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Immigration Reform and Hunger
Bread for the World views global progress against poverty as an exodus from hunger. International migration is part of this exodus—as people move across national borders to escape poverty and improve their livelihoods.
Since at least the 1840s, when the Irish potato famine killed 1 million people and drove 2 million overseas, poverty and hunger have been major causes of immigration to the United States.
Once in the United States, immigrants typically improve their economic condition, but their legal status means they are blocked from realizing their economic potential and making full contributions to the U.S. economy.
Today, approximately 40 million immigrants live in the United States—13 percent of the population. About one-fourth of all immigrants to the U.S.—about 11 million people—are unauthorized.
Bread for the World firmly believes that immigration reform will reduce poverty and hunger:
- About one-third of unauthorized immigrants live in poverty. Their lack of legal status contributes to their economic insecurity. The poverty rate for the children of Latin American immigrants, most of whom are U.S. citizens, is even higher—more than 40 percent in 2010.
- Legalization of unauthorized immigrants in the United States will reduce poverty by giving immigrants access to additional education and employment opportunities. Research shows that legalization and citizenship can increase immigrants’ earnings by 6 to 13 percent, with some researchers finding even larger increases in income.
- A path to citizenship will also contribute to national economic growth. Studies show immigration grows the economy, reduces the national debt, and can even create jobs for natives. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that immigration reform would reduce the federal budget deficit by $158 billion. Research also shows that it will expand the U.S. economy by more than 5 percent over 20 years.
“Welcoming the stranger” is a Biblical mandate. As Christians, we are concerned with the “sojourners” in our midst. The Hebrew word for immigrant—ger—appears 92 times in the Bible. The are many examples of the Bible’s concern for immigrants, including:
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33-34).
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