America is famous for being a melting pot, a nation with people of different nationalities. We can have so many nationalities because this country welcomes immigrants. The Chinese call America "the gold mountain" because the Chinese consider America a place of opportunities. As a second-generation immigrant, I have no right to criticize anyone who wants to come here to have a better future. It is also ridiculous for me to suggest that the country that welcomes my parents should stop allowing immigrants to come here. However, the United States really has a problem with immigration. The problem is not with legal immigration; it is illegal immigration that causes the problems. Illegal immigration is not fair to those immigrants who come to the United States legally, and it harms our economy. It should be our responsibility, as a nation, to keep the problem of illegal immigration under control.
Jenny was born and raised in Hong Kong. She went to the University of Hawaii to attend college on a student visa in 1979. Willie, her boyfriend, had already left for Hawaii to attend high school in 1978. After Jenny graduated, she continued to attend graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in social work. Both Jenny and Willie wanted to continue living in the United States when they graduated. They could choose to become illegal aliens by overstaying or go through the legal process to apply to be immigrants through their professional skills. They knew that the immigration process was a long wait, but they also realized that they would not have a future if they overstayed as illegal aliens. Both of them therefore tried to look for jobs that would sponsor them. Jenny got a job offer in Portland, Oregon while Willie's extension was denied. He had to return to Hong Kong. Although it was hard for them to separate, this was the only legal outlet that they had. Jenny did not like her job, and she had no friends in Portland. Her salary was only $1000 per month, but she had to pay $4000 for the lawyer to process her immigration petition. Her co-worker was an illegal alien who overstayed after his student visa expired. His salary was even lower; he was paid only $800
per month. The filing of the immigration process was completed a year later. Jenny needed to wait another six years before her quota came. She decided to quit her job and return to Hong Kong, risking that her employer might not complete the immigration process six years later. Her co-worker had no choice but continued to stay in the country as an illegal alien. Jenny and Willie got married in Hong Kong, but they were afraid to start a family, not knowing where they would settle down few years later. Fortunately, the United States increased the immigration quota for Hong Kong residents, and the couple only waited for four years. In 1990, they immigrated legally to the United States. Fortunately, Jenny's employer had budget problem at that time and could not hire her full time. The couple settled happily in California. This concludes my parents' immigration experience. If they are willing to go through the legal process since the United States offer them a way to become legal immigrants, it is really not fair that illegal immigrants keep coming into this country everyday.
Obtaining an immigration visa is not an easy process. United States immigration law allows certain group of people to immigrate. They include the immediate family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents, those who have professional skills or needed job skills that are sponsored by their employers, and those who qualify as political refugees. Since the quotas are very limited, the waiting period for the immigrant visas often takes years. Jenny petitioned for her sister twelve years ago, and her sister's family finally immigrated last year. As a result, many people choose the illegal route.
Illegal immigrants include those who enter the U.S. illegally and those who were admitted legally but overstay. According to the Census 2000, there were 8.4 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. By March 2004, Pew Hispanic Center estimated that the population increased to 10.3 million. Mexicans make up 57 percent of the total illegal immigrant population. The rest of the illegal populations are from other Latin American countries, Asia, Europe,
Canada, and rest of the world (Figure 1). Two-third of the illegal immigrants live in the following eight states: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey, and North Carolina (Figure 2). Of the 10.3 million, 45 percent are men between aged 18 and 39 while 30% are women. Children represent 15 percent while only 10 percent are over 40 years old (Figure 3). In addition, it is estimated that there are over 3 million U.S. born children of undocumented parents (Passel 1-4).
Taxpayers of the United States pay billions of dollars each year in providing education to illegal immigrants. In 1982, the Supreme Court ruled that states "may not exclude children from public education because of their immigration status" (Merrell 7). Data from 2006 estimated that there were 2 million school age children in the country who were illegal immigrants while 3 million children were U.S. citizens born to illegal immigrants. They represented almost 4 percent of the total school age population (Merrell 7-8). These students may need more assistance in school and be offered more educational services because of their poor English skills. Schoolteachers may have to spend more time in teaching these children reading and writing skills by providing them extra tutoring services. Since many of these children come from families of lower income, they also qualify to receive free school lunch. It is estimated that it costs 20 to 40 percent higher to educate immigrant children (Merrell 2). During the school year of 2003-2004, Minnesota spent close to 200 million in providing education to about 12,000 undocumented children and U.S. born children of illegal parents. New Mexico spent $67 million to 9200 illegal immigrant children (Merrell 8). California got hit the hardest when it comes to illegal immigrants. Nearly 15 percent of the school children are illegal immigrants and U.S. born children of illegal aliens. FAIR (Federation For American Immigration Reform) estimated that it cost California 7.7 billion per year on providing public education to this group of children (Martin & Mehlman 7-8). In November 2010, California Supreme Court ruled that illegal
immigrants could continue to pay in-state tuition at California colleges (Corsi). When all California colleges are now facing budget cuts and higher tuition, it is really unfair that some of the taxpayers' money is put into the illegal immigrants.
Health care cost for illegal immigrants is another strain on our economy. Illegal immigrants are less likely to have health insurance, and they may bring in diseases to the United States. All legal immigrants are required to have physical exams before their immigration. Since illegal immigrants come into the United States illegally and have not had their physical exams, they may bring along diseases that can be spread to others. Everyone still clearly remember the H1N1 swine flu that haunted the United States in 2009. That was a great example of contagious disease being spread from Mexico. Federal government requires state and local government to provide emergency medical care and well baby maternity care to all residents; no matter they are legal or illegal (Merrell 8). The Federation For American Immigration Reform (FAIR) estimated that 1.4 billion was spent on providing medical care to illegal immigrants in California in 2004 (Martin & Mehlman 1). Providing health care to illegal immigrants increased the California budget deficit.
Illegal immigrants also cost taxpayers money for law enforcement. Illegal immigrants do not follow the law in the first place by entering the country illegally. Why would one expect them to be law-abiding citizens? Some illegal immigrants continue to commit crimes. According to the Los Angeles police record, "95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide (which totaled twelve hundred to fifteen hundred) targeted illegal aliens. Up to two-thirds of all fugitive felony warrants (seventeen thousand) were for illegal aliens" (Mac Donald 77). The police department is not allowed to enforcing immigration laws. Illegal immigrants with criminal offenses are not deported immediately, and there are policies that ban the police to report their immigration violations to federal authorities (Mac Donald 75-76). State and local
governments take on the cost of "investigating, detaining, prosecuting and incarcerating" illegal immigrants (Merrell 9). Keeping these criminals in jail again cost the taxpayers. In 2004, FAIR estimated that it cost California 1.4 billion to imprison illegal immigrants (Martin & Mehlman 1).
Displacement is another way that illegal immigrants harm the U.S. economy. Displacement is "when established workers, whether natives or immigrants, lose their jobs to new immigrants, often illegal newcomers, who will work for substandard wages" (Federation for American Immigration Reform 32). In the 1980s, tomato farmers in San Diego County laid off their native workers who were paid $4 per hour and replaced them with illegal aliens who were paid $3.35 per hour. Besides the tomato industry, displacement also happened in the furniture industry, the meatpacking industry, and the hotel industry (Federation for American Immigration Reform 32-33). In the past two years, thirty five thousand illegal immigrants have gotten jobs in the United States while unemployment rate for the natives is at 10 percent. For those Americans without a high school diploma, the unemployment rate is even higher, about 27 percent to 29 percent (Corsi). I went to a famous Chinese dumpling restaurant in Arcadia for lunch last year. They have a window showing workers wrapping the dumplings. I was surprised to see that the whole crew was Mexicans. It is no longer unusual seeing Mexicans working in Chinese restaurants. Many new legal immigrants and native born unskilled workers are willing to work hard instead of getting on welfare. It is not fair that the illegal aliens take their job opportunities away.
If illegal immigrants come to America for jobs, the best way to discourage them from coming is to restrict job opportunities for them. According to estimates by the Department of Homeland Security and the Pew Hispanic Center, the population of illegal immigrants has dropped from 12 million in 2007 to 11 million in 2009 (Johnson 1). This decrease seems to be related to our poor economy. The United States has been suffering from a recession since 2007. Many people are
unemployed, and many small businesses have closed down. It is not easy for people to find jobs, whether they are natives, legal immigrants, or illegal immigrants. If the lure of jobs no longer exists, many people will not choose to stay in America illegally. They may be better off if they stay in their home countries. Since we will not stay in a recession forever, the government has to make strong efforts in punishing those who hire the illegals when our economy gets better. I often notice many day laborers standing on the streets few miles from my hometown. I get a feeling that many of them are not legal immigrants. What will happen if they never get a job? It is actually U.S. citizens' responsibility not to hire them for a day or two as cheap labors. The government can also make laws that harshly punish those who drive by and offer them jobs. Without jobs, many will choose not to take the risk to come here illegally.
Illegal immigrants should not be allowed to receive public social services, including education and public health care. We have already discussed the huge amount of money that illegal immigrants cost California. FAIR recently estimates that the cost has increased to $21.8 billion a year. California is in a budget crisis now, and we have a $25 billion budget deficit in 2011 (Corsi). How can California continue to support these illegal immigrants while cutting social services for its own legal residents? It is really unfair for the government to cut educational expenses, lay off teachers, and increase classroom size while part of the money is used on the illegal immigrants. In 1994, California's Proposition 187 was a ballot initiative that disallowed illegal immigrants to receive public social services, including education and public health care.
Although voters passed it, a federal court in Los Angeles and a state court in San Francisco stopped the enforcement of this proposition (Scott 111). If undocumented children are not allowed to attend schools, how many of them will continue to stay in the country? Many will stop coming if they no longer have free education and free health care.
The government needs to review its law for those U.S. born children of illegal immigrants.
This group of children is now granted citizenship since they are born in the United States. They may have the right to stay here, but their parents definitely have no right to stay here. How many parents will leave their children behind in America if they themselves have to return to their own countries? These children can legally apply their parents to immigrate when they reach eighteen. If majority of the legal immigrants have waited five, ten, or even fifteen years to immigrate, these U.S. born children and their families should put in their shares too. Since the United States already has immigration law, it should enforce its law so that people will not abuse the law.
I am proud of my parents who tried to overcome the obstacles to immigrate to this country through legal channels. There are many others who are willing to go by the law so that they will have a better future for themselves and their children. The United States is a nation that welcomes immigrants, but it is also a nation of laws. It is therefore not fair that illegal immigrants keep coming to this country everyday. Furthermore, it is unfair that they cost our country, especially when we are experiencing a recession. The problem of illegal immigration needs to be stopped.