Today in the United States there are up to 20 million people considered “illegal aliens”, which means illegal immigrants (McFadyen, par.1). One of the topics of this last presidential and senate campaign was if the United States should offer a path to legalization for illegal immigrants. This is an issue not raised last but decades ago and the debate continues. When elections are approaching, especially those for the presidency, the issue of immigration is made part of the public discourse and a hot topic of the campaign. I believe this is a sign of the necessity for the United States to initiate a process of immigration reforms and the implementation of welfare-improvement policies regarding immigrants.
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Being an immigrant makes me feel more connected with the issue. In fact, I do believe that this issue affects, or at least should affect, every immigrant in this country. It is not easy to be an illegal immigrant with the conscience that you cannot legally get medical insurance; you cannot legally enter the education system to improve yourself, you cannot legally protect yourself against any problem related to work; you cannot even afford to get caught by a public official, don’t think about asking for help from them.
First, we have to assess what “illegal immigrants” are. They are “foreign nationals who come to the United States without following the legal immigration process to enter and remain in the country. The reasons for immigrating vary, but generally, people are looking for better opportunities and a higher quality of life than they would have in their native countries” (McFayden, 4).
If we have to make a demographical sketch of the concentration of the illegal immigrants, we would find that most of the illegal population in the United States is concentrated in California and Texas. Estimates show that more than half of illegal immigrants within the United States today were born in Mexico. The rest is composed of other Latin American countries and Asia (McFayden, 1).
The United States prides itself on being a nation of immigrants, founded by immigrants and made great by immigrants. In fact, immigration is a good source of labor and has been used throughout the entire twentieth century the supply the demand for workers from the industry. But there are some problems when it comes to rights for immigrants. Unfortunately, they are viewed as “second-hand” persons.
Then after the Second World War, the industry within the United States expanded rapidly and the demand, the need, for workers was going up. In fact, the country has regularly applied a legal immigration policy, which is in course even in the present days, but most of the people to immigrate to the United States did not do so by legal application (Foner, 15). Anyway, they have been “used” by the industry and the companies and corporations of the country to fulfill the worker demand. For business, a positive factor was that it could have more workforces to produce more. But the government did not show a “welcome” response.
In fact, immigrants had no rights toward their employers, for example, as other citizens had. To cite one example, illegal immigrants do not have the right to health care. They cannot purchase a public health care package or a social security package. The government does not recognize this right (Borjas, 22). They also do not have the right to a contract because they are viewed as illegal in front of the law. If we come to the area of education, since they are illegal, the state does not offer them any sort of help in educating themselves of their children. This situation causes multiple problems for them.
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This is an argument for my thesis that immigration reform is drastically needed. It can include several areas like employment, education, and health in order to provide fair and equitable treatment for illegal immigrants.
It was the year 1924 when Congress created the United States Border Patrol Service. Its duties were to guard the borderline of the United States against the entrance of foreign nationals illegally into the country.
Despite the efforts, facts show that illegal immigration grew during the ’70 and ’80 (Foner, 2). Nonetheless, new strategies weren’t implemented until the 1990s. This happened when the concerns about the connection between drug trafficking and illegal immigration began to rise (Foner, pg. 5). At this point, concerns about the security of the country became a very important issue. U.S. Border Control agents helped heavily by the military succeeded in reducing the number of smugglers and illegal crossings for a period of time. Unfortunately, when the military left, activity again increased (Foner, pg. 7).
In the next decade, Congress passed 1986 The Immigration Reform and Control Act which provided amnesty to 2.7 illegal immigrants already within the country. This act also established sanctions for employers who knowingly hired illegal aliens. Additional laws were passed in the ’90s to help curb the growing number of illegal aliens, but they were ineffective (Foner, 13).
After that, we have a period of non-activity in the issue from the government until the new millennium. The attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent creation of a homeland security department made it possible for many ideas to be considered during the next few years on what could be done to permanently secure the border. In 2006, the Secure Fence Act was introduced to Congress and passed.
This law was intended to build 700 miles of double-reinforced security fencing in areas along the border prone to drug trafficking and illegal immigration. Also, by order of President Bush 6,000, National Guardsmen were deployed to the Mexico border to assist with border control (Foner, 34). Lately, another bill that would have provided legal status to approximately 12 million illegal immigrants was introduced in 2007 but ultimately failed (McFayen, 6).
Point of view
I am personally speaking from the point of view of an immigrant, which I am. There is an interesting dilemma you find yourself in. Here you are, finally, in the country of possibilities and you find the door of many of these possibilities shut down. Here you are in an immense country built on the principles of liberty and equality, but you feel not that free and equal to other human beings (just like you) living not distance away from where you live.
This dilemma is based on the daily perception of the life of an illegal immigrant. Regarding employment, the immigrants have the effect of raising the demand for work and providing the business community with more workforce capital to produce more goods and services (Foner, 12).
But this employment problem is multidimensional, not just if immigrants can, or cannot, find a job. Unfortunately, since the law does not recognize these people as legal entities that can enter into legal relationships with the business community, they late offer a minor compensation for the immigrants than they offer for citizens.
Here we come to another dimension of this problem. This way an income distribution problem is created among this part of the population. They earn less money than a citizen and reside in areas that have approximately the same cost of living. Regarding health care, it is known that illegal immigrants cannot have social security and they are part of the United States population (if we take them as a social group) that has the least number of health care package purchases (Borjas, 95). Of course, there can be many reasons for that but let me mention just two reasons; the first is that most of the immigration families cannot afford health care because they just do not earn enough.
So, as we described above the difficulties they find when confronting the business world. The second is that they (do not) have a legal status that is “different” from the rest of society. Most of them do not feel protected legally by the government (Borjan, 96).
It is quite obvious to understand why they do not feel equal to other citizens in the country and the consequences, both social and individualistic, that this situation has. Being marginalized does not offer you the best conditions to prosper and so we come to the main problem, in my view, the illegal immigrant has. He, or she, has come to America with a fixed idea; that of increasing his, or her, welfare, wealth. But by the conditions we described above it is nearly impossible to increase your wealth, your welfare.
But the question to be raised here is what are these people going to do in front of the situation described above? It does not require a genius to understand that maybe some members of this group would turn to “alternative” ways of increasing their wealth and welfare. As I mentioned above the connection between drug trafficking, or criminal activity in general, and illegal immigrants is very strong. It is becoming a social stereotype also (Foner, 92). This means that the public views them as a “danger” to society and, by doing so, it helps widen the gap between them and the rest of society. But facts are that most of these people are honest people just like the rest of society (Foner, 93).
To be academically correct with what is said above we have to take into account even opposition to these arguments to what I have mentioned above. Regarding the employment of immigrants, many authors consider that their increase in demand for the labor force disrupts the equilibrium of the market. Another important factor to consider here is that this category of people does not pay taxes to the government. Since they have no taxes to pay businesses can use this in offering them lower wages for their work. This creates damage for the rest of society because many citizens get out of work from this illegal and unfair competition in the labor market (White, par. 4).
This site also claims to social justice when it comes to this issue. For them, it is not justice when an illegal immigrant competes unfairly with a legal citizen for job placement. It’s an equal rights issue. if you want to have the same privileges (rights) as a citizen, you have to also fulfill the same duties that a citizen has. The paying of taxes is one of these duties for example.
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But even in this case, they are eventually admitting that it is not the illegal immigrant that wants to compete unfairly, but it is the business world that is taking advantage, unethically, of the present situation. For it, the status of this group is to be changed then even the situation of unfair competition in the market would immediately change.
Facts show that an ever-increasing number of illegal immigrants are contributing to the American social insurance system and also are purchasing, in a way or another, health care packages (White, 12).
The other risk from the counterpoint of view is that legalizing and providing legal statuses to these people would give a negative example to the rest of society and to this group itself. The United States is a country of law. Who breaks the law, no matter his or her social position, has to respond for it. And by legalizing this group it would mean that they are de facto above the law. Why should we treat this group in a particular way? Is it not right that every social group, especially minority groups, should be treated the same? Why should the government specially treat this social group and not all the different social groups the same? Indeed, say these authors it should not (White, 24).
The United States has come a long way for immigrants. It is a country that was born from immigration. I do believe that immigration reform nowadays is a very important topic. All the above-mentioned issues and dilemmas need answers and only an immigration reform would give the appropriate answers. Let us just not forget the principles on which this great country was born; the right of people to have a chance for a better life. The right of the people to “fight”, according to the rules of the game, to gain that better life. This is why you can’t stop loving this country for the possibilities it offers its people.
McFadyean, J. A Path to Legalization for Illegal Immigrants. About. 2008. Web.
McFayedn, J. Immigration Issues: U.S.-Mexico Border Fence Pros and Cons. About. 2008. Web.
Borjas, George J. Welfare Reform and Immigrant Participation in Welfare Programs. International Migration Review 2002 36(4): 1093-1123.
Foner, N. In A New Land: A Comparative View Of Immigration. New York University Pres: New York, 2005.
White, D. Pros & Cons of the Immigration Reform Act of 2007. About. Web.