Saturday, June 23, 2012

For those squawking over President Barack Obama's executive order to ease immigration laws for young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally: a history lesson.

Most of the nation's founders were born into newly arrived families or immigrants themselves. Many sports heroes are immigrants or the children of immigrants. Chances are, your own ancestors immigrated here in the last 100 years or so.

America's history is deeply rooted in the idea of immigration. And the nation's future depends heavily on how it adapts its clunky and restrictive immigration laws to deal with a globalized economy.

The gulf between the two parties in Washington has effectively stalled efforts to get comprehensive immigration reform done. America still needs it, but can't wait for the gridlock to subside. Neither can many immigrants caught in the snare of irrational and xenophobic restrictions.

The country also needs to be wary of how restrictive immigration laws have affected other countries. In Japan, which has a foreign population of less that 2%, a looming worker shortage compounded with an aging nation (one in every four Japanese is older than 65) will set the country back considerably. Japan will want for 900,000 workers in the health sector alone by 2025. But rather than opening its gates to immigrants, Japan holds fast to the idea that an immigrant can become a citizen but will never truly become Japanese, and makes it increasingly difficult for immigrants to pass certification exams in professions like nursing and teaching.

And while Obama's controversial order may seem like a campaign ploy to win votes from Latino voters, it is important to note that Latinos aren't the only immigrant groups out there. Asian immigrants have surpassed Latino immigrants in sheer numbers, according to a Pew study released this week, and eventually, many of those Asian immigrants will end up having diplomas in engineering, mathematics and computer science.

The world is advancing at a breakneck pace, and the U.S. continues to trip out of the starting gates in the new economy.

Restrictive immigration policies don't just hurt immigrants; they hurt this entire nation.

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