When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.” So said Donald Trump, entertainer extraordinaire (and, at the time of writing, still the Republican presidential frontrunner), about immigrants from Mexico, in particular the undocumented. The problem of illegal immigration has certainly taken a front seat in this year’s election cycle, with a special emphasis on immigrants being a burden on society. Yes, the myth of the immigrant parasite is strong. And that’s exactly what it is: a myth.
Looking for a concrete, dramatic way to silence critics of undocumented immigrants’ productivity? Look no further than the remittance industry. There are around 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States today, almost six million of whom are from Mexico. Focusing exclusively on remittances from America to Mexico from undocumented Mexicans, six million strong, we find that they send a staggering $26 billion home to their families. That’s over $4,300 per person per year.
Let’s recap the situation of the average Mexican illegal immigrant: From poverty, unable to make enough staying in their home country. They migrate to a different country, not only without a clear, well-trodden path to guide them, but with a whole infrastructure in place to actively keep them out. They join the American workforce with severe handicaps, including not likely speaking English very well, having an unfamiliarity with the workings of the country, having low skills, and having no employment paperwork or legal ability to work. Despite these hurdles (which would be enough to remove the average American from the workforce altogether), undocumented workers manage to not only feed themselves making minimum wage or less, they are also able to send $4,300 back home to their families, equivalent to 860 workdays under Mexico’s minimum wage. That’s nearly three minimum wage jobs’ income for their families back home.
Illegal immigrants aren’t parasites: they’re miracle workers. They provide an invaluable service to the United States, and send billions back to their home country’s economy. If they were able to work and live legally, a good chunk of remittances sent would remain in the U.S. instead. It’s about time we dispel the myth of the lazy Mexican and allow the best workers they have to come to America legally.
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