Immigrant. These days it is a dirty word, replete with baggage and judgement.
I can't open my mouth without people hearing my accent and realising that am from the United States-a fact that carries with it the false notion that "immigrants" like me are leeching off of the system. But what if that's not true? What if politicians are using hyperbole and slippery slope fallacies to manipulate the general public? Allow me to elucidate the actual financial impact my family has had on the UK.
I moved here about six years ago to put my husband through an expensive PhD. Our visas have always come with the restriction "No recourse to public funds" which we found to be fair as I am gainfully employed in medical ultrasound have no intention of receiving benefits. You should know there is a great shortage of sonographers in the UK, so nearly all NHS trusts pay locum UK staff £40-50 per hour to fill vacancies. As a visa holder, I do the job for a fraction of that wage.
We have always rented our accommodation, since our immigrant status financially prohibits us from easily purchasing a home here. Renting brings wealth to the local economy-specifically our English landlord. We also pay value-added tax, council tax, and loads of income tax.
My family is not leeching off the British system. If anything, over the past six years we have contributed more than the average UK citizen. We have paid international PhD tuition (approximately £16,000), income tax (approximately £30,000), national insurance (approximately £20,000), visa fees (approximately £6500), and general living expenses that go back into the British economy (£145,000 over the span of six years). If we decide to stay in the UK, we will pay a further £7500 in settlement fees for our family of four. That's a total of £225,000. I'm not complaining-I love this country-but living here is not making me rich and/or lazy.
Reader, I understand the political tension around the topic of immigration. For crying out loud, in my country there is a xenophobic reality TV star with a taxidermy albino sloth on his head proposing that we build a wall to keep Mexicans out of America. I wish I could say that this view of immigrants has not made its way across the Atlantic, but sadly, that's not true.
If we're going to have fair discussions about immigration reform, we need to bear in mind that many immigrants are hard-working, tax-abiding people. Immigrant should not be a dirty word.