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Immigration is a vital context of the American Dream and national identity. However, the outdated immigration system and globalization trends have led to a shift in perception of immigration as white nationalism is on the rise. There are socio-political concerns about the impact of immigration on self-identity and security of the United States. This report seeks to investigate these fears and compare them to the benefits for the country to determine if immigration should be curbed. A discussion is held regarding the perceptions and realities of international migration and its principles from a political and ethical perspective. Recommendations are then provided regarding reform of the national immigration system.
Immigration is the foundation of the United States as a country. It was built on the labor, ideas, and cultural melting pot of immigrants coming to the US in the hopes of achieving the American dream, finding a new life, and establishing a home for their families. This report seeks to investigate whether the United States should be defined as a nation of immigrants or should it take extensive efforts to curb foreign entry into the country. The United States has built its self-identity on immigration and its extraordinary socio-economic and technological progress depends on it, but in the realities of an unstable global society, measures should be taken to ensure neutrality and competence in immigration policy.
The US has one of the largest immigrant populations in the world, exceeding 40 million individuals, which is around 14% of the total population (Migration Policy Institute, 2019). In recent years, there has been a rise in nationalism which places the blame on the nation’s socio-economic issues on immigration and challenging the concept of the US self-identity. There is an overwhelming public debate and policymakers are commonly unable to reach an agreement on immigration due to the complexity of economic, security, and humanitarian concerns.
From an economic standpoint, anti-immigration critics consider immigrants to be taking away jobs and creating a strain on public services funded by taxes. Security is being challenged as a significant amount of violence and drug crime is attributed to immigrants, particularly those illegally entering the country. The current Trump administration was elected and continues to gather massive support on its strong anti-immigration policies, particularly targeting Muslim and Hispanic migrants for security purposes (Felter & Renwick, 2018).
The words of an identity crisis are unheard of in other parts of the world where everyone is classified based on their characteristics, family, or religion. Mukherjeee (1997) recalls “The concept itself — of a person not knowing who he or she is — was unimaginable in our hierarchical, classification-obsessed society” (par. 6). However, the United States and many countries in Europe have been or becoming increasingly culturally pluralistic and diverse.
As a result of populations and cultures intertwining, influences and opinions coming from many directions, and new generations being born into varied mixed backgrounds, identity is becoming lost. Some regions are experiencing violence, instability, and lack of direction due to immigration and pluralism (Chua, 2007). This is concerning for the core white population of the United States, not just due to the concern about the loss of control and privilege, but also the prolonged effect immigration has on national stability, value system, and institutions.
Benefits of Immigration
Immigration has been studied for centuries, and in the United States, it has been a vital part of cultural and economic development. First, it is considered to be almost universally by experts to be an economic driver to the country by contributing to demographic growth, human capital, talent acquisition, and innovation. If the immigrant flow is managed flexibly and efficiently, it can generate U.S. economic growth at times of relative stagnation.
A restrictive policy is detrimental as the legislation limits legal work-related immigration among highly-educated scientists and engineers as well as the less educated labor force in construction and agriculture that few core Americans would participate in (Orrenius, 2016). The mobility, specialization, and motivational drive of immigrants have proven continuously to be a significant economic benefit.
In terms of self-identity and national culture, immigration holds various benefits as well. It introduces new customs, beliefs, and ideas into the general folklore and traditions of the nation. Many of the things that are considered innately American have their origins from immigrants bringing these aspects into the country for centuries and celebrating them in local communities. Immigrants are also known for their rich and active culture and civic lives as they participate in the American democratic process and local communities, allowing for the establishment of international and tolerant networks.
Furthermore, it is important to consider that migrants often link together, and a healthy immigration base in the country that actively engages in the aspects described above ensures that incoming immigrants are more likely to do so and less willing to participate in radical or criminal activity (McCarthy, 2018).
Discussion and Recommendations
In a modern liberal society, free movement is considered to be an inalienable right, which if limited would provide a precedent for limitation of other human rights. However, these rights are realistically only observed within country borders. International migration is often done to improve lives and those of their families; therefore, instilling a system of migration control would be coercion, that has historically and will continue to produce violence at the borders. This not only applies to border checkpoints and building the “Wall”, but various aspects such as measures that peaceful migrants attempt to gain entry into the country and threats that they face once settled down, for both legal and illegal aliens (Waldinger, 2018).
The reality is that there is no country without borders, and although such boundaries do imply discrimination, it is necessary to protect U.S. citizens. In a world where the number of immigrants exceeds the capacity of a country to take them in, choices must be made regarding admissions criteria of whom the country would be willing to accept as residents. This remains to be the primary socio-political debate from which the U.S. society will never find an escape. However, should be considered that immigration serves as both, a source for international integration and national fragmentation (Waldinger, 2018).
In the context of immigration, with its threats and benefits, it is evident that the immigration system requires comprehensive and intelligible reform. In her essay, Chua (2007) suggests, “if the U.S. immigration system is to reflect and further our ethnically neutral identity, it must itself be ethnically neutral, offering equal opportunity to [all]” (p. 3). Based on the discussion earlier, there should be more concrete criteria that would allow for a modern rules-based approach to immigration.
Most Americans support legal immigration and accept it as part of the American social contract despite the highly emotional nature of it. Historically, there have always been regulations in place regarding nationality and family ties, with very few people being able to afford passage to the United States. These rules were relaxed in the late 20th century, and it is ultimately left to the voters whether a new system should be re-established again.
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The U.S. should bring forward incentives for immigration that were present in the past while laying down harsh penalties for violations of the law by individuals and companies. The aspects of immigration that are commonly exploited such as birthright tourism should be eliminated. Meanwhile, incentives such as professional opportunities under a legal status and safety if following proper refugee procedures would help establish a competent system (Gray, 2019). Although there would be challenges and undoubtedly, debate, the system eventually will balance out if a non-ideological and politically correct approach is taken to reforming it.
Immigration is a critical issue in the current political agenda. There are legitimate national concerns regarding security and national identity. However, immigration brings tremendous benefits economically, socially, and culturally, allowing to form a unique melting pot that promotes inclusivity and tolerance while driving forward economic growth and innovation. Nevertheless, the United States had been built on immigration and it should not be curbed significantly, but rather strong measures taken in policy reform to incentivize legal and dedicated immigrants while eliminating those seeking to use it for enrichment or illegal purposes.
Chua, A. (2007). The right road for America? Washington Post. Web.
Felter, C., & Renwick, D. (2018). The U.S. immigration debate. Web.
Gray, M. W. (2019). America’s immigration policy needs an overhaul. National Interest. Web.
McCarthy, J. (2018). 5 ways immigration enhances a country’s culture. Global Citizen. Web.
Migration Policy Institute. (2019). Frequently requested statistics on immigrants and immigration in the United States. Web.
Mukherjee, B. (1997). American dreamer. Mother Jones. Web.
Orrenius, P. (2016). Benefits of immigration outweigh the costs. The Catalyst, 2. Web.
Waldinger, R. (2018). Immigration and the election of Donald Trump: Why the sociology of migration left us unprepared … And why we should not have been surprised. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 41(8), 1411-1426. Web.