Letter: Immigrants contribute to a great nation

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To the editor:

Criminals, rapists, job-stealers! Those are favorite words clamored in the media at election time. Insulting words! This country was built by immigrants who grew it from shore to shore. So let us set the record straight.

We at the Berkshire Immigrant Center, and you too, know them well. They are your friends, neighbors and co-workers and work hard in a variety of ways, often doing the jobs Americans won't: clean houses, hotel and hospital rooms and tend lawns. Some own their own businesses or care for the disabled and elderly. Or they teach students at universities, are doctors, perform music in our orchestras, or contribute to research in our laboratories.

They work at learning English, value their children's education and are eager to become naturalized citizens. Fifty one percent of them are. They bring cultural diversity to our communities, and their children sit at school with your children, becoming friends and peers.

The Berkshire Immigrant Center in Pittsfield serves about 800 immigrants from over 70 countries a year. They often become entrepreneurs, and one only needs to see the number of ethnic restaurants in the county to see that they are productive citizens who provide — not steal — jobs.

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Contrary to a common myth, they pay taxes and bring billions to Social Security through automatic deductions. Immigrant students contribute $18.8 billion to our state economy and are sought after by research institutions. Indeed, immigrants complement rather than compete with our workers.

"Small and big businesses across the country wonder where they are going to find the workers they need to stay competitive. The reality is that America faces a skill gap in many areas of our labor forces," according to The American Immigration Lawyers Association. A wall is not the answer to this problem!

On Sept. 10, a naturalization swearing-in ceremony took place at the Norman Rockwell Museum, and we witnessed the joy of these new citizens. They attain this culminating phase of legal status with the help of the Berkshire Immigrant Center, which "offers comprehensive services to ensure and promote civic engagement, facilitate cultural integration and assist in navigating the complex U.S. Immigration system."

Immigrants are part of what makes America great, Mr. Trump. It was true when your family came and it is today.

For more information on how you can help support the Berkshire Immigrant Center and our local immigrants, please visit berkshireic.com.

Isabelle Kaplan, Pittsfield The writer is a board member of The Berkshire Immigrant Center.


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