This is the fourth and final installment on a series on the benefits and detriments of illegal immigration. For the other three parts on the economic and social effects and moral implications, see these three posts.

welcome_to_the_united_states_sign_at_the_peace_arch
Photo credit Craig Nagy

My Opinion on Illegal Immigration

For me, the illegal immigration controversy boils down to compliance or noncompliance with the law. Accepting illegal immigrants in the workplace economically injures Americans not so much through wage decreases, though such does affect some residents in certain income brackets, as in the indirect rewarding for breaking the law. It belittles those who earn legal entry or citizenship, a betrayal to those who “followed the rules.”

Both sides present different statistics on the financial contribution or burden of illegal immigrants on Americans, so an argument built on the economic sector of society will shift according to whom one asks. The same follows for the discussion on the threat of crime that illegal immigrants impose on society: supporters will rail against the claim of illegal immigrant criminality, and statistics will support them, while opponents contend that the rate of crime does not matter so much as the fact that some does occur.

legal immigrants vs illegal immigrants
Comic from The Augusta Chronicle

In the end, one must primarily consider the moral aspect of illegal immigration. Supporters highlight the human side of illegal immigration, putting faces to the names of undocumented aliens. They only want the peace and security that anyone else does.

Not uncommonly, supporters paint la migra [immigration] as heartless authorities who tear families apart. However, immigration officers act only in compliance with the law. Would supporters rather authorities turn a blind eye to law-breaking? Would they accept the police ignoring blatant violation of DUI laws just as much? Respecting the law, I do not agree with allowing illegal immigration.

My Thoughts on Fixing the Illegal Immigration Problem

While I do not accept illegal immigration, I do respect the dreams of illegal immigrants and acknowledge the need for a solution to their predicaments. Each side proposes their own answer, with many supporters calling for amnesty and many opponents for deportation.

immigrants American dream
Photo from Affinity Magazine

In response to the former suggestion, a survey by the Federation for American Immigration Reform found that, in 2013, only 18% of Americans agreed with granting illegal aliens immediate amnesty (“Illegal Immigration and Amnesty Polls”). As mentioned before, giving illegal immigrants legal status condones – rewards, even – their breaking of the law. Regardless of their reasons for undocumented residence, the government should not legalize illegal immigrants to eliminate the problem.

On the other hand, the alternative of deportation imposes a heavy financial burden on the government and taxpayers. Enforcement against illegal immigration costs $15 billion annually. The Center of American Progress concluded in March of 2010 that deportation of the entire American population of illegal immigrations would cost $285 billion (“Debate”).

A survey by the Pew Research Center in 2015 found that only 27% of Americans agreed that undocumented immigrants should not be allowed to stay, including 76% of Republicans, the political party most against illegal immigration (Goo). Based on these numbers, deportation does not offer the answer either, at least not entirely.

23-immigration-protest-w710-h473
Photo credit Ronen Tivony from Sipa USA

To confront the current illegal immigration population, a combination of the two solutions – legalization and deportation – proffers what seems to me a more logical resolution. As mass deportation could and/or could cripple the economy, the government could identify illegal immigrants who met certain criteria and grant them opportunity to obtain legal status.

The legislative proposal known by the acronym DREAMAct, for example, recommends granting conditional residency and, eventually, permanent residency, to qualifying alien minors (“The Dream”). The act has passed through several versions since its first submission to Congress in 2001. The current bill allows “current, former, and future undocumented high-school graduates and GED recipients a three-step path to U.S. citizenship” (“The Dream”).

dreamers illegal immigrants
Photo from The Education Trust

A bill like DREAM that extended to non-high-school residents could address the whole illegal immigrant population. Those who did not fulfill the requirements the federal government would deport, while those who did could apply for legal status following reparation for their initial breaking of the law, whether through service or through fines.

This proposition differs from the pro-illegal immigration argument for amnesty, which pardons the violation of immigration policy, in that former undocumented immigrants would still face penalties for their law-breaking.

After addressing the matter of current illegal immigrants, attention would have to turn to stopping the annual influx across the border. This question concerns immigration policy. The fact that increased border security, quadrupling both under President Clinton and President Bush, had not impact on the growth rate of illegal immigration indicates the stronger borders are not the answer (Holland).

border security
Photo credit Ross D. Franklin

Geographers refer to push and pull factors to migration to explain why people move from one region to another. Push factors impel migrants out of a region, while pull factors compel them to another. In the case of Mexico and America, so long as enough factors repel Mexicans out of Mexico and enough factors attract them to America, illegal immigration will occur. The fact that Americans, whose economy suffers from a low supply of necessary laborers, buy illegal labor bolsters the argument that illegal immigrants rightfully come to this country.

Given the market need for this labor, a shift in immigration policy would enable more legal immigration of laborers seeking work in America. Current policy does not allow sufficient legal migration to meet supply and demand, and often favors merit-based immigration, which means that those awarded visas and green cards often demonstrate greater technical skill than those who enter or stay illegally.

illegal immigration comic
Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Moreover, potential laborers meet the hindrance of the process itself. Queues for visas frustrate legal immigration, prompting many to opt for the illegal route that allows for quicker response to market needs (G. Hanson). This means expanding immigration quotas and streamlining the immigration process.

For migrants who continue to come illegally despite these changes, a strengthening not of the border, but of workplace laws would discourage attempts to find employment, such as using E-Verify from Homeland Security, which informs an employer about the legal eligibility of a prospective employee.

If enacted, these steps just might reduce the illegal immigration problem in a way that respects the security and laws of the nation and the humanity of undocumented immigrants.

Conclusion

Each economic, social, and moral benefit of illegal immigration meets with an economic, social, and moral detriment, leading the topic of illegal immigration not to question of its continuance, but of steps required to control the current population and reform current immigration policy.

immigration reform now
Photo credit Stephen Melkisethian

A solution requires joint respect of the law and of ethics. By granting legal status short of citizenship to current qualified illegal immigrants, deporting current unqualified illegal immigrants, reforming immigration policy, and enforcing workplace laws, American could bring this divisive problem under control without condoning it or too harshly punishing families who came only seeking what any American desires.

 

What do you think can be done to solve the illegal immigration problem?

See the bibliography for this series here.