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Immigration has been one of the major sources of the US population growth and cultural change throughout its history. Various issues regarding immigrants have been raised including those concerning jobs for non-immigrants, economic benefits caused by immigrants, their ethnicity, the patterns that they employ during settling, the impact that immigrants have on the social life of the community, and the ways they affect voting. Illegal immigration has been one of the most controversial subjects economically, socially, and politically speaking. Depending on the role that illegal immigrants play as regards America, people have various views on immigration. Some believe that immigration increases the rate of social evils and denies citizens of the US some job opportunities that the immigrants use instead. On the other hand, immigration can have positive effects both socially and economically if several measures are taken by the American government. This paper studies the state of illegal immigration in the US and the ways the government should address the issue.
Immigration in the US is a sensitive subject that causes many debates in the public and political sectors. Questions are raised about the role immigrants play in the economy of the country, the numbers in which they come, the pros and cons of having immigrants in the country, and the ways the admission policies are enforced. To be able to realize the depth of this situation and form a correct judgment, the statistics about immigrants should be presented to the public, and having carefully analyzed the data, each person is entitled to the judgment that they form. From the statistics, the citizens of the country are able to deduce what measures should be taken concerning illegal immigration to the United States.
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The definition of an illegal immigrant varies depending on the laws of the countries. In general, an illegal immigrant is a non-citizen living in a certain country without a valid visa (Chapman and Ciment 328). Illegal immigration in the USA is defined as a situation where a citizen of another country violates the United States immigration laws by either entering the country illegally or by extending their predetermined, documented period of stay after being allowed into the country legally. In 2012, the Department of Homeland Security in the United States estimated that about 11.4 million immigrants were living in the USA illegally at the time (Sherman). This number declined after reaching the mark of 12 million in 2007. Sherman continues to say that these statistics given by the Department of Homeland Security are similar to those of several other NGOs, such as the Center for Migration Studies that estimated the number to be approximately 11 million, and the Pew Research Center calculated it to be 11.3 million in 2012. During these collective statistics from the Department of Homeland Security, a percentage of illegal immigrants was calculated. In the USA, 5% of all illegal immigrants were from Europe and Canada; 5%, from the Caribbean; 6% came from South America; 12%, from Asia; 15% came from Central America; and the highest number, 52%, came from Mexico (Passel and Cohn). This shows that there is a huge number of immigrants coming into the US, and some of them are staying in the country illegally.
Illegal immigration in the United States can be either in the form of illegal entry or, as commonly known, visa overstay. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, about 6 or 7 million immigrants entered the US illegally. It is also determined that about 500,000 illegal immigrants enter the US annually (Modes of Entry for the Unauthorized Migrant Population). One of the common techniques used for illegal entry to the US is to hire smugglers who take the immigrants across the border. Other immigrants enter the country with a legal visa then unlawfully extend their stay. It concerns about 30-50% of the illegal immigrant population amounting to approximately 4-5.5 million (Modes of Entry for the Unauthorized Migrant Population). A case of visa overstay happens when a person remains in the USA after their admission period expires. The penalty for visa overstay depends on the time the person was staying in the country illegally. If the time is more than 180 days but less than a year, a readmission attempt to the USA will face a three-year ban, which means the person will not be allowed in the United States for three years. If the time extended is more than a year and the person applies for readmission, they are imposed with a 10-year ban. Finally, there is one more method considered to be illegal immigration: violation of a border crossing card. After a person crosses the border, a border card is issued to them that allows the person to cross the US borders for a limited period of time. A relatively small number of illegal immigrants use this technique. Statistics show that border card violation is associated with a rather small percentage of illegal immigrants: 250,000-500,000 (Modes of Entry for the Unauthorized Migrant Population). This shows that although the government is doing enough to prevent illegal immigration, some loopholes still exist, and the issue should be addressed.
Despite various laws that have been passed to curb illegal immigration, the numbers keep increasing. According to the US laws, immigrants are classified as illegal in the three following cases: entering the country without inspection, warrant, or authorization; entering the country legally but violating the terms of entry; and entering the country legally but staying beyond the authorized period of stay indicated by the law enforcers and immigration officers. Immigration laws can be found in the Constitution: title 8 of the United States Code under the improper entry of an alien. In this article of the Constitution, noncitizens have to pay a fine, serve time, or both if they attempt the following: enter or attempt to enter the United States at any time in any given place that is not a designated entry point by immigration agents, make attempts or even successfully enter the United States by willingly providing falsifying or misleading information about themselves or concealing a material fact during this process, or elude inspection or examination done by the immigration officers. The maximum jail term depends on the offense committed. The former presupposes six months while for the rest of the offenses, a jail term of two years to be served by the offender. Apart from these penalties, the offender may be required to pay a civil fine. To guard the border, the United States government uses various local agencies and law enforcers, such as US ICE, CBP, and the USBP (Jennings 629). Thus, in order to prevent this upward trend in illegal immigration, the government should ensure the adherence to the rule of law.
Once inside the country, illegal immigrants start searching for jobs. They receive positions in various sectors, such as the textile industry and the agricultural sector. Once in the country, however, illegal immigrants are not allowed to receive any benefits from the state or local community by law. In some states, though, this law has been overridden. For example, in California, the state legislature passed professional law licenses to be illegal immigrants in 2013 (Medina). In order to uncover illegal immigrants that are working in a certain company or organization, the government devised the audit method. This audit of employment records checks the documentation of the companys employees to determine whether there are any inconsistencies. In case definite evidence of illegal actions is uncovered, the audit data may result in the deportation of the workers deemed illegal or in the termination of working contracts for the employees who are unable to solve various discrepancies. It contrasts with the raid method whereby law enforcers and immigration agents raid the work premises, gather all workers, and then check their documents. This technique of enforcing immigration laws was considered disruptive for businesses and resulted in the separation of the families of the immigrants.
The public opinion on the issue of illegal immigration varies. In general, their views and opinions on illegal immigrants depend on the affected parties. According to the poll carried out by Debate.org, 71% of participants believe that illegal immigrants should be deported while 29% are opposed to this measure (Should Illegal Immigrants Be Deported?). As far as the American economy is concerned, the level of unemployment is one of the most significant factors that either stimulates or deters the anti- illegal immigrant discussion. Most people are proponents of the idea that immigrants deprive the deserving citizens of the US of jobs. However, the stakeholders in various sectors of the economy tend to disagree with this notion. According to them, illegal immigrants actually fill the positions that remain vacant. In other words, they accept the jobs that the US citizens are unwilling to apply for. According to the polls which was carried out by the New York Times/CBS News, 53% of the interviewed population expressed the opinion that illegal immigrants took the employment opportunities that Americans did not want (The State of American Public Opinion on Immigration in Spring 2006). There is also another belief that illegal immigrants interfere with the bargaining chip of other workers in the US. By offering lower payment demands, illegal immigrants lead to the formation of a certain society where there are very few wealthy individuals and many poor people. Others think that illegal immigrants are the driving force of the American economy. They believe that it is impossible to produce the output that the country currently produces without these illegal immigrants.
Therefore, the US government should allow illegal immigrants to stay in the country for several reasons. First of all, the United States is considered to be a haven. People try to escape their troubled lives in their home countries seeking a better life in the United States. Some struggle with the current economic situation while others have difficulties because of political oppression. Moreover, economic gain is one of the major driving forces of illegal immigration. The wage rate in the United States is considerably higher than in the countries where these illegal immigrants come from (Illegal Immigration to the United States: Causes and Policy Solutions). Therefore, they migrate to the US viewing the country as a source of higher income for them and their families. Thus, the United States government should allow them to stay since they will help to strengthen the economy.
Some of the illegal immigrants come to the United States due to the political upheavals in their countries. The immigrants may be human rights activists or general critics of the current political system in their motherlands. These cases are mostly associated with visa overstays. If the US government deports them, the government or political system that they are running from will gain power over them again. Their government will treat them any way they deem appropriate. Some might be sent to jailed, tortured, and even murdered. Therefore, in order to ensure that they enjoy their own rights, the US government should avoid deporting them to their countries of origin. Instead, it should shelter them till the political situation in their country improves to the extent when it is safe for them to return.
Another reason for the United States not to deport illegal immigrants is the impact that the immigrants have on the economy. Illegal immigrants do the work that most of the American citizens do not even consider (The State of American Public Opinion on Immigration in Spring 2006). Without the immigrants, such sectors of the American economy as agriculture would be weakened in terms of the total GDP of the country. Therefore, illegal immigrants are needed to cease these job opportunities. They work in these sectors of the economy to ensure the balanced GDP of the US. Instead of deporting illegal immigrants after they have searched for a job to provide for their families, the government should allow them to stay and keep working and ask to pay taxes as well. As it has been mentioned, the US is considered to be a haven; thus, by returning the immigrants back to their native countries, the government is self-defeating. The government is involved in helping various people outside its borders who are facing life-challenging problems (Should Illegal Immigrants Be Deported?). Helping a part of that population that has crossed its borders should not be a huge problem for the US government.
In addition, the US government should allow illegal immigrants to stay due the cost of deportation. An illegal immigrant who is caught is then taken to court for violating the laws of the country. Some are asked to pay fines, sentenced to jail terms or both. Most of these illegal immigrants have no money; thus, serving the jail term is the only viable form of punishment for them. After having served their jail term, the illegal immigrants are then deported to their native countries. The overall cost of the whole punishment and deportation process amounts to thousands of dollars. It is, therefore, cheaper for the government to allow illegal immigrants to stay in the country, which would also be productive in terms of the economy of the country. Thus, it would be a beneficial situation for both parties.
Referring to the periods of history before America has become what it is today, the native people who lived in the country were Native Americans. After the discovery of the continent, people started migrating from Europe to America. Thus, those who claim that they are the real Americans and that illegal immigrants should not be allowed in their land should remember that a long time ago, their ancestors were immigrants too. The same way the Native Americans learned how to co-exist with the newcomers, the modern Americans should learn to do the same with the illegal immigrants and not have them deported.
Despite advocating of illegal immigrants, the US government should continue to increase its efforts to reduce or eliminate illegal immigration into the country. This would complement the already existing efforts and policies aimed at preventing illegal immigration. One of the measures that the government has taken in order to reduce illegal immigration is the issuance of green cards to various citizens of other countries. These green cards allow people to legally become the citizens of the United States. The principle is the following: people should wait their turn to receive the US citizenship legally. However, this measure has not been successful in curbing illegal immigration yet.
The most common measure used by the government to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the country is deportation. Immigrants who have violated the immigration laws of the United States are deported back to their countries of origin. On the whole, several key reasons are the driving forces of eliminating immigration, including the means to ensure the national security of the country, to offer protection of the resources that the country has, and to protect the jobs of the citizens of the United States.
The government implemented another measure through the act of the House of Representatives which presupposes building a barrier along the border in the areas that were not protected by barriers in 2005. In 2006, the Senate added another part to the original plan that included a blockade running for 1380 km along the border to be fitted with vehicle barriers and a fence consisting of three layers. In 2007, the Congress also called for more fences to be erected along the Mexican border. They approved the funds for the fence of approximately 1100 km (Sais). This shows that the US government is trying to control the entry of illegal immigrants.
Illegal immigrants play a role in the overall economy of the country and its labor force. According to Tapinos, illegal immigrants comprise about 5% of the total workforce mostly in the areas that the American citizens do not wish to work. Approximately $150 billion of economic activity are produced by illegal immigrants. However, the greatest economic advantage of hiring illegal immigrants is that their employers pay them less than the wage rate of the country and also pay fewer welfare contributions. A report by the Congress Budget Office indicates that after working, about 70%-80% of the illegal immigrants pay their taxes to the government (The Congress of the United States: Congressional Budget Office). The report also states that the social security paid by the illegal immigrants amounts to $7 billion per year (The Congress of the United States: Congressional Budget Office). These immigrants use their income in the US, and this, in turn, helps to stimulate the economy and create new jobs.
As it has been already stated, most illegal immigrants pay for social security which does not later benefit them. This social security only benefits the citizens of the US. McNatt and Benassi affirm that each year, illegal immigrants pay about $6-$7 billion which is added to the whole amount of money used by the citizens, thus leading to the subsidization of social security. Another advantage of illegal immigrants in the country in terms of the economy is that the prices of various goods decrease. When illegal immigrants provide cheap labor during the production of the goods, the final products are usually proposed to the population at a lower price.
In conclusion, the government of the United States should allow illegal immigrants to stay in the country. Deporting the immigrants will make them lose everything they have been working for. It is also not beneficial for the country because the government loses in terms of the economic contribution that illegal immigrants make to the economy. Deporting also endangers them especially if they emigrate due to related political issues. Finally, the overall cost of deportation is not justified when compared with the advantages they offer the economy.