Do Economic Problems Call for Immigration Answers?

Robert Brown & Rishi P. Oza - Robert Brown LLC

With seemingly every week bringing the new failure of a major financial institution or grim news regarding job layoffs, lawmakers are facing a bleak financial outlook that has brought about real concerns about our nation's economic future. Despite the worries that people continue to have about the stability of the global financial system, big problems often call for big solutions. In this case, America's need for a solution to the immigration debate may help to provide the country not only with a real economic stimulus plan, but will also provide millions of eager foreign nationals with a pathway towards legalized status by asking them to buy into the recovery of the nation's economic health.

Depending on the source, the United States has approximately 10-15 million illegal immigrants within the country. Many of these individuals live in the "shadows" of society, too often afraid of reporting crime, paying taxes or living their lives normally in fear of detection and deportation. Instead of shoving these individuals to the margins of society and creating a subculture of undocumented workers, the US Congress should permit these individuals to buy into the American dream. Simply stated, we should encourage these individuals to buy a house.

The current economic crisis is the result of a significant drop in housing prices, coupled with a significant shortage of available capital and a crush in job layoffs. Assuming that the nation currently has 12 million illegal immigrants, if Congress promised these 12 million individuals that they would be able to obtain permanent residency by purchasing a home in America, what percentage would jump at the opportunity? The short answer: millions. Simply stated, Congress could create a program that provides undocumented individuals and perhaps individuals outside the US with the opportunity to obtain permanent residence in the United States if they purchases a residential property, requiring 20% as a down payment and making payments timely for at least 5 years. Individuals would have to purchase a house worth at least say $100,000; couples $125,000; families (couple + 1 child) $150,000. The results would be astonishing.

For the sake of discussion, if only 2 million buyers participated in such a program, the nation's housing crisis would vanish overnight, as buyers would flock to purchase houses currently available in the marketplace. This would cause a dramatic rise in housing value, thus providing banks with lessened debts for undervalued assets. Assume that the 2 million purchasers were only required to buy $100K houses and were mandated to submit a 20% down payment, the nation would immediately obtain a capital infusion of $40 billion. While this amount may seem meek compared to the billions being lavished by the Treasury Department, the non-financial benefits would be drastic: immediate job growth for housing construction, increased nationwide tax revenues, stability in the mortgage markets and increased home values. Such a program would provide the millions of undocumented with a means of remedying their status, without requiring massive deportation or getting away with a "slap on the wrist." In addition to these individuals being able to obtain the American Dream, they will also be aiding aid the country financially by no becoming taxpayers. Home ownership not only brings pride and responsibility, but also provides participating individuals with a sense of community, which can only strengthen our nation's patchwork of cultures and ethnicities.

Critics will likely say that such a program simply puts residency and legal status up to sale for the highest bidder, which cheapens the importance of lawful status in the US. To these critics is better to sell our industries and our financial institutions or better to sell empty houses. Legal status is not for sale in the sense that it is simply being sold. Legal status in the United States is tied to buying into the community at-large and rebuilding of our nation's infrastructure. Obviously, proper safeguards should be instituted to protect against the legalization of serious criminals, terrorists or drug smugglers. Moreover, housing down payments cannot be accepted if they originated from illegal activities. However, for the average, hard-working undocumented foreign national seeking to remain in the US without leaving or being deported, by providing such an individual with a way of buying a stake in the country's rebuilding and obtaining permanent residency in return, we are not only formally accepting those individuals already in our community into American society, but we are also providing them with a mutual stake in our nation's future. This type of program won't happen without courage from both political parties, but with the will to take on big problems with bigger solutions, our ability to integrate these individuals into our society may not only help to salvage the country from financial ruin, but may foreclose three of the nation's problems in one simple sale.

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