Illegal Immigration as a Problem for the US

Illegal Immigration is a social, economic, and security problem for the US. Numerous polls indicate that a majority of Americans, including Mexican-Americans, want the government to prevent the tidal wave of illegal aliens cascading over the border. One of the most important issues of the White House and Congress should be securing the borders, but homeland security is all but non-existent. This is a complex problem that is not being solved by the congressmen, who continuously fail to act in the country’s best interests. The massive numbers of illegal aliens pouring across mainly the southern border have and continue to cause substantial economic, social, and physical harm to legal citizens. These harms occur predominantly to those who are among the most vulnerable segments of the population: minorities, children, and the poor. A nation without borders is not a nation and this country has been losing control of the borders for many decades, losing prosperity, security, and autonomy along with them.

The fundamental reason for the flood of immigration from Latin America, specifically Mexico, is the disintegration of the Mexican economy predominantly resulting from free-trade strategies employed by the North American Free Trade Agreement and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The rampant corruption within the Mexican government has also contributed significantly to the collapse of the Mexican economy. “Due to IMF policies regarding Mexico, its economic output dropped 33 percent in the past two decades” (Small, 2005). During this period, its foreign debt rose 359 percent because of the widespread looting of the national coffers. These factors caused the “collapse of all areas of productive economic activity and employment, is the primary driver of the flood of emigrants desperate to leave Mexico, to find some livelihood for themselves and their families in the United States” (Small, 2005).

Throughout the history of America, people of differing ideologies have generally agreed on immigration controls. Public opinion polls have continually shown overwhelming opposition to illegal immigration as well as to the concept of amnesty. The most persuasive rationale to be in opposition to this latest bill again does not respect the rule of law. Amnesty for illegal aliens is merely a reward for law-breaking and by whatever name, causes ever escalating future illegal immigration. “No system depending on a strict regard for the rule of law can treat law-breaking so casually” (Erler, 2004). Those who favor amnesty for illegal aliens, specifically those crossing the southern border do not seem to realize that a crime has been committed and not, as they might have you believe, one without a victim. The massive numbers of illegal aliens pouring across mainly the southern border have and continue to cause substantial economic, social, and physical harm to legal citizens. These harms occur predominantly to those who are among the most vulnerable segments of the population, minorities, children, and the poor. “Simply enforcing the laws presently on the books and deporting illegal aliens is an economic necessity that would also result in decreased crime rates” (Erler, 2004).

Illegal immigrants receive more from public monies than they contribute which lower the standard of living for legal citizens. Illegal immigrants contribute greatly to the overall population growth and health care, education and employment are the most impacted. Salaries are driven down by illegal immigrants willing to work for much less while their children, illegal and legal, overcrowd the schools. It’s the U.S. taxpayer who is sent the bill for their health care services as well. In addition, the large influx of illegal aliens burdens the already inadequate number of units classified as affordable housing and other welfare resources such as energy, water, and land usage (“Illegal Immigration”, 2003). “The typical native household pays somewhere between $166 and $226 in additional taxes because of immigration” (Borias, 2001 p.126) Illegal immigrants have already broken the law upon arrival into the country and a considerable number break more including selling drugs, theft, murder, rape, etc. while in the country.

The cost to the federal court and prison system alone in 2002 attributed to illegal aliens was $1.6 billion. This does not include the costs to state judicial and penal institutions. It costs Arizona, for example, $80 million to jail illegal aliens yearly. According to a 2002 report by Heather MacDonald of the City Journal, “In Los Angeles, 95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide (which total 1,200 to 1,500) target illegal aliens. Up to two-thirds of all fugitive felony warrants (17,000) are for illegal aliens” (McDonald, 2004). Illegal aliens drain social services paid for by legal citizens, $2.5 billion from Medicaid, $2 billion from food aid programs, and $2 billion in hospital care from the federal coffers in 2002 alone. States along the southern border pay out hundreds of millions of dollars every year providing social services for illegal aliens. The children of illegal aliens do not have to prove citizenship to attend public schools which have resulted in overcrowding – a tremendous sapping of resources. It takes more time to teach children that only speak Spanish which thus costs more money. California spends a staggering $8 billion every year just in educating the children of illegal aliens (“Illegal Immigrants”, 2007).

It has been estimated that the added cost to the federal government will be more than $15 billion per year when the present illegal aliens become citizens and begin collecting welfare benefits. In addition, children of illegal immigrants receive full benefits. “The U.S. born children of immigrants, whether their parents are legal or illegal are eligible to receive welfare benefits” (Hanson, 2005 p. 17) Traditionally, immigrants to the U.S. were less likely than those born in America to collect welfare. This historic arrangement has radically changed over the past three decades. Today, immigrant families are at least 50 percent more likely to receive federal benefits than those born in this country.

Additionally, immigrants are more likely to adapt their lives to rely on the welfare system and studies have shown the longer immi­grants stay in the U.S., the more likely they are to be on welfare. To further aggravate the situation, when an illegal immigrant becomes a citizen, he can legally bring his parents who also have the right to become citi­zens. The estimated long-term cost of overall federal benefits could exceed $50 billion per year for the parents of the 10 million beneficiaries of amnesty. Approximately half of the current illegal immigrants do not possess a high-school-level education. Welfare use among this group and for low-skill immigrants granted amnesty is three times the rate for U.S.-born citizens. “Over the past two decades, about 10 million people who do not possess a high-school diploma have entered the country and predictably end up on welfare” (Rector, 2006).

News reports have documented many examples of illegal immigrants who were detained by local police but instead of being deported, were allowed to go free to then commit heinous crimes. One such instance is the 2002 New York gang rape by five illegal aliens of a mother of two. These men had been arrested on several occasions but were never turned over to the immigration agency and deported. The most infamous example was the Washington, D.C. area sniper Lee Malvo. The Jamaican-born man was apprehended by local law enforcement near Washington and was identified as an illegal alien before these tragic incidents. He should have been deported at that time but was instead released by federal authorities, let free to kill innocent Americans at random. “Three of the September 11, 2001, hijackers, including ringleader Mohammed Atta, had been stopped and ticketed for significant traffic violations, such as driving without a license and speeding at 90 mph” (Schlafly, 2004). Why are illegal aliens allowed and now seemingly encouraged to take advantage of U.S. generosity? “There are hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens who are currently under deportation orders of whom tens of thousands have been involved in criminal activity while in the country” (Schlafly, 2004).

Congress is under tremendous public pressure and is attempting to undertake the most extensive renovation of the country’s immigration laws in four generations. (Espo, 2006). The proposed Senate legislation that was recently defeated allocated additional funds to better enhance border security, provides for a ‘guest worker program and gives an estimated 10 million immigrants amnesty by putting those who are currently in the country illegally on the fast track to citizenship. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. is skeptical about the legislation saying, “This bill will not secure our borders” (Kiely, 2006). If Congress were to put the country’s interests ahead of its own, it would pass an illegal immigration bill which grants no amnesty.

Congress should also pass legislation amending the Immigration and Nationality Act eradicating the idea that children born of illegal aliens are automatically citizens. That privilege should be reserved for children of legal immigrants. Congress should also criminalize illegal entry into the United States which would force government administrators and health workers to report these people to the authorities. Laws should be enacted that bring criminal charges against all those who aid illegal aliens to gain entry into the country and against those employers who hire them. All social benefits, including medical care, education and welfare for illegal immigrants should be eliminated with the only exception being medical treatment given when first contacted before deporting the criminal. The U.S. can hardly be seen as credible when helping to solve other countries’ problems when it can’t solve its immigration dilemma, a problem many other countries don’t seem to struggle with. “If the U.S. can’t secure its own borders, what confidence does this instill in the world’s view when it tries to police other areas of the globe?” (Espo, 2006).

Those that support amnesty of illegal aliens currently in the U.S. argue that deportations would result in the splitting of families. Children born in this country could stay but their illegal parents would have to leave. They also express that it would be unfair for a child that has lived in the U.S. all their life to be suddenly thrust into the conditions of a third-world country. While that is a compelling and reasonable argument, the cost is too great. By allowing the continued and unabated free-flow of illegal immigrants, this country too before long will assume third-world status. “Methods to stem this flow such as building a border fence, deporting all illegal aliens, cracking down on employers and implementing a federal identification system might appear severe to some but are necessary steps in safeguarding America for Americans” (Ponte, 2006). The U.S. could consider adopting similar immigration regulations as in the U.K. where a person cannot immigrate without first securing employment.

The British employer must obtain permission from the government upon submitting evidence that the position cannot be filled by a resident. Non-residents cannot apply for state benefits of any type. Legislators should consider the net effect on society and encourage the immigration of high-skilled and well-educated people who will contribute to the economic health of the nation rather than low or no-skilled workers who are a heavy economic burden. While some issues surrounding immigration control are varied and complex, adopting English as the official language seemed a simple, straightforward piece of the immigration legislation puzzle. Americans were assured that a 1986 reform law would add tougher penalties for the employers of illegal immigrants and that this step would forever resolve the issue of illegal aliens. Around 16 million illegal immigrants have arrived since then. “The promised employer penalties, which would have gone a long way to solve the problem, have been, at best, loosely enforced” (Ponte, 2006). The Congress and President have failed, again, to solve the immigration dilemma.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow explained illegal aliens allowed to stay under the president’s plan will pay fines and back taxes, avoid criminal activities and maintain continuous employment (The White House, 2007). They must remain current with payments of current and future taxes and carry a tamper-proof identification. “And when all of that is done, you get to go to the back of the line, and you wait, what, 11 years or more for a chance to become a citizen, at the end of which you have to have a command of English, as well, to be able to become a citizen,” Snow said. “Now, with all those benchmarks, it is hard to square that with the idea of amnesty” (Hayworth, 2006). Snow is correct; it is hard to ‘square’ with the idea of amnesty because those items have little in common with amnesty. Illegal aliens will have to pay taxes, just like everyone else under the president’s plan, but would have the option to pay back taxes for just three of the last five years. Not only are they offered amnesty but are given preferential treatment. American citizens paid all five years.

Illegal immigrants will have to obey the law. This ‘benchmark’ applies to us all. They must also obtain a federal ID card; again, anyone with a Social Security card has also passed this ‘benchmark.’ They must maintain continued employment. This requirement to full citizenship status forces them to do what they came here to do in the first place, work. Having to learn English ultimately is of greater benefit to the immigrant. How these ‘benchmarks’ explained how a plan allowing those that are presently breaking the law open access to the country is somehow not considered amnesty was a poor attempt to veil the truth in a chronic display of twisted logic. One of the ‘benchmarks’ is punitive. Immigrants must pay a monetary penalty for their crime, $2,000 payable in two installments. Pretty good deal for American citizenship, a person could make that back from the government in a year drawing welfare payments. “The President is practically giving away citizenship when compared to the going rate of $100,000 for a green card on the world market” (Hayworth, 2006).

By allowing the continued and unabated free flow of illegal immigrants, this country too before long will assume third world status. Methods to stem this flow such as building a border fence, deporting all illegal aliens, cracking down on employers, and implementing a federal identification system might appear severe to some but are necessary steps in safeguarding America for Americans. The U.S. could consider adopting similar immigration regulations as in the U.K. where a person cannot immigrate without first securing employment. Non-residents cannot apply for state benefits of any type. Legislators should consider the net effect on society and encourage the immigration of high-skilled and well-educated people who will contribute to the economic health of the nation rather than low or no-skilled workers who are a heavy economic and social burden.

Works Cited

Borias, George J. “Heaven’s Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy” Princeton University Press; New Ed edition (2001).

Erler, Edward J. “Amnesty for Illegal Aliens.” The Washington Times. (2004). Web.

Espo, David. “Senate Passes Landmark Immigration Bill.” Excite News. (2006). Web.

Hayworth, J.D. “Call it What it is: The President’s Plan is an Illegal Immigrant Amnesty.” National Review Online. (2006). Web.

Hanson, Gordon H. “Why Does Imigration Divide America?: Public Finance And Political Opposition To Open Borders” Institute for International Economics (2005).

“Illegal Immigrants Helpful or Harmful to America?” About Conservative Politics U.S. (2007). Web.

“Illegal Immigration is a Crime.” Federation for American Immigration Reform. (2003). Web.

Kiely, Kathy. “Senate Passes Immigration Bill; GOP Advocate of Crackdown Pledges ‘Battle.’” USA Today. (2006). Web.

McDonald, Heather. “The Illegal-Alien Crime Wave.” City Journal. (2004). New York: The Manhattan Institute. Web.

Ponte, Lowell. “No Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants.” News Max. (2006). Web.

Rector, Robert. “The Wrong Course: The Senate’s Proposed Amnesty Will Cost a Fortune.” National Review Online. (2006). Web.

Schlafly, Phyllis. “No Argument Justifies Amnesty for Illegal Aliens.” Copley News Service. (2004). Web.

Small, Dennis. “What’s Behind the ‘Hispanic Immigration Crisis?” EIR Economics. (2005). Web.

(The) White House. “President Bush’s Plan For Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” (2007). Web.