The illegal immigrant (unauthorized alien) population in the United States is a controversial and key immigration issue. Competing political views in recent years to address the illegal aliens has proven to be a core hindrance to the enactment of comprehensive reform legislation regarding immigration. This paper hopes to highlight the political issues that are connected to illegal immigration in American.
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The relative cheapness and increased ease of travel compounded by the improvements in information have spurred to a large extent the international illegal immigration around the globe in recent decades. Most countries that are developed experience illegal flows, but the United States has an inflow that is high in comparison to other developed countries, originating mainly from Mexico (Edmonston 50)
The problem of immigration is a long standing one in the United States. Francis Walker, the then director of Census, in the 1890’s, cited data of census in support of a debate that the country was at the time being overrun by immigrants who were less desirable. At this timer, this were mainly immigrants from eastern and southern Europe who were described as being beaten men who originated from a race that was beaten, he implied that the newer immigrants comprised a stock that was poorer as compared to those who had come earlier. The new immigrants did not have enough resources to leave the cities in the east so as to help the progression of the country west. As such the undesirable immigrants started to be viewed as a burden to the country. The arguments put forth by Walker contributed to an intellectual foundation development for enactments of quotas on national origins that came later. As such, even in the early studies on immigration, immigration data, examined by social, ethnicity and economic characteristics was used to support restrictions on immigration and the realignment of national origins of immigration (Bean, Edmonston, and Passel 13).
Politics and illegal immigration
By October 1996, The United States Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Services estimated roughly 5 million illegal immigrants that were residing in the country at that time. This figure represented an annual average rate increment of quarter million between 1992 and 1996. Illegal immigration into the United States has been a contested issue since the midcentury. A consequence of this debate was the passage of the first United States legislation which was designed to curb this illegal immigration. The Immigration Control and Reform Act was passed into law in 1986. This number was up to 7 million in 2000 and roughly 10 million in 2004. Illegal Immigration reform and Immigrant Responsibility act was passed by Congress ten years later. They were both passed with the intention of curbing illegal migration (Portes and Rumbaut 138).
The origin of illegal immigration id the united states place half of those that are undocumented as originating from Mexico wit 15% form central America. Some of the motivation includes political turmoil in their countries as well as civil war which reflected the long term economical and political involvement by the United States (Johnson 2).
The past two decades have witnessed very little meaningful legislation on the issue of immigration despite President Bush’s attempt in his second term for comprehensive reform and also president Obama’s promises in his campaign to address the issue. Pointing at the economic recession is convenient as is the health care proposal by Obama as a roadblock to reforms in immigration, but these reasons barely scratch the surface. Politicians have always shied away from asking questions that are relevant when it comes to immigration. The policy makers must shift their focus from boarder security to the more relevant underlying economic implications if proper reforms are to be made on the issue. They must As well evaluate the impact that undocumented workers have on the job market. Issues concerning illegal immigration continue languishing in political limbo because politicians do not adopt concrete strategies when it comes to addressing the issue (Johnson 7).
Throughout history, politicians have addressed illegal immigration by emphasizing on border security. They have consistently stated that the reason why there are so many illegal immigrants is because the country’s borders are porous. This approach has continuously obscured the main issue that underlies this problem. The political balance on the issue has been between border security and employer sanctions. The government has been largely unsuccessful in the employer sanctions and as such the politicians find it easier to talk about enforcing border crackdowns. This approach, security focused, is not adequate to address the flow of illegal aliens across the Mexican border. These are complex movements that are based on seasonal changes and economic conditions. The border fence is thought of having the paradoxical effect of making those already in the country illegally more determined not to go back as it will be had to get back in. Policy makers in order to make reforms on immigration stick have therefore to focus more on economic incentives that primarily bring into the country illegal aliens (Bean, Edmonston, and Passel 14).
The main concern for congress and states that have a large population of illegal immigrants raise concerns about their impact financially on the programs by the government, their participation in criminal activities and generally the effect that they have in economies of the local community they reside in. the main political claim is that the illegal immigration result in an influx of undocumented workers into the market who take away most of the jobs that belong to the Americans. The jobs done by this immigrant stands roughly at 8 million. However research tends to disregard this fact as the illegal immigrants occupy job markets that are fundamentally different. The illegal immigrants perform the cheap labor such as picking tomatoes and cherries in the Californian desert (Edmonston 51).
Another political concern with regard to illegal immigration is that the illegal aliens would and do in fact retain most of their original language as well as develop political issues that are foreign to those found in the United States. As such many people who are passionate about this issue have called for the punishment of illegal immigration by deportation via proceedings of removal. Others believe that the illegal aliens will overtime overpopulate the country as well as damage, culture economy and environment. Still, some believe that the illegal immigrants are criminal as their illegal presence justifies. The political outcry that tool place as a result of the influx in illegal immigration that claimed a loss of control over the border also saw Congress approve measures that would be the fist reform that is comprehensive on matters of immigration laws for more than two decades (Hanson 10).
Illegal aliens in the united states once found in violation of the country’s immigration laws may be through a formal process removed from the country or may be given a chance to depart through their own voluntary action. The formal process included penalties such as imprisonment, fines of the prohibition from entering the country in future. The number of people who were legally removed in 2004 was approximately 203,000 people and about another million departed voluntarily. 42000 of the 203,000 of the formal removal were removals that were expedited. This process was designed to speed up the aliens’ removal that were or wanted to enter the country illegally. Despite these measures, imprisonment, deportations and sealing of borders, the rate of illegal aliens continues to rise (Bischoff 182).
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It is important to note that the political influence of illegal immigrants in the United States is far reaching than anticipated. Illegal aliens affect the way seats are distributed in the House of Representatives. This is because the appointment is based on the total population of each state; this includes non-citizens as well as illegal alien, relative to other states in the country. This impact is derived from estimates in the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which indicated that almost 7 million illegal immigrants were counted in the census, 2000. The same report showed that the states with low-immigration rates and which might seek to be unaffected by issues of immigration have in fact had a significant erosion of influence politically in Washington (Poston Jr., Camarota and Baumle 1).
Among the findings in this report include: the presence of illegal immigrants in other states caused the states of Michigan, Indiana and Mississippi to lose a seat respectively in the House in 2000 while the state of Montana failed to gain a seta it would have had otherwise; Illegal immigration redistributes seats in the House as well as the presidential election as a result of the electoral college which is based of the congressional delegation size; non-citizen present in the census redistributed in total nine seats. Non-citizens include legal immigrants, illegal aliens, temporary visitors, mainly guest workers and foreign students. In addition the four states that each lost a seat due to illegal immigrants, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Utah each had one less seat than they could have had; non of the states that lost a seat because of immigrant has a population on the decline, all recorded population growths of more than a million in the 1990’s; the reappointment that is immigrant-induced is not similar to reappointment that is caused when natives in a state relocate to another; Immigration takes away from the state the representation that is composed entirely of citizens and results in a creation of state districts that have large numbers of non-citizens; the states with illegal immigrants gained the most seats with California where e immigrant population is 43%gaining 10 of these seats; the political stakes to be found in low-immigration states are enormous. The illegal immigration has the ability to redistribute these sears because of the large number of illegal aliens as well as their high concentration density, two out of every three live in just three states (Poston Jr., Camarota and Baumle 1).
In order to counteract the immigration problems, the United States has often responded in a number. For example, California passed an initiative in1994 that was labeled Proposition 187. This came to pass as a draconian proposal which aimers at cutting off education as well as other social services accept for emergency health care for illegal immigrants. The proposition required in addition to what is mentioned above that doctors and teachers were required to turn in such illegal aliens to the appropriate authorities. The passage of this proposal marked the return of a perennial divisive political issue in the country: who to keep in and who to keep out of a country that Native Americans are finding difficult to define as theirs (Bischoff 184).
Most of the immigrants who are in the country and have stayed here for a lifetime hope that they will eventually be legalized. The county offers a unique place for this aliens as it has policy that generate legions that oversee illegal aliens almost daily but also in the process also provides them with a home where the can be legalized. The process of legalizing although controversial is an initial step that can help reduce the illegal alien’s numbers. However there is no single solution to the above problem in the country’s legislative history, social and political climate and practical experience that can deal with the matter. The country has some form of organized, planned and even institutionalized action that are in place to deal with the illegal immigrants. There is also the practical and the ideologically fundamental necessity to deal with the issue. Primarily, it is to save the image of American democracy which is currently perceived as positive. Secondly, is the need to avoid lawlessness and chaos and to keep the harmonious relationship between those who have lived in the country for generations and those who have managed to acquire homes in the dreamland as a result of their illegal action. Legalization offers a significant step in the provision of hope and the pursuit of happiness for immigrants in the country illegally even though it presents practical and fundamental issues (Hanson 11).
The political unpopularity of the United States policy on immigration lays on the obtrusiveness that exist in current efforts that are aimed at enforcing the united states interior accounts that would ensure the expulsion of illegal immigrants or their legalization. The political opening to the issue of illegal immigration in the country lies with the consensus that is building that emphasizes that the immigration policies are broken. This is further highlighted by the fact that despite it being a major issue, the candidates for the 2004 presidential campaign only vaguely addressed how best the reforms would be implemented even though they invoked the issues as important and deserving attention. This implies the political interest in the topic of illegal immigration in the United States (Hanson and Institute for International Economics 10).
The contentiousness that surrounds immigration often deters politicians from tackling issues on illegal aliens. If changes are implemented on Policies governing the issue, these will mainly specific groups of employers, workers and taxpayers with the aggregate effects on the economy appearing to be minimal. By revising entry and admission restrictions, the government might be in a better position to regulate illegal immigration into the country. In the discussion we see that political issues in this topic arise in different areas, from country of origin, mode of immigration and to the illegal residence in the country which presents political consequences in itself. Reforms in the immigration policy are the only way of addressing this issue adequately.
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