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Bread for the World believes immigration is a hunger issue. Migrants leave their home countries to escape deep hunger and poverty, but many remain at high risk of hunger and poverty once they arrive in the United States due to our broken immigration system.
While reducing poverty may not be the primary goal of most immigration reform efforts, it should certainly be one of its clear goals.
Studies indicate immigration contributes to U.S. economic growth and higher incomes for most Americans, including those born here.
People who make the decision to leave home and come to the United States generally have few other options. Central America’s “Northern Triangle” countries—Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras—are among the poorest in the world, with very high levels of hunger and malnutrition. Nearly half of Guatemala’s children are chronically malnourished, along with nearly 20 percent of children in Honduras and El Salvador.
Once here, Central American immigrants generally want to work and contribute, but may become isolated by a combination of factors, such as poverty, limited English proficiency, and discrimination. In fact, undocumented immigrants suffer disproportionately from food insecurity. This is true even though they earn more money here than in their home countries.
No group of immigrants is more harmed by hunger and poverty than those without documentation. Lack of legal status contributes to their economic insecurity and exploitation. It also means they have limited access to the social safety net in the United States.
Poverty persists among undocumented immigrants even though they participate in the workforce at higher rates than either citizens or documented immigrants. Our economy depends upon the hard work of undocumented immigrants but does not adequately compensate them.
Bread supports immigration reform because a substantial percentage of undocumented immigrants in the United States live in poverty and because comprehensive immigration reform, with a pathway to citizenship, would help them escape hunger.
We advocate for legislation that ensures a place at the table for everyone in the U.S., regardless of legal status. And we anticipate that hundreds of thousands of people would move out of hunger and poverty almost immediately if they were given a pathway to citizenship.
Bread for the World adds specific value to the immigration reform discussion by focusing on its root causes: hunger and poverty in home countries. We believe any comprehensive immigration reform policy must include poverty-focused assistance to address the root causes of migration.
Bread is working to end hunger in the U.S. and around the world. This can be accomplished by comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. that includes a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented and poverty-focused development assistance to address the root causes of migration from Central America.
Expanding the CTC would do more to reduce hunger and poverty among our nation’s children than any single policy has in decades.
By Jordan Teague, senior international policy advisor
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