Nowadays, illegal immigration continues to be a disputable and divisive issue, not only in the United States, but throughout the whole world. The migration of Mexicans into the United States is one of the key problems throughout the history of bilateral cooperation of Mexico and the United States. In this case, the speech is goes not about a legal entry into the country, which in one or another way can be planned and regulated by the U.S. authorities, but about a mass migration of illegal Mexicans which not easy to constrain. Thus, it is necessary to discuss the problem of illegal immigration from Mexico in U.S. and understand its main reasons through the prism of contemporary reality.
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First of all it is necessary to define the term ‘illegal immigration’, because it will be the most widely used term in our paper. According to Camarota, “Illegal immigration (also referred to unauthorized or undocumented immigrants) refers to the migration of people across national borders in a way that violates the immigration laws of the destined country.” (Camarota, 2001). Also Sarmiento stated that “By definition, illegal immigration arises from a divergence between whom the United States will accept as an immigrant and the desire of some foreign nationals to live and work in this country. Illegal immigration is as old as U.S. immigration law… With changes in U.S. immigration law and economic and political conditions in the United States and other countries, the nature and characteristics of illegal immigration have also changed.” (Sarmiento, 2002). In such a way, people who are residing in a country illegally are known as ‘illegal immigrants’. In addition to this term, we should mention that an individual who is residing in a country in illegal way could also be known as an illegal alien, illegal migrant, undocumented immigrant, undocumented alien, unauthorized migrant or undocumented worker. In this case there are almost as many titles as there are commentators and that is why illegal immigrants contain a vast category of people. Like any social phenomenon, illegal immigration is not taken out of nowhere. It has its reasons which affect the underlying mechanisms of our society.
Observing the problem of illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States we see that through the last several decades, the Mexican economy experienced substantial changes associated with the transition to neo-liberal path of development and strengthening of regional integration processes. According to the pace of development the country has become one of the most successful developing countries in the world and took key positions in Latin America. This information raises the question, whether these changes are reflected in migration flows between Mexico and the United States, which in its scale ranks the first place in the world.
Migration of Mexican workers in the U.S. – is, in fact, a natural result of close cooperation between the two countries with different levels of economic development. Significant difference in living standards and wages is a major factor in migration from Mexico to the United States. In addition, the proximity of the two countries is an additional incentive in this process. The length of the common border is 3,3 thousand km, most of which passes through the rather narrow river Rio Grande.
Analyzing the problem of illegal immigration through the prism of historical context we can found rather interesting information. It is a well-known fact that the migration of Mexicans in the United States has its origins in the late XIX century, when the development of agriculture, mining, light industry, construction of railways in the south of the U.S. required an additional influx of cheap labor from other countries. In the period between 1850-1880 something about 55,000 Mexicans immigrated in the U.S. with the purpose to find a good job there.
Discussing the next historical period, or it will be better to say during the World War I, the flow of Mexicans in the U.S. has increased in several times. Mexicans compensated the lack of American labor and became the main working force in the southern states’ economy sector of the northern neighbor. In this case, some of them (immigrants from Mexico) were in the U.S. illegally. Then the status of illegal immigrants has not yet been officially established, and the Americans considered them ‘fugitives’ from Mexico. In 1924, was created the first in the southern U.S. Border Patrol, which was used to control illegal border crossings, and Mexican ‘fugitives’ officially acquired the status of illegal immigrants.
According to historical documents the U.S. borders were not always closed for immigrants and into the acknowledgement of this fact will be written this paragraph. As it was previously stated in 30-ies years of XX century, during the deep depression in the U.S., access to Mexicans in the country was severely restricted. Legal immigrant visas were practically not given almost as illegal immigrants were deported from the country under threat of prison. However, this period lasted not long, until the World War II began. Lack of the U.S. farm workers in the fields of one of the fastest growing economic areas in the U.S. again forced the ruling circles of the United States to open its border for Mexicans. In 1942-1964 during the term of special immigration program, the seasonal influx of Mexican workers was more than 4.6 million people, many of whom remained in the United States for permanent residence. It is necessary to emphasize that they helped to create a social infrastructure for the further influx of immigrants from Mexico in many ways. In 1970-80 years, the inflow of legal immigrants from Mexico amounted to 50-60 thousand people per annum, and illegal immigration has reached 1,5 million people per annum in its turn. However, it should be borne in mind that 90% of illegal immigrants performed seasonal work in the U.S. and after a certain period of time returned back to Mexico. During that period, on the average 20% of Mexico’s population depended on the funds earned by migrants and remittances to the country, the volume of which ranged from $1,5-2 billion per annum. (Wong, 2006).
In the early 1980’s, during the financial crisis, the Mexican economy influx of illegal immigrants from Mexico to the United States for permanent residence greatly increased. While in 1980 the total U.S. population consisted of 2,5-3,5 million illegal immigrants, in 1986 their number amounted to 3,5-5 million. Meanwhile, the bulk of illegal immigrants were exactly immigrants from Mexico.
Illegal immigrants were basically referred to the poor and they went to take any risk in order to reach the United States. Some of them join the ranks of criminals, drug and arms traffickers. Others have labored day and night in the fields of California for paltry wages, the size of which still exceeded the cost of labor in Mexico. Measures aimed to toughen immigration regime adopted in the U.S. in the late 1970’s during the presidency of J. Carter (in particular, in some parts of the U.S.-Mexican border were erected barbed wire barricades, were adopted laws with an aim to infringe the rights of illegal immigrants and their children) were unable to deliver an effective barrier against illegal immigration, but only caused a worsening of relations on intergovernmental level. Moreover, in several years with an aim to additionally tighten control over illegal immigration was banned the process of illegal workers hiring, and employers who were going to violate this law knew about existed sanctions and set fines of 250 to 10 thousand dollars. However, despite the extra-taken measures, the influx of illegal immigrants from Mexico did not significantly declined.
The situation with the control of illegal immigration from Mexico remains highly controversial, since affects the interests of different parties, especially the central government and local employers. On the one hand, the U.S. authorities made considerable efforts to curb illegal immigration. In addition, to strengthening border controls the U.S. government instituted a system of heavy fines from U.S. employers for the employment of illegal immigrants, abolish the right of free emergency medical and food aid, even for children of illegal immigrants, and also has established a deportation from the country. (Trevino, 1998).
On the other hand, control of illegal immigration remains the weakest and least effective part of the migration policy. Seasonal agricultural workers from Mexico are the main labor force in the fields of California, Oregon. Therefore, in those moments when the central authorities in the U.S. are trying to toughen the migration regime and in the first place to restrict illegal immigration, authorities in these states often express open dissent and demand to weaken border controls.
Currently, the problem of illegal immigration requires new constructive approaches and is closely linked to the control of legal immigration. On the one hand, the tightening of immigration controls and reducing quotas naturally stimulates the flow of illegal immigrants in the U.S., so at the present stage of bilateral cooperation is necessary to achieve a certain compromise on immigration policy. On the other hand, living relatives in the U.S. is a magnet for many Mexicans, so the U.S. government should draw a special attention to this aspect of the question. In this case, the speech is goes not about the closest relatives, which according to the U.S. law have the right to family reunification. In this situation the question refers to distant relatives or friends who help illegal immigrants and, thus, stimulate the process of illegal immigration.
Illegal immigrants have many problems in America and their problems sometimes become the main problem even for legal immigrants. Why is it so? The answer is rather simple and deals with existed stereotypes, because immigrants considered to be the people of other sort and native Americans don’t want to respect them. Also among the answers on the questions asked above we could define Blondell’s words, who said that “the poll results among immigrants who are already in the United States show a widespread feeling that the current immigration chaos is unfair to the millions who entered the country legally. There are hundreds of thousands each year who are eager to assimilate. There is the sense that fairness to those who have abided by the law requires that they be given priority over those who violate the law. This lends itself to the view that state and local cooperation with federal efforts should be mandatory because the problem of chaotic illegal immigration is harmful to both native and naturalized citizens in so many ways.” (Blondell, 2008).
Discussing the main problems that illegal immigration causes to the United States we see the following among the most notable of them:
Glut of market with the cheap labor, reduction in wages because of the competition from the side of immigrants willing to work sometimes for a pittance, the increase of unemployment.
The rise of crime, because illegal immigrants often work for a small salary and are on the other side of the law, in particular, a significant part of drugs trafficking and trafficking deadly poison in the country is carried out by people from “dangerous” countries that are at the group of risk.
Overpopulation of the residential areas occupied by illegal immigrants, unsanitary conditions, threatening virtuous citizens. This, in turn, leads to resentment of the indigenous population forced to live in close proximity to clusters of immigrants.
The destruction of families as migrant workers have a very long time been away from their families.
The economic burden to the taxpayers, because they have to spend money on the health care of immigrants, even banal deportation costs money. At the same time, illegal migrants and their employers do not pay taxes to the budget. (Wong, 2006).
The question of illegal immigration is connected with different legends and stories, and different surprising facts also have a place among them. One surprising fact is connected with actions of the Samaritan Patrol. The above mentioned Samaritan Patrol (“Patrullaje Samaritano”), whose members drive their off-road vehicles across the desert, searching there for illegal immigrants who might need an urgent medical aid. Mexicans know that when they saw a car marked “Samaritan Patrol” with a green cross, they will be given food, water, transportation to a medical hospital at their request, and if they want to go home – the connection with the border patrol. The existence of such organization certainly raises a lot of controversy, and Border Patrol is constantly checks if there is a very big help to those who violate the law. The protests come also from the hospitals that are overcrowded by illegal aliens, who can not pay for own treatment and who are the ballast for American taxpayers. (Porter, 2006).
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Haines & Rosenblum said that “As stated previously, there are an increasing number of security measures that have been implemented at and around the Mexico-U.S. border. As a result, it has become more difficult to illegally cross the border. As such, the assistance of “coyotes” is in high demand. The fees for a “coyote” easily run into the thousands per individual. Many illegal immigrants save up money or borrow money to cover this fee. Once a Mexican immigrant successfully crosses the border into the United States, they generally have two main goals. Their first aim is to send part of their earnings back home to their family and their second goal is to bring more family members to the United States. Eventually they hope to gain permanent residency (green card) and possibly U.S. citizenship status.” (Haines & Rosenblum, 1999).
The next surprising fact is a special wall in the desert that aimed to stop illegal immigrants from Mexico. The influx of poor, uneducated and willing to work for meager wages illegal immigrants, as expected, has caused quite a backlash in American society, demanding politicians to stop, or at least to take under the control increased volumes of Mexican immigration. However, the defeat over illegal immigration is almost impossible and taking into account previous attempts to do it, the likely effectiveness of future borders and walls also in doubt. By the way, Mexican and U.S. scientists warn that the construction of the line of solid barriers may result in ecological disaster in the vast desert areas with a total area of over 100 thousand square kilometers at the junction of the states of Sonora (Mexico) and Arizona (USA), where the biosphere wildlife preserves were declared the heritage of mankind by UNESCO. Scientists stated that the desert is associated with a lifeless space only in the representation of the ignorant people. In fact, we are talking about very unique and fragile natural systems with unique flora and fauna. In biosphere wildlife preserves remain rare species of cacti and relic plants and wildlife is adapted to life in extreme conditions of arid desert. That is why extreme natural desert conditions explain the fragility of its ecosystems, where life and survival are synonymous. Measuring the amount of people who lost their lives in the search of better life on the border between Mexico and America, we see that the situation on the US-Mexican border is so does not fit in the universal notions of good and evil that even the Catholic Church could not stay aside the illegal immigration question. One day representatives of Mexican and American churches song an unusual collaboration, ‘frontier Mass’ in memory of those who died trying to find a better life crossing the border illegally.
According to Delaet we also see that “Not all illegal aliens are crossing into the United States to find work. Law enforcement officials indicate that there are individuals coming across the border who are forced to leave their home countries because of criminal activities. These dangerous criminals are fleeing the law in other countries and seeking refuge in the United States.” (Delaet, 2000). Thus, it shows that criminal atmosphere in immigrants’ circles are increased. Unfortunately, violence against immigrants is not something new for the U.S. In recent years, those who enter American territory illegally, more than ever, are at the mercy of sadistic inhuman smugglers, and many die even before they enter the United States. Others that used to repay a debt to smugglers become slaves and subjects of extortion, forced to prostitution and hard work through the fraud of their own countrymen. Thefts are also prevalent crimes in the immigrant environment. Often robbers guessing about the status of illegal residents concluded that these people have no bank accounts in the U.S., and hence a lot of cash might be finding in their pockets. But these crimes on their scale are still far from illegal activities involving drugs.
Many Mexicans choose not only to cross the border or transfer own family, but at the same time smuggle drugs. And drugs are always in conjunction with the crime, and smuggling leads only to more weapons, death and violence in the border with the U.S. cities where people are forced to pay with their lives for the increasing demand for powder for the residents of the neighboring state. And it is very difficult to stop this flow of “death”. According to this fact National Drug Intelligence Center & Drug Enforcement Administration demonstrated that “The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reports that the Mexican drug syndicates operating today along our Nation’s Southwest border are far more sophisticated and dangerous than any of the other organized criminal groups in America’s law enforcement history. Indeed, these powerful drug cartels, and the human smuggling networks and gangs they leverage, have immense control over the routes into the United States and continue to pose formidable challenges to our efforts to secure the Southwest border. â€¦ The cartels operate along the border with military grade weapons, technology and intelligence and their own respective paramilitary enforcers. â€¦ This new breed of cartel is not only more violent, powerful and well financed, it is also deeply engaged in intelligence collection on both sides of the border.” (National Drug Intelligence Center & Drug Enforcement Administration, 2003).
Thus, summarizing the above stated information it becomes evident that immigration from Mexico is a complex and multifaceted process. The majority of illegal border crossings have a place due to the fact that people simply want to earn extra money, and many of them did not want to stay in the U.S. permanently. However, higher wages are a magnet, and there are also a lot of people who would like to make the United States the place of own permanent residence. An effort to develop the Mexican economy has been taken with an aim to stop illegal immigration (this effort is a very good idea if the government would be able to bring it up to the end. But it is extremely difficult to do, realistically, in the scale at which it needs to be done with an aim to substantially decrease illegal immigration level). It is impossible to think about the issue of illegal immigration from two prefabricated sides – to increase the possibility of legal entry into the United States, or to increase security at borders. It is so, because the problem is complex and serious and requires comprehensive approach to its solution.
That is, in general, the picture of contemporary reality in the context of the problem of illegal immigration, our point of view on its causes, solutions and alternatives to the status quo. Thus, taking into account all the information discussed above it is possible to come to the conclusion that illegal immigration is a crime, but illegal immigrants need help and only right laws can help them to leave shadow and become visible. However, it does not mean that we should turn away from the current needs of this part of the social order, but on the contrary, we must look closely at the trends within it. Many politicians strongly believe that the answer must be found in the socio-political movement of the order itself, which we consider.
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