Illegal immigration is the act of violating United States' immigration policy by entering into the territory of United States without the due process prescribed by the US government. The illegal immigrants' population in United States is in millions. The Current Population Survey in 2005 found out that there were approximately 11.1 million illegal immigrants living in the United States (Passel, 2006). In United States, the issue is considered differently by various fractions of societies. Some people feel sympathy about the illegal immigrant, whereas on the other side, a large number of people are affected of xenophobia. Before 9/11, aliens were usually seen as a people who just wanted to feed their families back to their homes by working in United States. Even the US media used to portray the same image of aliens in United States, but things have been changed now. Now people's perceptions about aliens have shifted from aesthetics to more on economic issues, health and criminal justice issues as well.
The debate over illegal immigration in the United States has remained remarkably static over the past several years. The issues that dominate political and social conversations in regards to illegal immigration are discussed in the press continuously. Namely, the growing numbers of illegal immigrants, the wages they earn that legal citizens could benefit from and the social services they receive without paying taxes. While the United States are lenient in accepting immigrants, the effects of giving illegal immigrants the same advantages given to legal immigrants demolishes the reasoning's behind the law. This will mark chaotic clamor to the United States of America.
Since the legislations addressing the issue of illegal immigration have number of complexities in terms of legal and economic repercussions. Therefore, this issue is a matter of debate for various scholars. Some people are of the view that the aliens must be dealt with softer approach, whereas those who term it the major cause of the terrorist and criminal activities call for stringent policies towards the issue. US Presidents, Congress, Supreme Court, Human Right activists and media, have on different occasions addressed this sensitive issue that how illegal immigrants must be dealt.
United States has long been encountering with a problem of illegal Immigrants. Despite the fact that the beginning of illegal immigration is found from the late nineteenth century but it became a serious problem in the mid twentieth century. In United States, 37 million foreign born persons are living in which 12 millions are living illegally, i.e. almost one third foreign born population is living with the direct collision of the United States' foreign policy(Redding). Each year 390,000 illegal immigrants get able to enter in the United States. Most of the illegal immigrants are Mexicans, whereas some are from other Latin American countries, Africa, Asia and Europe. These include families as well as individuals, male, female, children, young and old people. This is also a reality that more than 50 percent illegal immigrants have not even passed high school. Thus they are becoming the main source of cheap labor, as most of the illegal immigrants are willing to work at cheap rates as demanded the employers. Therefore the complexities of this issue make it a more difficult issue to be handled. Following are some of the problems that are caused by illegal immigrations.
Billions of dollars are spent each year on the welfare and food assistance program on these illegal aliens.
Billions of Dollars are sent outside United States.
Illegal immigrants are substantiating the cheap labor trend that is severely impacting the job and compensation competition.
Historically United States government and congress has highlighted the issue and has stepped up to fixed the dilemma of illegal immigration. Whereas, US Supreme Court has also passed some remarkable judgments in the cases of illegal immigration, the stance taken by US presidents, congress and Supreme Court is discussed below separately.
Congress' Stance on Illegal Immigration
The issue of illegal immigration has been raised in the Congress in the past and still legislations are made with regular intervals. The first law related to immigration was passed in 1790; the name of that act was Naturalization act. This act restricted the right of naturalization to only white people. Subsequently, one major breakthrough was achieved in 1868, when "The Fourteen Amendment" was passed which gave a right of Naturalization to every child who is born in the boundaries of United States. However the diplomats' children were impervious to that citizenship right. After seven years, congress also passed a legislation which barred convicts and prostitutes to be qualified for the citizenship of United States.( 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution)
Congress also took strong instance on Chinese immigrants who flooded the United States following the disturbed conditions in China and greater opportunities available in United States due to the increased labor demands emerged from the construction of railroads and Gold Rush. In 1882, "Chinese Exclusion Act" was passed by the congress which limits the entry of Chinese in the United States. This act was targeted to Chinese population regardless of their birth country. Even though the act was revoked in 1943, but until 1965, Chinese immigration did not start on full scale.( Chinese Exclusion Act)
Following the increased population of immigrants in the first two decades of twentieth century, Congress had taken a major step by enforcing "Emergency Quota Act" in 1921. This act restricted the number of immigrants from each country living in the United States. Initially, 357,000 immigrations were allowed in a year, but this was further reduced to 157,000. (Post-WW1 & 1920s: Emergency Quota Act of 1921)This was the time, when Congress was a place of heated debates on the issue of Illegal immigration, because these policies and acts gave rise to illegal immigration especially of Mexicans and Eastern Europeans, as they were in great demand by the employers due to their willingness to work at lower rates. Congress was repeatedly told about the burden which these illegal immigrants were putting on the US tax payers; especially on the wage rates and health facilities.
As 1921's quota act was made considering the 1910's census data, the "McCarran-Walter Act" also known as "Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965" revised the quotas given the 1920 census. One major highlight of this act was the expulsion of the racial peculiarities. In 1965, congress passed the amendments made in the "Immigration and Nationality Act" which got rid of the quota system based on the national-origins. This act resulted in the shift of immigrants from Eastern Europe to Asia.
In 1986, Congress for the first passed a law which contained penalties for the employers who intentionally employed illegal immigrants. "The Immigration Reform and Control Act" which it is called made it compulsory for the employers to confirm the immigration status of their employees. In IRCA, over 2.7 million people were given an extensive amnesty, who were already present in the US. However since then, Congress had passed 6 more amnesties illegal aliens mostly from Latin American countries.( Immigration Reform & Control Act of 1986)
The 9/11 incidents have completely changed the people's perception regarding various issues especially illegal immigration since four of the hijackers were living as illegal alien in the United States. In congress, the issue of illegal immigration was also raised in 2006, but congress could not reach on a new immigration policy. Still the maximum limit of foreign immigration set by the congress is 700,000 excluding some special visas allocated on some certain circumstances.
US presidents' role on Illegal Immigration
"We should honor every legal immigrant here, working hard to become a new citizen. But we are also a nation of laws" (1996 State of the Union Address)
These words were said by former president of United States Bill Clinton, where he assured his governments support to legal immigrant but on the other side, he also made this clear that no violation of the immigration laws will be tolerated. In the history of United States, some of the presidents took strong instance on the issue of illegal alien. President Chester A. Arthur who remained president of United States from 1881-1885 banned immigration for all the people who have Chinese origin. Later on he also barred lunatic, criminals and paupers for immigration. He was the first president who introduced regulations in the Immigration process and made distinction between legal and illegal immigration, because before that the immigration system was seldom regulated.
During the tough time of great depression, a stringent policy was adopted for the Immigrants, as thousands of aliens were sent home. It reached to its peak during the tenure of President Herbert Hoover, as aliens regardless of their belongingness to any race were repatriated. President Hoover held the view that these immigrants were working on the jobs which were the right of US citizens. Therefore during his tenure, aliens without any distinction of legal or illegal were sent back to their countries. However the policy of deportation was relaxed when Franklin Roosevelt replaced the presidency, even that time the policies continued but on rare occasions.
By 1954, the illegal crossing on the Mexican border had reached to 1 million. This increased the supply of cheap Mexican labor, which severely dented the wage rate for American citizen. This serious situation forced President Eisenhower to launch decisive battle against illegal aliens and eventually "Operation Wetback" was started, in which a larger number of illegal Mexican immigrants were repatriated to Mexico. As a result of the strong action against illegal immigrants, a large number of aliens decided to move back to their native soil voluntarily.( Operation Wetback) Eisenhower's strategy to tackle with the illegal immigrants enjoyed a great success, as the illegal immigration plunged significantly by 95%.
President Bill Clinton is known to be a president who did number of efforts to fight with illegal immigrations, but he also could not get rid of the problem completely. He made some serious efforts during his tenure to tackle down the illegal immigration by increasing the patrolling on the borders by 35%. Whereas, underground sensors to alarm against any movement and night vision infrared scopes were also installed on the borders of United Sates. During his tenure, some 30,000 illegal aliens were removed from their jobs all over the country. Despite all his efforts against illegal immigrants, the population of illegal aliens living in the united states had reached to 7 million.(Clinton, 134)
"We want to stop people from crossing into America illegally and to quickly return the illegal immigrants we catch back to their home countries" (Bush)
These are the words said by President Bush when he signed the "Homeland Security Bill". President Bush took strong steps to staunched illegal immigrants from Mexican borders, but despite his efforts to curb down the problem, the intrusion of illegal immigrants into United States had increased. The two tenure of George Bush's government experienced a massive rise in illegal aliens. Regardless of the crackdown started on illegal immigrants in 2007, the result was unsatisfactory, as around 7 million illegal aliens are employed in United States.
The current US president Barack Obama sparked a heated debate when he unleashed his plans to provide amnesty to 12 million illegal aliens living in the United States. His policy was highly criticized by democrats' senator as they termed it disastrous at the time when hundreds of thousands Americans had lost their jobs. Some people called it the reward to great Hispanic support in the latest elections which Obama enjoyed. With all the amnesty plans, President Obama reaffirms his efforts to further tightening the border security. Obama during his presidential campaign vowed to tighter the scrutiny system that would track down the employer who had employed illegal workers. No matter how sincere president Obama is in combating the issue, he has raised concerns by disclosing his plans to deal with illegal immigrants.(Newman, 2008)
Supreme Court's Rulings on Immigration Laws
Supreme Court in the past has given some remarkable judgment on the issues of illegal Immigration. On some occasions, it gave decisions against the state. Given below are some of the important cases which set up a trend in the United States history
United States Vs Wong Kim Ark
When congress passed "Chinese Exclusion Act", it denied the right of Chinese people to become the US citizen or even entering into the territory of the United States of America. However, Chinese people already in the country were allowed to stay in the country until they did not left the country.
The controversy started when an American born Chinese man Wong Kim Ark was denied to enter in the United States after making a visit to China. Ark approached to the court and filed a case against the law that an American born man having Chinese ancestry could not be deported from the American soil due to the right given by fourteen amendment. Therefore the case was presented before the court and a remarkable judgment was passed with 6-2 decision in favor of Wong Kim Ark. US Supreme Court ruled in its decision that a person born in United States of foreign ancestry was the citizen of United States since birth.( United States v. Wong Kim Ark (No. 18))
Plyler Vs Doe
In 1975, Texas government termed illegal alien children unqualified for the state's education funds and also allowed local schools to reject enrolment to such students. The case was taken to United States Supreme Court, where Supreme Court passed its judgment against such state's statute of not allowing illegal alien children to be eligible for state's educational funds with 5-4 majority. In its proceedings, Supreme Court found the act in violation with the 14th amendments.
Recently, United States Supreme Court has also granted a right to illegal aliens to stay in the United States while their case for staying in United States is before the immigration authorities. Therefore it can be concluded that in majority of the cases taken to the Supreme Court regarding illegal immigration, Supreme Court gave rulings in favor of illegal aliens.
Issues Associated With Illegal Immigration
Without any doubt it is a fact that illegal immigration is a controversial issue for number of years. Since it is a subject of matter of heated debates, there are some advocates and critics of illegal aliens. Some people demand government to adopt strict and harsh policies against the illegal immigrants. Whereas, people supporting illegal immigrants expects a lenient approach towards illegal aliens due to the benefits which economy and American people reap with the courtesy of illegal immigrants. No wonder, regardless of the socio-economic challenges that are being faced by American nation, United States is still offering chances of prosperity to the deprived people. It does not matter for them to that whether they are entering in the country by legal means or illegally. For them earning money is the main motive of their lives. Following are some of the pros and cons of illegal immigrations that are put forward by different groups
Pros of Illegal Immigration
Illegal immigration helps the economy by enabling employers to find employees on low wages.
It also enables farmers to harvest at low cost
Sales tax volume also increases as illegal aliens also pay sales tax
In most occasion, social security fund is not claimed by illegal immigrants
Real estate sector also gets benefited through the purchase of property by illegal immigrants.
Cons of Illegal Immigration
Illegal immigrants sent a huge amount of money outside the United States.
Illegal immigrants create disparities between the people who are living in the country legally.
Illegal immigrants after entering in the country also entice other people for committing the same act.
Health risk also increases due to the unverified entries of thousands of people.
Illegal immigration also affects states efforts of implying the immigration quota act. (Garibaldi, M)
Getting rid of illegal immigrant problem requires a comprehensive new approach. It is important to understand the factors that lure aliens for the illegal entry into United States. The "Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement" (BICE) must maintain the enforceability of labor related laws as its first priority. The employers involving in employing illegal immigrants must be dealt with iron hands. While dealing with low level visa violators, BICE must pay its full attention towards aliens involving in terrorist and serious crimes. Manpower must be increased to amplify the patrolling on the borders. In addition, latest surveillance equipments must be installed to keep an eagle eye on the borders. Aliens coming on student, visit or any other temporary visas must be watched carefully. Last but not the least; a proper legislation is required with full consent of the congress to tackle down the problem.