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Illegal Immigration

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Americans must have sympathy when it comes to illegal immigration because most people are trying to escape extremely levels of poverty in their home countries

The issue of immigration has been making more and more headlines in the recent years. The world is globalizing in terms of nations’ trade, investments and economies and as it does so, borders open up more easily allowing easier flow of goods and products. Supposedly, people too, are also freer to move around the world. The overall number of immigrants is estimated to be 191 million immigrants worldwide, of which 115 million usually live in developed countries. Out of these immigrants, 38 million live in US alone, making up 13% of the overall US population.

In the United States, illegal immigration is defined as the act of foreign nationals from any part of the world violating the US national laws and immigration policies either by entering the US or remaining there without any proper permission from the US government. The illegal immigrants have continually outpaced the legal immigrants in terms of numbers. The illegal immigrants’ population in the United States of America as of 2008 was approximately 11 million, down from 12.5million people in year 2007 according to Centre for Immigration studies.

Other ranges from 7 to 20 million as estimated by Pew Hispania Centre reports. As of 2005 illegal immigration figures, 65 % of illegal immigrants were from Mexico, 22% were from Central America, 13% from Asia, 6% from Africa and about 3% from the rest of the world. Undocumented immigration compromises a vast category. It may be that the immigrants entered illegally, and others entered the country legally but extended their stay more than the duration of time permitted on their visa. It can also be that the immigrant has violated the terms of his/her refugee permit or permanent resident card.

Immigrants mostly go to their new home country in search of a better life, leaving valuable possessions and loved ones behind. The better life they are searching for is readily available in the U.S. Many therefore flock to the shores of the U.S and along the Mexican border in pursuit of the American Dream. Take for instance workers in Mexico just across the border. A Mexican male with nine years of schooling gets an average of $2.30 in Mexico while for the same job in the U.S, he will earn $8.50 an hour, the figures adjusted to the cost of living differences between the two countries. That means life for such a person would be much better if he migrated to the U.S. Since he does not possess any special skills and his education is limited, the only option he has is of entering the U.S illegally. The reward is worth the risk and many will stop at nothing in their attempts to cross the border.

It is also true that illegal immigrants do jobs native Americans would not do anyway. Over the last fifty years schooling for native Americans has improved tremendously. Between 1960 and 2000, the percentage of working-age native  U.S residents below twelve years of schooling dropped from 50% to 12%. In comparison, Mexico had 74% of the working age residents with less than 12 years of schooling. This means the native U.S citizens are overqualified for jobs such as building homes, preparation of food, cleaning offices, farm assistants and some factory jobs. The developing countries have abundance of unskilled labor as manifested by Mexico above. These unskilled laborers are needed in the U.S to do the jobs native Americans cannot do but at the same time the immigration laws as currently formulated do not favor the low skilled laborers. Their option of entering the U.S therefore remains sneaking in illegally. The U.S needs those workers while those workers need the opportunities the U.S offers. Therefore it makes sense to relax laws concerning illegal immigrants to allow them continue working for their own welfare and that of the people they work for.

The illegal immigrants contribute to the U.S economic growth keeping the economy growing. They provide labor in the economy and at the same time a market for goods and services produced in the economy. By increasing the supply of labor, the illegal immigrants raise the productivity of resources that go hand in hand with labor. More workers translate into better utilization of capital, land and natural resources. Immigrants in general have also contributed to lowering of wages in the economy. This is more so for low-skilled labor where majority of the illegal immigrants fall. The low wages enable producer to produce goods at lower cost. This translates into lower selling prices for labor intensive goods and services such as housekeeping, gardening, childcare, and dry cleaning. The lower prices of goods and services enable families to save a little and invest elsewhere.   

The illegal immigrants just like the legal ones are very helpful in their home countries. The remittances they send back home are very critical in supporting their loved ones economically. In most developing countries, remittances from their citizens living abroad are a source of foreign exchange and capital for undertaking developments. South Asia countries like Phillipines and Thailand, African countries like Nigeria and Kenya and Central American countries rely heavily on remittances from their citizens abroad. These remittances are used to pay school fees, buy food and clothing, pay utility bills and to invest in real estate, stock market or other sectors of the economy. Therefore in allowing the illegal immigrants to continue working in America, the U.S is effectively supporting development in the third world countries and ensuring millions of families in those countries have food on their table and a shelter over their heads.

Furthermore improvement of life in these countries will reduce their dependence on the U.S. and make those countries more attractive for their citizens so that the next generation will not be thinking of how to escape their country but rather on how to stay. It therefore makes sense for the U.S to let those illegal immigrants work as an indirect way of assisting their developing countries to develop and improve life for their citizens. Anything therefore that the U.S can do to better life in those countries is welcome. After all every year the U.S sends billions of dollars into the third-world countries to alleviate poverty.  Instead of giving such countries aid the U.S can give the aspiring citizens of a country an opportunity to work to help himself and his family. This is underpinned under the assumption that a better life in the country of origin will translate into a better life in the U.S.

The illegal immigrants come to the U.S to escape from social-economic problems in their countries of origin. It would therefore be unethical to take somebody back to a harsh environment which he had made all the efforts to escape from. African countries where unemployment rate runs as high as 80% and much of central and South America lie in this category. In these countries opportunities for jobs are very few and the few available are chased by so many people. This encourages corruption as people try to buy the few positions available. Majorities are left without work and hopeless and being that they hear of America and the opportunities that lie there, many desire to come. Americans should be sympathetic to such people since they are running away from a desperate situation and they are coming ready to work to accomplish their dreams.

Other than poverty in material sense, some countries are poor at human rights records. In these countries the government has no regard to the rule of law and human rights. Citizens are grossly abused and their rights trampled upon. Those who dare speak against the regime are assassinated or imprisoned. Some of them will land in America as illegal immigrants. It is more sensible to accept them than to turn them back. This is so even more when you consider the fact that the U.S has long been the global custodian of human rights and its champion. Therefore when people seeking asylum land on the shores of the U.S looking for someone to shelter them from abusive and retrogressive regimes, the U.S should act like the big brother and offer refuge to such individuals irrespective of their status. For example in the Arab countries where countries like Syria, Egypt and Algeria have been governing by emergency law for decades and where a different opinion from that of the government can land somebody in trouble.

The U.S should also way the cost of doing away with the illegal immigrants versus the benefits accrued. Between 2001 and 2008, Congress increased the funding for border security by 145% and immigration by 118%. With these huge investments the flow of illegal immigrants fell by 27% in 2007.The funds spent on extra enforcement of the law to lock out illegal immigrants vastly exceed the income gained by eliminating the illegal immigrants.

Furthermore as far as they remain in the U.S illegally they are a cost that the U.S tax-payers. This is because states pay most of the costs of providing public services to immigrants including public education and Medicaid to poor immigrants’ households. The illegal immigrants therefore enjoy American taxpayers’ sweat without paying taxes themselves. To avoid this and to ensure that the state governments get taxes from these immigrants, it is important to accept them and legitimize their residence so that they pay all the taxes. This will improve the revenues of the state governments and make it easy for them to provide better services. Part of what they pay as taxes can be sent to their countries of origin as aid too.

Moreover Americans ought to accept that the problem of illegal immigration is so intertwined with the American society fabric that it is virtually impossible to solve it. The most Americans can do is to learn how to live with the problem. This is because some of the illegal immigrants have been in the U.S for years and years until they have become part of the American society. Some have children who have been born and brought up in the U.S while others occupy very important positions in society or in business that you cannot eliminate them without disrupting the harmony in the society. It would therefore be easier to look for a way of accommodating them than to drive them out.

However even as Americans show sympathy for the illegal immigrants it should not be taken as a blank check. The rule of law should be followed and evaluation done on case basis to sort out the cases that merit consideration for legalization and the ones that deserve deportation. If the law is bent too much to accommodate all the illegal immigrants it may breed impunity where many more will rush here expecting to get the same consideration. Furthermore an illegality cannot be corrected by legalizing it.

What is needed as a matter of urgency is a reform of the immigration law to ensure it takes into considerations the challenges of the 21st century. An open discussion free of stereotypes should also be encouraged about the topic to ensure solutions are found that are not bias. Otherwise as the case stands now, Americans should be sympathetic with the illegal immigrants taking into consideration that they are running away from hardships in their countries of origin.

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