P.C. Amin, a native of Gujarat, a state in western India, came to the United States in 1970 to get an education and a job. He ended up in Richmond, working for the Virginia Department of Transportation only because, well, he ran out of bus money.
Amin went on to build the region’s largest hotel company. Today, his family operates 38 properties with assets in excess of half a billion dollars. He employs 1,500 people. All told, his hotels pump $10 million a year into local tax coffers. Through hard work and a penchant for homing in on – and eliminating – inefficient operations, Amin and his family-owned business, Shamin Hotels, have turned around a number of hotels that were either bankrupt or in financial duress.
Amin’s story is one among many. Look around the region, find any strip shopping center that is pushing more than 25 years in age and you’ll find immigrants running shops, filling empty storefronts that would be contributing nothing to the local economy if they weren’t there. Many of the immigrants who are already contributing to the economy are undocumented. They could contribute so much more if our government only made it easier for them to do so.
We need the young, mostly working-age immigrants who come here more than ever. The labor force participation rate – the number of adults who have a job or are seeking one – has been declining for years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. One of the big reasons: About 75 million baby boomers, whose working years peaked in the late 1990s, are entering retirement. As they leave the workforce, they become dependent on government entitlement programs. Meanwhile, birth rates have been declining for the last two decades, and there won’t be enough young people entering the labor market to offset the number of boomers leaving it.
It’s called the dependency ratio – and it’s heading in the wrong direction. There will be more 65-plus people drawing money out of the system than what’s going back in. From a policy perspective (certainly not a political one), perhaps one of the simplest solutions is to provide those who want to come here and contribute to the economy a chance to do so. If we stop viewing illegal immigrants as a threat, we might find they hold the keys to our future.
– Scott Bass