6 December 2007
Arguing to Mediate: Illegal Immigration
Illegal immigration has long been a major issue for the United States government. However, over the past few decades, it has become a particularly hot topic in the political realm. It is sure to be a major issue in the upcoming presidential election. Currently, the views on illegal immigration are so polar, nothing seems to get accomplished. The truth is that both sides of the illegal immigration argument bring up valid points, and a solution to the dispute is possible to achieve.
One side of the argument is that illegal immigration should be stopped altogether. One major reason on this side of the argument involves the cost of the illegal immigrants for the United States government. Obviously, immigrants who come to the United States illegally are not taxed, costing the government billions of dollars annually. In fact, in her book Debating Immigration, Carol Swain suggests that the United States government has lost as much as three hundred billion dollars due to providing social services for illegal immigrants (142). Swain further contends that a similar amount of money has been wired to the countries of origin of illegal aliens (143). Another question that arises regarding illegal immigrants involves the education of their children. Just in the year 2000 alone, the education of the children of illegal immigrants cost the United States government an estimated $5 million (fairus.org). That figure is growing annually and is likely to now be at six to seven million dollars a year.
Furthermore, opponents of illegal immigration also look toward the relatively high crime rate of illegal aliens as another reason of why it needs to be stopped. It is estimated that nearly 350,000 illegal immigrants are currently incarcerated, costing the United States hundreds of million dollars annually (immigrationcounters.com). Additionally, illegal immigrants are being hired by companies as a source of cheap labor, which takes away millions of skilled positions that could be held by currently unemployed Americans.
Illegal immigration is undoubtedly a severe threat to national security. With the millions of illegal immigrants the United States has seen cross its borders, one must wonder how many of these illegal immigrants could be terrorists. Considering how easy it is currently to enter the United States illegally, some citizens fear that illegal immigration over time could actually lead to an internal terrorism problem. In his article entitled “Illegal Immigration and Immigration Control,” Barry Chiswick states that the flow of illegal immigration into the United States has doubled over the past two decades (105). If illegal immigration continues to rise at such a rate, it is reasonable to assume that large groups of terrorists could find their way into the United States.
The other side of the illegal immigration dispute involves proponents of illegal immigration who contend that illegal immigration is fine as it is right now. Such a group will point to the fact that illegal immigrants serve as a source of cheap labor for companies, which can have an overall effect of stimulating the economy. Illegal immigrants can be hired for much less than legal citizens, thus saving corporations tremendous sums of money. In his book entitled The Economic Logic of Illegal Immigration, Gordon Hanson argues that the economic benefits of illegal immigrants as a source of cheap labor more than offsets the losses faced by the U.S. government (19-20). Therefore, many proponents ask this question: If illegal immigration actually helps the United States economy, what reason does the United States have for putting a complete stop to it? And this question could very well be the one that keeps the government from strengthening reform policies toward the illegal immigration issue. Perhaps the government realizes that this is the case, and has decided to take a liberal stance toward the dispute. Nevertheless, proponents do not solely hang on this single point to back their argument. Proponents further contend that each human being has natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and no administrative force in the world should have the power to strip a human of his or her natural rights. If the argument is looked at from this perspective, who is the United States government to tell people trying to flee an oppressive and undemocratic government that they cannot enter? Moreover, the United States was a nation built on the fundamental idea of being able to flee oppression and pursue liberty. For all of these reasons, proponents have a solid argument.
Though many believe the opposing views of the illegal immigration issue are too contradictory to allow the matter to be settled, it is possible to mediate the argument by implementing a few new policies. First, the naturalization process needs to be modified. Under the system currently in place, as many as four years can elapse from the time a candidate for American citizenship files out his or her application to the time he or she is actually sworn in as a citizen (uscitizenship.info). The prolonged process is a major reason why immigrants may choose to come illegally. If it could be expedited, perhaps the government would not have to deal with so many people attempting to immigrate illegally.
Another new policy that could be implemented by the government is perhaps allowing the immigrants to slowly gain full citizenship over the span of two years. Currently, full citizenship is granted to immigrants upon taking an oath of loyalty. If citizenship rights such as that of minimum wage were granted more gradually rather than all at once, corporations could still hire the immigrants as cheap labor; in addition, the immigrants would be taxed at a rate lower than that of full citizens, thus benefiting the immigrant, corporations, and the United States government.
Another major reason why some people choose to immigrate illegally involves the issue of leaving family members behind. Sometimes, families are torn apart by the naturalization process when one member of the family is deemed ineligible for citizenship. If this is the case, the member(s) of the family who gain citizenship may try to bring the other members of their family into the country illegally. The ability of an entire family to immigrate should be simplified. For example, if one member of a family is granted the right to be a citizen, the other members of the family should have more minimal requirements to be allowed citizenship. In this way, families can remain together, again decreasing the illegal immigration rate.
Another issue in the immigration controversy is how to handle illegal immigrants caught by the government. Currently, those living in the United States illegally are deported to their country of origin. However, the fair way to deal with this group would be to judge them according to how long they have lived in the United States. If they have lived in the U.S. for four years or more, they are obviously not a disturbance, and should be granted the option of going through the naturalization process while still living in the United States, as long as they attend periodical “check-ups.” Those who have been in the United States for less than four years should be deported, but should still have the option of going through the naturalization process while living in their home country.
Lastly, the most obvious way to finally resolve the illegal immigration dispute is to increase border control. Hopefully, the programs described above should be enough to dissuade most people from immigrating illegally; nevertheless, some would still attempt to do so. To put an end to it, border control must be strengthened.
Though the opposing views on illegal immigration currently have its solution in a stalemate, a mediation of the dispute is possible and will hopefully be realized within the next decade or two. All it would take would be a few reforms benefiting both opponents and proponents of illegal immigration. Such a solution to the issue could finally put to rest a problem that has plagued the United States for so many years.
Chiswick, Barry R. "Illegal Immigration and Immigration Control." Journal of Economic Perspectives (1998): 101-115.
Hanson, Gordon H. The Economic Logic of Illegal Immigration. New York: Council on Foreign Relations, Inc., 2007.
Swain, Carol M. Debating Immigration. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Unknown Author. Federation for American Immigration Reform. June 2004. November 2007
Unknown Author. Illegal Immigration Counters. 2007. 2 December 2007
Unknown Author. U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. 2004. November 2007