American Businesses Support a Path to Citizenship, a Shot at the American Dream

Integration Programs Associate

August 19, 2013

By Felicia Escobar

Commonsense comprehensive immigration reform isn’t just something that makes sense to 68 members of the United States Senate or a majority of the American people – it also makes sense to American business. In fact, there is a rich history of employers helping their employees achieve the American dream of citizenship. And our legal immigration system provides avenues for employers to apply for green cards for their employees, which is a critical step toward the path to citizenship for immigrants.

One of the first companies to do this was Bethlehem Steel, which supported their immigrant workforce more fully integrating into the United States by offering free English classes back in 1915. Today, there are many more companies who are honoring that legacy by assisting their employees with the citizenship process. That’s because businesses recognize that citizenship is an asset not only for their workers and their families, but for the economy as a whole.

This week, the White House released a report highlighting the economic benefits of providing a path to earned citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living and working in the U.S. shadow economy.

The report compiled outside estimates showing that providing earned citizenship for these workers would increase their wages and, over 10 years, boost U.S. GDP by $1.4 trillion, increase total income for all Americans by $791 billion, and generate $184 billion in additional state and federal tax revenue from currently undocumented immigrants. It would also add about 2 million jobs to the U.S. economy.

Sharing in the tradition started by Bethlehem Steel in 1915, businesses step up in a variety of ways to help their employees reach the American dream. Many are being helped by an innovative initiative whose name is actually inspired by the forward thinking of Bethlehem. Through the Bethlehem Project, companies are partnering with community-based organizations to provide services to their workforce.

Another example includes Marriott International’ Global Language Learning Initiative, which makes language learning available for its U.S. workforce to help immigrant workers learn English and U.S.-born staffers become proficient in foreign languages. And some companies are offering interest-free loans to assist employees who would otherwise have a difficult time paying the naturalization application fee.

Investing in the future of an employee is a win for the company and for the employee. And as the research from the new White House reports suggests, citizenship also helps workers thrive. For companies, helping an employee apply for citizenship builds loyalty in the company.

During my time in the Obama Administration, I have had the privilege of attending several naturalization ceremonies held at the White House. Those ceremonies – which are similar to ones that occur every day across the country – are reminders of the basic principle of our country: that anyone, no matter where they came from, can become an American citizen if they are willing to work for it and take on the responsibilities of citizenship.

Commonsense immigration reform would honor this principle. And as the new White House report and those involved in the efforts highlighted above can attest to, it would also be good for business and the economy.