The more immigrants we have, the better off we will be


As the Island population grew during the Covid-19 pandemic, an accompanying increase occurred in its demographic makeup as the recent Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s statistical report shows. It reveals a marked increase in ethnic and racial diversity over the past decade.

Much of this proportional increase is the result of immigration. Studies now show that immigration is an important element in the future economic well being of the United States. This conclusion has been fully documented in a new book by Ran Abramitzky of Stanford University and Leah Boustan of Princeton University in “Streets of Gold: America’s Untold Story of Immigrant Success.” It describes how “immigration changes the economy in unexpected positive ways and staves off the economic decline that is the consequence of an aging population.”

The Vineyard commission report shows that over the past ten years, the Latino, Hispanic, and Black populations of Dukes County increased in size, even though the Island is 79 percent white. The report also reveals that “the non-Hispanic [or Latino] people identifying as having two or more races…increased about 194% between 2010 and 2020.” In the same period, the number of people identifying as Black “increased by about 65 percent.”

The Latino population also grew but at a slower pace: for the Island, this means the Brazilian Portuguese-speaking residents. The report notes that Hispanic and Latino people often identify as white so statistics regarding this group may be slightly askew.

These statistics reflect the U.S. population at large, according to the 2020 census report. While the white population remained the largest percentage of those living in the United States, it declined by 8.3 percent. The multiracial population (those identifying with two or more races) grew by 276 percent while the Hispanic and Latino population grew by 23 percent.

This increase is also reflected in Island schools where in many towns, numerous children do not speak English as a first language, mainly Brazilian Portuguese. In Tisbury, for example, the report shows that this is the case for nearly 57 percent of schoolchildren. And at the Regional High School it is 29 percent.

The conclusion of both reports proves one thing: the United States and Martha’s Vineyard are becoming increasingly diverse, and it shows how critical more immigration is to America’s future growth.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that immigrants now make up nearly 20 percent of the nation’s workforce. This report shows that about half the labor force is foreign-born and half of them are of Hispanic or Latino origin. This too is reflected on the Island. We see foreign-born, often non-English speaking workers from Brazil and Eastern Europe in many fields: from business to landscaping to restaurant staff and caregivers and more. 

Housing shortages continue to be an ongoing problem for most people who want to live on the Island because, as the MVC report also shows, the cost of housing and cost of living have markedly increased over the past decade. Fifty-three percent of the homes with a mortgage, for example, require homeowners to spend at least 30 percent of their income on housing, which is way above the state or nation’s national average.

Meantime, the gross domestic product, an indication of the nation’s overall economic health, grew in 2023 by 3.2 percent, way higher than most economists predicted. And why? Immigration is the answer.

With the retirement of baby boomers (those born after World War II) now taking place, the future of the American economy will increasingly depend on immigrants to bolster the labor force. Unfortunately, Congress has long been unwilling to do anything to resolve the problem. Yes, we have a crisis on the U.S. southern border, but it is not a new challenge. 

President Ronald Reagan wanted to tighten control on the border while increasing immigration. On signing the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, he said, “The legalization provisions in this act will go far to improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows, without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society. Very soon many of these men and women will be able to step into the sunlight and, ultimately, if they choose, they may become Americans.” Congress had an opportunity to continue this trend in February of this year, but it failed.

Not only do extreme rightwing politicians oppose immigration reform, they demonize immigrants: former President Trump claimed that they are “poisoning the blood of our country.” In fact, they are enriching the blood of our country and our economy; nor do immigrants contribute to the increase of crime, as news reports have demonstrated.

A Pew Research Center report recently showed that most undocumented immigrants are employed and paying taxes at the state and national level. They also contribute millions of dollars to the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. And they do this with no prospects at the present time of becoming American citizens.

This sad fact is how politics have deteriorated to the point where very little is achieved in Washington D.C., a condition that will only have an utterly negative impact on the future of all citizens and residents of the United States.


Jack Fruchtman, who lives in Aquinnah, taught constitutional law and politics for over 40 years.