Based on the recent presidential election, one can definitely comment that ‘Illegal immigration’ was a key component of the Democratic Party’s winning strategy. Americans have repeatedly advocated for a more secure border, but often anti-immigration protests are painted as racially inclined when the truth is rather contrary.
More often than not, people who advocate for immigration control are interested in safeguarding economic and security interests of the country. Sometimes these groups may even advocate for policies that aid illegal or undocumented immigrants. Consequently, one must understand the motives behind the immigration debate.
Advocates of immigration reform acknowledge that a number of challenges exist in prevailing immigration laws. Therefore, many of them want legislative changes that can deal with pertinent issues, such as security. The US has over ten million undocumented aliens living within its borders, which testifies to the country’s slackened security measures.
The 9-11 attacks had over ten masterminds who all planned and executed this terrorist act as undocumented immigrants (Calabresi, 5). American citizens have a right to demand tighter security for themselves and their families given such circumstances. It is not surprising that some of their calls will focus on immigration reform. Had the country’s immigration policies been more stringent, then chances are that these terrorists would have been captured.
Terrorism is one way in which the security problem is manifested. In other circumstances, it manifests in the form of criminal activities. Several criminal organizers and agents have used the contradictory nature of US immigration law to conduct their activities within this nation. Mexico, which is responsible for the highest number of illegal immigrants, is renowned for its high crime rates.
Therefore, if US borders are left unsecured, then chances are more criminals will enter the country and lead to insecurity. In fact, Finnegan (2) explains that ever since the nine-eleven attacks, most border towns have revamped their security efforts thus leading to increased security. Some of the most secure cities in the countries happen to be in the south.
This testifies to the fact that immigration policies focusing on border patrol improve the country’s safety. Therefore, anti-immigration protestors are not concerned about the question of race when they talk about border security; they are merely apprehensive about the safety of their fellow citizens.
Many advocates of immigration reform are fully aware of the problems that revolve around curtailing economic immigrants. Kane and Johnson (6) explain that such a strategy only worsens the security situation by causing many immigrants to break the law. This leads to a culture of illegality in which most of the migrant workers become law breakers.
Restricting illegal immigrants severely hampers community relations, and some anti-immigrant protesters actually call for the reverse to occur; documenting illegal workers (Finnegan 4). When the law treats undocumented immigrants as targets, then chances are that it will be more difficult to fight crime. It will divert resources that would have been used to arrest hardcore criminals.
Furthermore, it would lead to a situation in which illegal immigrants refuse to cooperate with the police owing to fear of arrest. Consequently, anti-immigrant protestors are now calling for an open approach to immigration. They realize that registering illegal residents is the key to solving this problem. This also illustrates that their views are open and unbiased towards the stakeholders.
Other proponents of the debate also acknowledge the usefulness of immigrant labor in securing the country’s economy. They mainly object to the illegal status of the individuals. Kane and Johnson (9) also add that immigrants are not a problem to the country’s economy; consequently, anti-immigration laws need not focus on getting them out of the country.
While unemployment rates may be high, they are much lower in the immigrant population. Furthermore, a 10% net increase of immigrant labor would only lead to a reduction of 1% in the national wage. Additionally, immigrant workers contribute to the national income through tax revenues in payroll and purchases of goods and services. Most of the latter tax collections occur among undocumented workers.
This economic value increases tremendously when undocumented workers get an education. There is a huge incentive to keep such workers in the country. Some experts have proposed a guest-worker program in which immigrant workers can access a number of rights that they would not have access to if they were undocumented. However, the program denies such individuals citizenship.
Therefore, one aspect of immigration policy debate centers on granting undocumented workers tourism rights. This perspective has no racial bias and only dwells on the economic costs of keeping immigrants illegal. Vargas (MM22) exemplifies this side of the immigration debate. He advocates for the redefinition of illegal immigrants in America because their current status makes it very difficult for them to contribute to the economy.
Jose Vargas is an undocumented immigrant from The Philippines, who entered the US at the age of 12. He overcame tremendous odds to become the person he is today. Vargas’ used a fake passport to get into the country and tried to earn his citizenship by excelling in school and at work. He was employed by the Washington Post as well as the Huffington Post and even won an award for his coverage of an event at Virginia Tech.
However, despite these accomplishments, Jose Vargas is still treated as an illegal immigrant, and faces the risk of invalidation. He could not obtain a driver’s license or access many services that several natives enjoy. This is regardless of the fact that he made a huge contribution to American society through his journalistic work.
Some undocumented immigrants have been educated in the US since their childhood, but the state does not recognize this input. Felix, an illegal immigrant student, also overcame various odds to get to an Ivy League college regardless of the higher fees charged for undocumented immigrants (Dwyer 3). It is persons like this that have sparked off a different dimension to immigration protests.
Policy makers have recognized that some illegal immigrants have made useful contributions to the economy through their education, so they should access certain rights. This kind of mentality proves that illegal immigration is not racialist; on the contrary it advocates for a reconfiguration of immigration policies that could benefit the undocumented immigrants themselves.
Indeed, some advocates claim that turning illegal citizens into legal ones would solve the problem of distraction of resources (Flanakin 3). Keeping extralegal workers is hurting the US economy in more ways than one. Undocumented immigrants cannot purchase property, so this denies the country employment or tax opportunities that come with property ownership.
Furthermore, many of them cannot even start their own businesses because they would require proper documents to do so. Even opportunities for education are rather limited because they have to pay more than natives in institutions of higher learning. Access to formal jobs in the corporate arena is restricted since they must present their birth certificate, passport and other similar documentation to get jobs.
As a result of this institutional marginalization, many undocumented workers are reduced to low-paying or even exploitative economic opportunities. This may frustrate some of them and thus lure them into the criminal world. It is in the best interest of the US’s economy to integrate these individuals into society. Immigration reform would turn a marginalized group into economically-beneficial entities.
Flanakin (21) explains that the key to making immigrant reform work is by eliminating the obstacles that make legal immigration daunting. It would eradicate the need to subvert the law since legality would be much easier to achieve. As seen earlier, most debate surrounding immigration focuses on sober and pertinent issues affecting the country’s well being.
However, it would be naïve to state that racist sentiments do not affect these debates. Many nativists have joined anti-immigration protesters, and used them to further their agendas. Their sentiments are a perversion of the anti-immigration stance, and they camouflage what immigration reform is all about. Furthermore, some politicians may use these nativist sentiments to create pseudo enemies.
A case in point was a proposal made by the governor of Arizona. He suggested that they would pass laws in which children of Mexican residents would be returned to Mexico. Clearly, this would defy the Fourteenth Amendment and the spirit of the constitution. However, such politicians have no factual basis to support their claims, and are merely looking for a target for their political agendas.
Therefore, racist sentiments exist in anti-immigration reforms, but these perspectives represent the exception and not the rule. In order to demystify immigration reform, one must get beyond the emotions and the agendas in order to understand the real motives behind the phenomenon.
There is no problem whatsoever in deciding how many immigrants need to be entering the US, even when the concerned nations represent ethnic minorities. The only problem stems from distorting these figures to create fear among the population. Immigration control advocates do not all have racist interests at heart.
A large number of them simply want the government to have targets that will assist in meeting the country’s interests (Calabresi 6). For instance, the US needs to consider whether allowing immigrants’ family members to get legal status is benefiting the country in any way. Additionally, it means that the country must determine how many numbers it needs to fill its employment gaps.
Flanakin (3) explains that if the country’s unemployment rate stands at about 5% (this is much higher today after the global financial crisis), then the number of illegal immigrants available needs to match this percentage in order to force illegal residents to forfeit their jobs. However, carrying out a mass exodus program is not just idealistic but quite distracting.
The best way of tackling the problem is through immigration reform which would ensure that the legal avenue for entrance of legal immigrants is simple and sufficient enough to meet the country’s job needs. Furthermore, since the US has reported declining birth rates as well as an increase in the aging population, then it would make sense to consider legal immigrants for this need.
Many countries around the world base their immigration policies on such issues, so it well within the US’s right to do so too. The US also has a right to determine the number of people who will be eligible to become citizens and hence whether they can access entitlement programs.
If the government has an immigration policy that makes it relatively easy for undocumented immigrants to become legal immigrants and eventually citizens, then it must pay the price by providing them with all the benefits associated with citizenship. Immigration reform advocates, such as Kane and Johnson (16), claim that guest worker programs are the best because they do not commit the US government to welfare plans.
Granting citizenship so easily to immigrants would lead to an oversupply because it would distort migration incentives. Therefore, the country must undertake reform in order to shield itself from provision of welfare, unemployment insurance and other social benefits that citizens enjoy.
Immigration control advocates have been mistaken for racists when their values actually contradict these sentiments. Economic issues largely concern them as they actually oppose the curtailing of undocumented citizens. The country looses a lot in terms of taxes and investments from this group. Furthermore, others worry about the security situation, which is aggravated by a high number of illegal immigrants who have no economic opportunities.
Alternatively, border security may protect the country against terrorism as well other illegal activities. Some advocates also feel that the US has a right to set targets for immigration policies in order to serve its interests. All these decisions are founded on the well being of the nation and could even improve the lives of immigrants themselves. Consequently, they are not racially inclined.
Calabresi, Massimo. “Is Racism Fueling the Immigration Debate?” Time. 2006, 1-8. Web.
Dwyer, Devin. 2010. Mexican Immigrant Defied the Odds in Ivy League. Web.
Finnegan, William. “The Real Numbers on Illegal Immigration.” The New Yorker. 2010, 1-15. Web.
Flanakin, Duggan. 2006. Addressing the Root Causes of Illegal Immigration. Web.
Kane, Tim & Johnson, Kirk. 2006. The Real Problem with Immigration.. and the Real Solution. Web.
Vargas, Jose. “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant.” The New York Times. 2011, MM22. Web.