Op-Ed: The foundation of our country, immigrants are key to its rebuilding

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Our country has faced seemingly insurmountable challenges before. Each time, generations of Americans have risen to the occasion and tackled them with America’s particular brand of unity and purpose. Our nation is rooted in the belief that everyone has something to offer, and everyone has the right to pursue their purpose. In this moment, it’s going to take everyone in our country — including immigrants — to pursue an end to this pandemic’s grip on our lives and the American economy. We can’t get there without immigrant families like mine, but years of anti-immigrant policies from Washington threaten our ability to help rebuild our country.

Immigrants represent a sizable portion of our country’s essential workforce — the ones who have kept shelves stocked, hospitals operational, and deliveries flowing, day and night. More than 17% of our country’s workers who have been deemed essential are immigrants. These foreign-born workers now make up 28% of specialized health care staff, like surgeons and other physicians, and 24% of other health care workers, like me. 

As a registered nurse in the Highly Infectious Disease Unit (HIDU), otherwise known as a COVID-19 unit, I leave my family every day to serve others, and I am proud to do so. Others in my family do the same. But we also leave each day in fear that some in our family could be taken away from us or that, as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient, my deportation protections could be stripped away. 

Like so many immigrant families across the country, we want to help our fellow Americans. We need your help too. We need elected officials dedicated to real, substantive immigration reform to develop a system that is fair, orderly, and allows immigrants to more fully participate in the economy and society. A fair system that makes it possible for those seeking a better life to find one would help us all rise, together.

While the current Administration seems committed to keeping people out, the data is clear — immigrants in the United States only add to the economy and create jobs. Immigrants pay more than $450 billion a year in taxes and have the ability to add $1.2 trillion to the American economy. As our nation faces high unemployment, immigrants continue to create opportunities for all Americans. In 2018, there were more than three million immigrant entrepreneurs in the United States employing almost eight million people.

Beyond the staggering quantitative impact, there is no way to measure how various cultures and points of view from diverse people enrich our country, as immigrants have done since our nation’s founding. After all, this country was designed to be a haven for unique ideas and perspectives. Americans are able to disagree about those ideas because we are united in our value of life and liberty. Those values cannot align with the harmful policies of the current Administration, like attempting to end the DACA program, even after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of it. This program protects recipients, such as myself, from deportation and allows us to contribute in essential industries. In fact, nearly one-third of all DACA recipients contribute to essential industries. Unfortunately, the threat to the DACA program is only one example in a long list of ways this Administration’s widely unpopular immigration policies do not represent the beliefs of the American people.

As our country faces another choice on election day, I encourage Americans who are able to vote to find unity in our desire to return to life before COVID-19 and resolve to leave anti-immigrant policies in the past. America could not exist without immigrants and will not prosper without the contributions of our country’s immigrant community today. My family is committed to continuing our service to our fellow Americans. When I leave my house tomorrow, I’ll be prepared for another day fighting for the lives and livelihoods of others. When you head to vote this year, I’m asking you to do the same.

Javier R. Quiroz Castro is a registered nurse, & DACA program recipient

Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

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