Evangelical Christians. Dairy Farmers. Defense Manufacturers. The Social Security Administration. What do all of these groups have in common? One might be surprised to learn that in one way or another, they are all pushing for immigration reform. As comprehensive immigration reform moves through Congress, a unique assortment of interest groups are campaigning for immigration reform. All stand to reap diverse benefits: For dairy farmers, whose business model is increasingly shifting to a 24-hour production schedule, it is about meeting the demand for farm labor. Many farmers feel legal immigrant labor could help be a boon to this quintessentially American industry. For evangelical Christians, once a core opposition group, immigrant populations represent a new, vibrant and central aspect of their denominations and organizations. The Social Security Administration views immigration reform as a way to increase revenue. Lastly, American defense manufacturers are hoping for the comprehensive reform bill to pass the House because increased border security means that lucrative contracts for American industry could be forthcoming.
These stories show the broad reaching effects of the American immigration system. They also demonstrate a small slice of the many economic and cultural actors invested in it. It is an exciting time in our cultural conversation because, as we debate fundamental values and propositions, new voices are being heard, new coalitions advocating for reform are constantly forming and interesting perspectives are being brought to light. No matter what happens in Washington, at the very least, the debate will have hopefully opened the country’s eyes to appreciate the complexities of a system that affects so many lives.