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Video: The Price of Immigration

Jose likes soccer. He likes his car. And he loves his family, which is why he left Mexico for the United States when he was 17, started working, and now sends home about 20 percent of his pay to support them. Like many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, Jose came here for opportunities that don't exist at home.

“We’re not criminals,” said Jose (not his real name). “We just come here to seek a better life.”

Indeed, economic necessity is the reason people risk their lives to work in the United States. And contrary to rhetoric that immigrants steal American jobs and drive down wages, immigrant labor is essential to the U.S. economy, as research shows:

  • Hispanic immigrants contributed $9.2 billion to the North Carolina economy in 2006 and created 89,000 spinoff jobs, according to research by Dr. James Johnson, professor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Kenan Flagler Business School.

Jose is one Hispanic immigrant contributing to North Carolina's economy. He moved there five years ago, found a job, and joined a church. My colleagues Ivone Guillen, Molly Marsh, and I first met Jose at his church this past January, and we found him to be very kind, polite, and open to talking with us. We could tell he missed his family. He showed us pictures. He shared stories of life back home.

Listening to Jose speak and watching him live his limited life in North Carolina (we spent five days with him), you just think to yourself, "You don't leave people you love unless you must, because economic and social circumstances force you to go."


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