is bound to be memorable: With Cinderella’s castle as its backdrop, USCIS Director, Emilio Gonzalez will administer the Oath of Allegiance to the 1,000 waiting citizens-to-be.
Gloria Estefan will sing the national anthem, U.S. Senator Mel Martinez of Florida will deliver the keynote address, Lee Greenwood will sing his signature song “God Bless the U.S.A.,” fighter F-15s will do a fly-over and the morning will be capped off with what Disney does so well — an old-fashioned parade down Main Street, U.S.A.
An interesting sidebar to the morning’s celebration is the recognition of Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio as “Americans by Choice.”
Evidently, the USCIS has this recogntion program, called Outstanding Americans by Choice, where they highlight notable immigrants who have chosen to make the US their home country.
And though there will be 4,000 making their choice to live here official and legal tomorrow, there still exists over 12 million who are making the same choice but can’t enjoy the parades and concerts because they still live in the shadows.
With no real reform initiative coming from Washington to help this national crisis, many cities and towns that realize punitive laws and ordinances aren’t the answer are looking into other measures.
These towns want to realistically deal with the fact that while the undocumented immigrants’ method of arrival is not condoned, their labor is appreciated — and needed.
Immigrants have accounted for 47 percent of U.S. work-force growth since 2000, according to the Population Reference Bureau. Immigrants and their children will account for all of the growth in the U.S. work force between 2010 and 2030.
Duke University research recently showed that foreign-born entrepreneurs create one in four U.S. technology startups and are jointly responsible for employing 450,000 workers in the United States, generating $52 billion in sales in 2005. Attracting these venture capitalists remains a critical competitive edge in today’s technology-based global economy, aiding in the creation of new jobs and sparking innovation.
Undocumented and documented workers bring an estimated $330 billion into the U.S. economy, according to an Urban Institute estimate derived from adding immigrants’ estimated yearly earnings ($240 billion) to what they pay in annual taxes ($90 billion). In light of the growing debate over immigration reform, these numbers cannot be ignored.
One measure to deal with the reality of the situation is for cities to set up offices of immigrant affairs.
These offices provide immigrants with basic information about social service agencies, using 911, the availability of English classes, knowing and understanding the laws of the country and how the educational system works.
These offices and the participation of the undocumented underscore the will of these immigrants to do what it takes to correct their situation —
Even though the Senate lacked the will to give them a chance.