Immigration Issues in the United States

Introduction to the Problem

Global economic inequalities and the growing demand for highly skilled workers and the demographic decline in the industrial democracies have led to wide range of economic opportunities for migrants in the industrially advanced nations. This has opened up the movement of foreign nationals into the United States like any other country where there are more opportunities for earning a decent living.

Definition of the Issue

During greater part of this century, there has been considerable inflow of immigrants into the United States creating tensions among the Americans already living in the country. The native-born Americans believed that they lose their employment opportunities and the availability of other welfare measures to the immigrants thereby affecting the standards of living. The migration of people needs to be controlled by the US government like any other transnational economic activity such as trade or investment through proper legislator measures (Ueda, 2006). The need for formulating prudent immigration policies has been felt by even those who support the benefits and values the immigrants bring with them into the country. However, significant differences among different groups as to what could be an acceptable immigration policy.

This is because of the fact that there are several humanitarian, economic, political and ethical considerations go into the framing of the immigration policies by the government. This essay discusses the issues involved in the immigration into the United States and the ways in which such issues can be resolved.

Factors Contributing to Uncertainties or Ambiguities

The scope of the problem of illegal immigration in the United States has remained undefined due to the vagueness of the immigration policies. Since the issue is one of highly political nature there has never been well-defined legislative approach to the immigration issues in the US.

Economic considerations play a major role in deciding the extent of restrictions on immigration. The contribution of the immigrants to the growth of the economy is a key consideration and in the past the immigration policies of the US government had inconsistencies and contradictions. While many of the Americans could recognize the benefits of immigration, a large proportion of the people cannot understand them. As a result the immigrants have been blamed for a number of issues including the reduction in the employment opportunities and increase social service burden for the Americans.

Illegal immigration is one of the major issues in the United States. According to the estimates by academic and government agencies, there are more than 10 million illegal immigrants living in the country. However the Bear-Stearns investment firm has estimated the number of illegal immigrants living in the country close to 20 million. The illegal immigrants enter mostly from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Columbia and other South and Central American regions. However, more than 50% of the illegal immigrants hail from Mexico (White, 2009).

There is no way the number and size of the illegal immigrants in the US can be estimated precisely. This also adds to the ambiguity of the problem.

Discussion and Critical Evaluation of the Evidence

Supporting Evidence

Immigration has varying impacts for different interest groups. Supporters to the immigration include corporations which enhance their profitability from the cheap foreign labor and ethnic minority groups which strive to increase their political base. There are religious activists, humanitarian organizations and civil rights groups which attempt to achieve their human rights and ethical goals also support immigration policies enabling increase in the inflow of foreign workers into the country. At the same time there are other interest groups who oppose the entry of immigrants who view such entry as a threat to the American culture and to the environmental conditions due to the growth in the population. One of the pieces of evidence is the empirical data on the flow of immigrants both legal and illegal into the United States.

The number of immigrants has been estimated at 1,000,000 legally and 300,000 to 500,000 illegally every year. According to Settles (2001) this figure has increased from 14,000 about 60 years ago to the magnitude indicated.

The second piece of evidence is the employment status among African Americans and Hispanics. Cohen (200) points out in 1983, African Americans held 280,000 more manufacturing jobs than Hispanics. While Hispanic employment grew to 139,000 jobs between 1983 and 1995, African American employment only grew by about 5,000 jobs. Therefore the labor advocates consider immigration responsible for significant losses of job opportunities to the native-born Americans and reduction in wage levels.

According to studies there is a high impact of immigration on the socio-economic groups. The study by National Academy of Science reports that while the investors in general have been benefited from the immigration wage earners have an adverse impact.

This situation is based on the economic theory that with the increase in the supply of labor there will be a decline in the real wage rates. It has been observed that immigration has significantly affected the wage levels in respect of certain professions like college teachers, scientists and physicians. Because of the fact that more than 80 percent of the immigrant workers tend to be characterized with lower levels of skills and poor education they tend to accept lower levels of wages. This has led to the decline of the annual earnings especially of farmworkers from 20 to30 percent in the past two decades.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Evidence


The first evidence provides a basis for assuming the magnitude of the issue of illegal immigrants

The strength of the second evidence is that it provides the basis for studying the ethnicity of the issue of immigration.


The first evidence suffers from the weakness of being unreliable as the empirical data has the character of being a mere estimation. There is no authority or official figures to back up the number of illegal immigrants stated to be between 300,000 and 500,000. Any statistical information cannot have a variation of 200,000 between the upper and lower boundary levels.

The second evidence suffers from the weakness of being biased and lacking any authority behind the stated figures. This evidence also is outdated to the current issue and hence cannot be accepted as valid evidence.

Bias/Assumption underlying the Perspectives

The first assumption is that the immigration policy should be hard-headed and there should be a guest worker program developed to deal with illegal immigrants’ issues.

The second assumption underlying the immigration issue is that entrusting the responsibility of protecting the borders, if left with the military, it might lead to undesirable consequences, as the military has not been trained to meet the challenges of civil issues. The other assumption is that it is possible for the military to deal with the civil problems only by use of lethal force, because the training, which makes the soldiers outstanding warriors, also makes them dangerous as cops.

Evaluation of the Evidence

The problem with the first evidence is that it is not possible to precisely estimate the number of illegal immigrants in the country and whatever figures reported can at best be an estimate. Therefore this evidence lacks validity.

The second evidence provides outdated statistical information. There might have been changes in the periods after the figures indicated as evidence. Moreover any statistics relied on as evidence without the backing of the official source or authority has to be considered as weak and it will not substantiate the findings of the study.

Conclusion including Solutions and Limitations

Solutions to the Problem

  1. The immigration policies can be amended to include humanitarian considerations and the issue of national worker identification cards. There should be a restriction on the chain immigration restricting the entry to spouse and children, in addition to drastic reduction in the job-skills based immigration (Honey & Barry, 1997).
  2. The number of immigration officers can be increased so that there can be better protection of the borders from the immigrants entering the country illegally.

Limitations to the Problems

  1. The immigration issue always had a political bias. Therefore there is non guarantee that the government would introduce sweeping changes with respect to its immigration policies. Secondly the assessment of eligibility of people for issue of visas based on their respective skills is a complex phenomenon which is highly impractical. Hence this solution lacks practicality.
  2. The mere increase in the number of immigration officers cannot solve the problem as there will be still the problems relating to the existing illegal immigrants and their families. The second limitation of this solution is that any number of immigration officers cannot prevent those immigrants who enter the country with valid travel documents and overstay in the country. It is not possible to crack down on the illegal immigrants and send them out of the country en-mass on a particular date.


Thus, formulating policies with respect to immigration has several ramifications in the form of economic, social and ethical considerations. The humanitarian considerations also weigh with the government in framing the policies covering the immigration. Protecting the standards of living and rights of native-born American citizens by strictly restricting the entry of illegal immigrants is another important concern of the government in the area of immigration policy. Strengthening border security alone cannot be considered as the solution to tackle the issues relating to immigration.

There must be several supporting actions that need to be taken by the government including strict enforcement of the Immigration Reform and Control Act 1986 acting against businesses engaging illegal immigrants. However it must be remembered that the US economy would simply collapse without the immigrant labor and therefore any immigration policy should be balanced taking both positive and negative sides of immigration issues.

Therefore I believe that controlling the illegal immigration issue should be left to the employers by introducing stricter legislation requiring the employers to control the immigration status of the people being employed by them. Since the other solutions discussed are far from practicality, the solution of insisting on the employers to advise the immigration status of all their employees can be considered suitable. Prescribing penal provisions for those employers who employ illegal immigrants would deter the proliferation of illegal immigrants.


Cohen, S. (2006) Deportation Is Freedom! The Orwellian World of Immigration Controls. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Honey, M., & Barry, T. (1997). In Focus: The Immigration Debate. Web.

Settles, B. H. (2001) Being at Home in a Global Society: A Model for Families’ Mobility and Immigration Decisions Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 32(4), 627.

Ueda, R. (2006). A Companion to American Immigration. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.

White, D. (2009). Illegal Immigration Explained – Profits & Poverty, Social Security & Starvation. Web.