Our Opinion: Immigrants are a net plus for the country and the state

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In Tuesday's State of the Union, the president subtly reinforced the dehumanization of immigrants by offering a "deal" wherein the future of "Dreamers," as those brought to this country illegally as children (and who know no other country than this one) are dubbed, could be ransomed for greater spending and tougher measures regarding immigration security, including a wall along the Mexican border. Reducing the fate of human beings to the status of a political bargaining chip is immoral and heartless, not to mention simply bad policy in light of realities on the ground.

In this context, some hard numbers in the form of a recent study by the personal finance website WalletHub show that immigrants to the U.S. provide a positive impact on the nation's economy and do so in myriad ways.

In categories such as total immigrants in the workforce, immigrants' socioeconomic contribution, brain gain and innovation and the impact of international students on the economy, Massachusetts ranked fourth overall after only New York, New Jersey and California.

Not surprisingly, considering the Bay State's large number of quality institutions of higher learning, it enjoys the beneficial effects foreign students have on the state's economy — factors that include attendant spending on education, lodging, dining, retail, telecommunications, transportation and health insurance. The commonwealth never ranked below tenth in any of the other categories, perhaps because many of these students chose to remain here after their education and contribute their talents to the state that first welcomed them.

Not mentioned in the WalletHub study, but no less significant, are the intangible benefits the presence of international students — of which immigrants constitute a significant proportion — provides to the overall educational environment.

"In our classrooms, our students come face to face with peers from all corners of the world," Christina Wynn, dean of enrollment management for Berkshire Community College, told The Eagle. "It's a richness that is indicative of the global economy, and prepares students by giving them the familiarity that comes from working with people from other countries. For their professors and class members, it's a win-win."

Ms. Wynn's words are a strong antidote to the kind of benighted thinking that infects our current national politics. It also reminds us that this country's predominance in the world is owed in large part to the contributions made by our ingenious and hard-working immigrant ancestors, a predominance continually reinforced by those who come to our shores to better their lives.


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