This paper is aimed to outline what may account for the positive and negative effects of illegal immigrants’ presence in the U.S. and to evaluate these effects’ significance through the conceptual lenses of Utilitarianism, Deontology, and Virtue-based ethics.
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During recent years, the issue of illegal immigration to the U.S. has been attaining several strongly controversial subtleties. The reason for this is quite apparent—as of today, the number of illegal immigrants in America is believed to have reached a staggering 12 million. In other words, there is a whole army of undocumented illegals resides in the U.S., which of course causes more and more native-born Americans to wonder about whether the persistence of such a situation is being beneficial to this country, in the first place.
According to Fogel, before WWI, the demand for unskilled laborers was unmet by U.S. citizens. As such, the Immigration Act of 1924 was established, which promoted the immigration of foreign citizens into the US to meet these requirements, and also created several objective preconditions for foreigners to consider entering America illegally, “When the Immigration Act of 1924 established country of origin quotas, it also established the possibility of large-scale illegal entry to the U.S.” (1977, p. 244).
Also, the U.S. government did not provide any legal documents to the immigrants so they could not tell the difference between those who were legal and those who were not. Moreover, the workers did not care about their status, because they believed that they would get it anyway as long as they stayed and worked at the farms or within the industries.
Problematic of illegal alien workers in the United States
In his article, Fogel provides a historical timeline of illegal immigration to the U.S. According to the author, a bulk of illegal immigrants in the U.S. have traditionally accounted for Mexican border-crossers, who used to come to America in search of seasonal agricultural work. The fact that, throughout the second half of the twentieth century, American policy-makers’ attitudes towards illegal Mexicans have undergone several dramatic transformations, Fogel explains by these policy-makers’ affiliation with the values of Eurocentric rationalism, “Illegal immigration from Mexico has been an integral part of a de facto U.S. policy concerning the use of Mexican labor.
Bluntly stated, the de facto policy has been bringing them in when they are needed, send them back when they aren’t” (p. 246). Also, Fogel outlines objective preconditions for the number of illegal Mexicans in the U.S. to continue increasing exponentially: the sheer rate of Mexicans’ fertility, the fact that many American employers are being objectively interested in hiring illegals, as it allows these employers to substantially increase their profits, and the fact that there are many ‘human rights’ activists in America, who actively strive to protect illegal immigrants from INS.
The author concludes his article by implying that there can be no effective ‘technical’ solution to the problem of illegal immigration to the U.S. After all, for as long as Americans continue to enjoy much higher standards of living, as compared to what it is being the case with people in other countries of the world, America will continue to attract illegal aliens.
Immigration’s issues and perspectives for businesses
In her article, Davila points out the fact that, as of today, American politicians can be categorized as those who suggest that the key to solving the problem of illegal immigration to the U.S. is strengthening border control, on the one hand, and those who suggest that this key is being concerned with imposing fines on American employers that hire illegal immigrants, on the other. Without connecting herself with either of the proposed approaches, Davila nevertheless expresses her belief in the fact that illegal immigration to the U.S. should be regarded as an essentially beneficial socio-demographic phenomenon, “Immigration should be looked at as a way to improve our economy and use all of our resources in the best possible way.
The work ethic of immigrants should surely be rewarded” (2006, p. 67). The author stresses out the importance of encouraging potential immigrants to come to America legally – yet, she does not specify how this can be achieved in practice.
Documenting citizenship in Medicaid: The struggle between ideology and evidence
In their article, Ku and Pervez discuss the controversial legislation, passed by Congress in 2006, which require Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to run background checks on individuals who apply for Medicare services, to determine whether their immigration status qualifies them to apply for these services, in the first place.
Authors point out to the fact that this legislation’s passing reflects the rise of a ‘nativist’ sentiment among native-born Americans, who grow increasingly wary of illegal immigrants’ tendency to abuse the country’s Medicare system, at the expense of American tax-payers, “The broad public sentiment about immigration… led many politicians to support anti-immigrant policies, or at least to be cautious about being perceived as pro-immigrant” (p. 10).
According to Ku and Pervez, however, there is nothing positive about the rise of this ‘nativist’ sentiment, as it diverts American citizens’ attention from more pressing socio-economic issues, such as the continually widening gap between this country’s rich and poor citizens. Authors conclude their article by suggesting that; whereas the suspicions that many illegal immigrants do commit ‘Medicare frauds’ are not altogether deprived of a rationale, there is simply not enough evidence as to the fact that the discussed problem does represent a major socio-political issue.
Latino immigration and social change in the United States
The foremost idea, promoted by Davies throughout his article’s entirety, is that the ongoing public debate on what should be considered a proper approach towards tackling the problem of America becoming a heaven for the groups of illegal immigrants from Mexico is being affected by White Americans’ deep-seated sense of subtle racism. Hence, these people’s reluctance to accept the fact that they can no longer be considered America’s actual ‘owners’, “The national mindset has been challenged to think in new ways now that the once-alien ‘Other’ encroaches more and more into the formerly Anglo-dominant world view” (2009, p. 388).
Therefore, according to Davies, it is not only that illegal Mexicans should be allowed to stay, due to their ‘hard-workings’, but also because these people’s presence in the country creates objective preconditions for the American society to grow ever more multicultural, which in turn is being perceived by the author as something necessarily positive.
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The fact that the growing number of Hispanic legal/illegal immigrants deliberately refuse to learn the English language, while striving to turn America into another ‘Mexico’ and while demanding ever more special rights and privileges, Davies also considers utterly beneficial for the American society’s well-being, “Whereas successful assimilation once involved the shedding of the old skin, the abandonment of language, heritage, and culture to better ﬁt in, now there is a more open ethos of multicultural maintenance and survival” (p. 386-387).
Illegal aliens’ safety
In her article, Whitaker discusses the reasons why, ever since the mid-nineties, there has been a dramatic increase in the incidents of Illegal Mexicans being killed, while trying to cross the U.S. border. According to the author, the culpability for these deaths can be assigned to first, Mexican border-jumpers themselves because they willingly take the risk of being killed; second, the Mexican government because it subtly encourages Mexican poor citizens to seek employment in America; third, humanitarian activists because they help undocumented migrants – hence, making even more potential illegals to consider ‘border-jumping’; and fourth, American employers because many of them are willing to hire undocumented aliens.
Whitaker concludes her article by suggesting that the very realities of Globalization create objective prerequisites for more and more Mexicans to try crossing the American border. Consequently, there will be more deaths reported among those who strive to sneak into America illegally.
When it comes to discussing the ethical appropriateness/inappropriateness of hiring illegal immigrants, it is important to understand that this practice can be discussed from several different ethical perspectives. Moreover, the adoption of a particular ethical perspective towards the issue does not guarantee the agreement of obtained ethical insights. The validity of this statement can be well explored in regards to the conventions of ethical Utilitarianism, which require that the extent of a particular action’s ethical appropriateness should be evaluated in regards to the qualitative essence of this action’s consequences.
If the ethical appropriateness of the earlier mentioned practice were to be assessed from the Utilitarian perspective, we would come up with two mutually incompatible ethical judgments. That is, the practice of hiring illegal immigrants would be defined as both: ethically appropriate and ethically inappropriate – depending on which out of the concerned parties’ agendas would be placed at the discursive stake.
For example, from the Utilitarian perspective of American employers, the practice of hiring illegal immigrants appears perfectly ethical, because: first, by hiring undocumented workers these employers can substantially increase the extent of their commercial enterprises’ competitiveness (illegal workers can be paid a fraction of what legal workers are being paid); second, illegal immigrants do not mind applying for non-prestigious jobs; third, while being paid significantly less, as compared to what it is being the case with American citizens, illegal immigrants nevertheless remain utterly enthusiastic about performing their often unsightly job-duties.
At the same time, if this practice were to be assessed from the Utilitarian perspective of American citizens, in general, it would be deemed highly unethical. The reasons for this are just as apparent: first, hiring illegal aliens makes it harder for American citizens to find jobs; second, hiring illegal immigrants results in America’s rapid ‘ghettoization’. Illegal aliens from the Third World countries do not only seek to find employment in this country, but they also strive to become fully legalized and to eventually preoccupy themselves with pursuing their true existential agenda—celebrating their ‘cultural uniqueness’ at the expense of American tax-payers, by the mean of making babies on an industrial scale.
The practice of hiring illegal aliens would be deemed ethically ambivalent, if assessed from the ethical perspective of Deontology, as well. The foremost theoretical premise, upon which Deontological ethics are based, is the assumption that there are several ‘categorical rules’, which should be thoroughly observed by those who indulge in ethical decision-making. One of these rules is the so-called ‘Kantian imperative’, which implies that one should not consider treating others as a means to an end and also should consider human dignity as the most important aspect.
What it means is that, when it comes to deciding whether the practice of providing illegal aliens with employment should be considered ethical or not, we would have to mentally put ourselves in a situation as if we were illegal aliens. Once we do it, then the ethical appropriateness of this practice will appear self-evident. After all, if we were illegal immigrants, we would not like to be arrested, handcuffed, put on the plane, and shipped back to the Third World. Nevertheless, given the fact that Deontological ethics imply the primacy of observing legal laws and regulations, when the ethical decision-making is being concerned, the practice of hiring illegal immigrants can be well defined as utterly unethical.
The reason for this is apparent by coming to the U.S. illegally; these immigrants deliberately violate this country’s laws. However, if America’s residents (regardless of happened to be their immigration status) were allowed to disregard the country’s laws, it would be just a matter of time, before American society ends up being reduced to a state of anarchy.
The application of Virtue-based ethics, within the context of discussing the appropriateness/inappropriateness of the earlier mentioned practice, would also expose this practice’s ethical ambivalence. This is because Virtue-based ethics speculate that, for a particular individual to adopt an ethically valid standpoint, in regards to the issue of socio-political importance, he or she can never cease being observant of what is being commonly defined as universally recognized virtues.
Nevertheless, there can be no universally recognized virtues, by definition, simply because just about every ethics-based virtue is being reflective of the essence of currently predominant socio-cultural discourse, which points out to the fact that, as time goes on, virtues continue to undergo a qualitative transformation. For example; whereas, even as recent as 300 years ago, burning ‘witches’ at the stake was considered by the majority of pious Americans as a perfectly virtuous practice, this is no longer being the case.
What it means is that the utilization of Virtue-based ethics, when it comes to assessing the ethical validity of hiring illegal immigrants, is being just as capable of yielding ethically ambivalent insights. For example, people affiliated with Christianity will consider this practice perfectly appropriate (Jesus used to like underprivileged individuals). Alternatively, people who believe that it is namely a rationale-based science, which represents the foremost virtue, will consider the earlier mentioned practice highly inappropriate, because being intellectually advanced individuals, they can well recognize the potentially non-virtuous effects of America’s continual ‘ghettoization’ by illegal immigrants.
There can be few doubts as to the fact that there are several limitations to the line of argumentation, used in this paper. These limitations can be categorized as ‘methodological’, on the one hand, and ‘discursive’, on the other. The foremost first-category limitation is the fact that the earlier summarized articles do not provide readers with full insight into the sheer extent of the discussed subject matter’s sharpness.
After all, neither of all five authors proved themselves intellectually honest enough to admit the fact that the foremost danger, posed to this country by illegal immigrants, is being not of exclusively economic or legal but also of deeply abstract nature. That is, allowing the groups of illegal aliens to flood this country will eventually result in turning America into yet another Third World country—pure and simple.
The foremost second-category limitation is the fact that neither of all three ethical codes—Utilitarian, Deontological, and Virtue-based can be considered thoroughly valid, in the conceptual sense of this word.
For example, from a Utilitarian perspective, it would prove rather impossible to foresee all of the possible consequences of adopting one or another stance on the discussed issue. Similarly, the application of the Deontological approach would prove just as inefficient, because several ethical conventions of Deontology appear self-contradictory because we have to consider whose right is more important—the Americans or the illegal aliens. Within the context of tackling the discussed subject matter, the application of Virtue-based ethics would prove utterly ineffective, as well. After all, there are as many views on virtuousness as there are people on this Earth.
Even though that, as it was illustrated earlier, the deployment of neither of the earlier mentioned ethical approaches to address the question of whether it is being ethically appropriate to hire illegal immigrants, can be considered thoroughly valid, it is specifically the Utilitarian ethics, which appear to being the most thematically correlative.
Davies, I. (2009). Latino immigration and social change in the United States: Toward an ethical immigration policy. Journal of Business Ethics, 88, 377-391.
Davila, S. (2006). Immigration: Issues and perspectives for businesses. Financial Executive, 22 (7), 67.
Fogel, W. (1977). Illegal alien workers in the United States. Industrial Relations, 16 (3), 243-263.
Ku, L., & Pervez, F. (2010). Documenting citizenship in Medicaid: The struggle between ideology and evidence. Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, 35 (1), 5-28.
Whitaker, J. (2009). Mexican deaths in the Arizona desert: The culpability of migrants, humanitarian workers, governments, and businesses. Journal of Business Ethics, 88, 365–376.