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Immigrants to Spain are taking jobs but also driving the economy

Story by Caroline Edwards

MADRID – Though conventional wisdom might suggest the ailing economies in Europe want to keep out immigrants, migrant workers are crucial to the productivity and sustainability of the Spanish economy, said Francisco Javier Moreno Fuentes in a lecture earlier this week.

A welcoming mindset toward immigration contradicts political posturing in Spain, where politicians are using an abundance of foreign workers to delegitimize welfare and social spending programs. But Javier Moreno Fuentes, a research fellow at the Institute of Public Goods and Policies of the Spanish National Research Council, said that border and immigration policies are ultimately decided by a country’s economic need at the time.

Francisco Javier Moreno Fuentes says that Spaniards need to accept immigrants as an inextricable, and necessary, part of the workforce.

Francisco Javier Moreno Fuentes says that Spaniards need to accept immigrants as an inextricable, and necessary, part of the workforce. Photo by Maria Amasanti.

Moreno has written four books on immigration and has taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels at two different universities. He spoke at a local English and Spanish language school about the enormous influence immigrants are having on culture, economics and policy in Spain and the European Union.

He said groups such as the country’s ruling People’s Party push an agenda that paints immigrants as a demographic looking to “come here, not to work, but to commit crimes and take advantage of welfare programs.”

The reality, Moreno said, is that migrant workers are attracted to jobs, not social programs. Plus, immigrants play an integral role in the Spanish economy, filling low-pay jobs that natives don’t want.

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