Illegal Immigrants No Real Threat to U.S.
By: Alison Kieler, University Daily Kansan (U. Kansas)
November 9, 2006 8:19 PM
(U-WIRE) LAWRENCE, Kan. - The U.S. government would have us believe that illegal immigration is a dire and threatening issue. Americans are continuously bombarded with warnings about the effects of illegal immigration, yet none of the proposed solutions, such as mass deportation or a wall, will effectively end illegal immigration because none consider the root of the problem. Illegal immigrants are no great threat to America and many would have stayed home if not for the negative effects of U.S. trade policy.
Eleven to 12 million illegal immigrants currently reside in the U.S. Most came because policies such as NAFTA and CAFTA, so-called "free trade" agreements with Mexico and Central America, benefit large corporations and subsidized American industries, while demolishing the smaller, independent businesses and farms of Latin America, which are unable to compete. As a result, NAFTA and CAFTA devastate struggling economies in Latin America and create conditions in which many workers and farmers are unable to earn enough to feed their families.
The effects are clearly evident in immigration patterns: According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Mexican immigration to the U.S. decreased 18 percent in the three years prior to NAFTA, but increased a whopping 60 percent after NAFTA was implemented.
As immigrant numbers grew, so too did the desire to maintain pure "American" culture. Politicians took the cue, using illegal immigrants to improve their own popularity by demonizing them. Immigrants are now familiar with the same anti-immigrant rhetoric and xenophobia that has historically plagued America.
Proposed solutions to address the dilemma include the "cattle method," rounding them up and sending them back, as well as the "separation method," building a wall between the US and Mexico. So what, exactly, is the issue?
Anti-immigration campaigns often cite $10 billion as the yearly cost of illegal immigrants for U.S. taxpayers. At best this number is fuzzy math. For obvious reasons this estimate disregards the economic benefit of illegal immigrants. America employs millions of illegal immigrants yearly whose removal from the workforce would be initially ruinous to the American economy. Additionally, the estimate does not consider that many illegal immigrants have fake social security numbers and pay taxes, but rarely use tax services. The average taxpaying immigrant and his or her family pay approximately $80,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits over a lifetime.
Despite the ambiguous nature of the problem, the American population is convinced that illegal immigration is a serious threat. Steps to treat the disease are under way, but lack a comprehensive knowledge of the issue. Deportation, for one, would cost billions and harm the U.S. economy. Because the flow of immigrants will never be stagnant, deportation would also have to be repeated multiple times, and would cause severe psychological harm to affected families.
Similarly, a wall would not solve the issue. Two weeks ago President Bush signed a bill to build the Great Wall of Mexico that will cost nearly $2 billion. But money for the border patrol has been increased multiple times since 1986, and the population of illegal immigrants has nearly quadrupled since then.
A wall will not stop the flow of immigrants. Throughout history the creation of walls has stood for conflict, hatred, exclusionary practices and separation. Not ironically, these are all reasons that individuals become terrorists. Separation has simply never improved faltering relations.
As citizens it is important that we understand the need for a more comprehensive approach to illegal immigration. Dialogue regarding solutions must consider U.S. history of immigration, the benefit of immigrants, and ways in which U.S. policies drastically affect immigration.
We must question why illegal immigrants leave their countries, homes and families to make the treacherous journey to the U.S. Only then can a more effective solution can be found.
I agree with many of the points raised by the contributor. I work with a mostly undocumented population here in the United States, and one of our main concerns is looking ahead to the next generation of children growing up here without being recognized as citizens of this country. Many of these now adolescents and young adults did not have a voice in the decision their parents made to come to the U.S., but since infancy have gone to U.S. schools, lived in U.S. neighborhoods, and know only this side of the border as home. However, these same children are denied higher education, denied pathways to obtaining jobs, and are labeled "illegal" for having grown up in a country that will not embrace them as members. We must anticipate the effects of this policy. Very few options exist for children of undocumented parents, and this will have serious consequences for their futures as well as our country. Do we want to be a place of intolerance and exclusion? Will we continue to punish children for decisions their parents made? Will families continue to be divided, when two siblings are Mexico-born and two U.S.-born, have grown up in the same town as equals, but have vastly different and unequal opportunities? There are serious questions to be asked of ourselves as a society, as a country, and as advocates of human rights regarding the current (lack of recognized) status of undocumented immigrants in our country, and we need real solutions. We could start by listening to undocumented young adults themselves, as they fight for basic access to education with the DREAM Act, or we could continue to ignore a generation of potential doctors, lawyers, politicians, teachers, nurses, business owners, videographers, reporters, dancers, musicians, authors...allowing them entry only into the labor and service sectors occupied by so many undocumented workers; we continue to live off of their labor, while refusing to dignify their presence.
Posted by: Rebecca Bixby | November 11, 2006 12:53 PM
While I agree with the part you raise about Nafta opening the door to illegal immigrants, the rest of your article is wrong. I work for a commercial landscape co in the greater Seattle area, and 95% of our employees are illegals. They are using somebody else's social security numbers with no punishment - why is this right? They also have no desire to learn English (with the exception of the few crew leaders, like 5-6), use our hospitals as clinics (one is having #3 child there), and have no desire to allow their wives to get out. After 5 years at this company, I have seen them stick to their own with no integration into America. Yes, on the whole they are hardworking but many of them have court dates for driving offences, yet the ICE does nothing to take them back to Mexico. We need to punish the employers for hiring them, and then there would be a natural attrition back to Mexico.
Posted by: Jeanie | November 11, 2006 3:28 PM
"The average taxpaying immigrant and his or her family pay approximately $80,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits over a lifetime."
How an article is posted with such misconstrued evidence is beyond me. OK, let's say this is true, but then lets look at the wording, shall we? "average TAXPAYING immigrant". How many immigrants pay taxes? Not many. The CIS (Center for Immigration Studies) states, "Households headed by illegal aliens imposed more than $26.3 billion in costs on the federal government in 2002 and paid only $16 billion in taxes, creating a net fiscal deficit of almost $10.4 billion, or $2,700 per illegal household."
So while the "taxpaying" illegals MIGHT contribute more, the vast majority obviously do not pay taxes.
Secondly, this has nothing to do with Mexico's ability to support it's people, like the author claims. Mexico has one of the highest GDP's in the WORLD, ranked 15th on the CIA's factbook, one based on a scale which includes the World and the European Union as countries, bringing Mexico to the 13th richest country out of about 233.
I do agree, however, with the author's claim that we need to go to the base of the problem. This problem is obviously the Mexican government and their corruption. "Free trade" laws are not the problem, it is corruption of the Mexican government, and we need to deal with that.
This is why a wall will help: 120,000 "OTM's" (other than Mexicans) were caught crossing our border this past year. THIS is a very serious and immediate security concern, and building a wall will help slow down the influx of EVERYbody, not just Mexicans looking for a better life. A wall's primary and most recognized purpose and effect has been to protect countries interests, safety being the key issue. Building the wall is not only a necessary first step in maintaining our beautiful country, but a profound symbol, one which proclaims our rights, our rules, and our responsibility to our own people, and Mexico's to theirs.
While we are building the wall we should help Mexico reform it's government, take advantage of its vast natural gas, silver and gold stores, and reform our own immigration policy, one that lets immigrants whom wish to be Americans into our country.
Despite the author's attempt at making ILLEGAL immigration look like a good thing, it is a simple fact that it is not, and so I am not going to even respond to those claims, or the absurd title of the article. So I will end with this quote from Roosevelt.
"In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."
Posted by: RJ Friedman | November 14, 2006 6:47 PM
Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, pay taxes. It would be impossible not to. If they buy ANYTHING in this country, they pay taxes. Also, if an undocumented worker does not pay taxes, it is the fault of the EMPLOYER and NOT THE WORKER. Someone who is trying to earn a living and has to do so quietly is not going to be able to force an employer to claim them for tax purposes when the threat of losing income is there.
Free trade laws ARE a problem, and they are very much caused by US policies. When we flood their markets with our corn, forcing farmers to lose their livelihood, what do we expect to happen? If you were watching your children starve and you knew that you could eke by in the US, wouldn't you do it? It takes YEARS to enter our country legally, and those in the worst situations don't have that much time.
The previous post mentions the CIS. Just some food for thought, here is some information about the Center for Immigration Studies. "CIS describes itself as “independent” and “nonpartisan,” but its studies, reports, and media releases consistently support its restrictionist agenda and works closely on Capitol Hill with Republican Party immigration restrictionists."
Something to think about...
Posted by: Jennifer O'Neill | November 14, 2006 10:05 PM
Jennifer, I never said I wouldn't do the same thing, but again, this doesn't make it right, and it doesn't mean that it is not a problem that needs to be dealt with.
What you don't realize is that the original author's information stems from the same source as mine. Although, again, she misconstrued the evidence. She said that the average tax paying immigrant contributes $80,000 over a lifetime, which is false. The report said that amount was the sum of the illegal immigrants descendants...over 300 YEARS (a minor detail that she conveniently left out). So, I stand by my point that illegal immigration does present a strain to our economy. All evidence I have seen points to that fact, and I have read no professional study or seen any research by a professional organization to hint otherwise. If you find some I would be glad to look at it.
Posted by: RJ Friedman | November 15, 2006 6:27 AM
I'm not sure that the author's original information stems from anything having to do with the CIS. Undocumented immigrants use public services at MUCH lower rates than other people, so I don't see the issue there. The problem is that people have put an incredible amount of misinformation out there and people are more than happy to eat it up. I'm not saying that undocumented immigrants don't pose ANY strain on our economy, but I am saying that it is greatly overblown.
Your statistic about a 300 year time span makes absolutely NO sense. Its just illogical.
Posted by: Jennifer O'Neill | November 16, 2006 10:29 PM
LOL...much lower rates than other people? any backing to that whatsoever? Sorry, but my "illogical" claims are not opinion, but rather facts taken from actual sources and government research groups.
"The average immigrant has an overall negative fiscal impact of $3,000 over
his or her lifetime. However, the long-run fiscal impact of the immigrants and his
descendants over the next 300 years is a positive $80,000. Observed educational level
increases in the second, third, and subsequent generations are used to make
projections that far into the future. Also note that the long-run impact varies with the
educational level of the initial immigrant. Less than high-school level educated
immigrants remain a net fiscal drain in the long-run, whereas more than high-school
level educated immigrants have positive fiscal balance in the short-run and long-run." -report written by fiscal research center at Georgia State U.
Posted by: RJ Friedman | November 19, 2006 10:53 AM
okay, i dont see why illegal immigrants are so bad,if illegal immigrants are made criminals or shipped back across the border, who would fill their jobs and keep the economy growing??we need them.In addition, illegal immigrants, rather than taking jobs from citizens, remain concentrated in a few relatively low-paying jobs, such as picking crops, construction labor, house cleaning and restaurant kitchen help. who do we see out in the hot or cold weather doing work??who builds the homes and works on sidewalks?im speaking up for my people even though im not illegal. illegal or not, we dont need to get rid of them. i might not know everything about them because im only 13 and still growing, but i am doing a persuasive speech in language enrichment class about them and i would like people to speak up, dont let
Posted by: Salena | November 27, 2006 4:51 PM
My family has been in the construction trade for generations. The construction trades have been taken over by Mexicans and Russians They have driven the wages down to the point were skilled Americans have had to find a different way to make a living. I no longer work in the construction trade. Because the media keeps telling the American public that "They are only taking the jobs Americans do not want to do." This problem will continue to get worse. There are immigration laws already in place. We are a nation of laws. Why do our polititions get to pick and choose the laws that will be enforced? It is because Democrates want votes and Republicans want cheap labor. We need to have a one term limit.
Posted by: Troy | December 4, 2006 10:40 PM
I think that putting upa wall would make no difference. Immargants come to the United States for a better life. I come froma different country and I came here for a better education and a better life. Things in Latin America are hard. People are dying of hungry and have no money. I think people shouldn't talk without knowing what this people are going through. There should be a better system that allows people to come. But, putting up a wall won't do anything. People will find a way to get through it.
Posted by: Jolie | January 10, 2007 5:53 PM
just looking into all of this is really sad.so when we come home after a hard days work.close the door and lock it.be thankfull we have more than what we need.
Posted by: ashley | May 7, 2007 4:29 PM
I thibk you made some points but I didn't agree with most of them. I have a question. Are you saying that you agree with Illegal Immigration? Illegal immigrants use up our resources. They take our money,jobs,and houses. What if somebody needs to go get a job to help out a friend or family member. They go try to get a job but they can'y because some illegal has taken it. Yes it's hard to become a United States citizen. The tests are hard. But they should at least try. They have to pay more taxes. Good. They're coming into this country illegaly. They should have to pay more money. The wall is a great idea. It might work it might not. It's a 50 50. Could go any way. The government should be harder on illegal immigration. If they are harder then that might show terrorists what we are capable of. Not all illegals are from mexico. From many different counrtys. When people first see a hispanic person they think illegal. Not true. they might be might not. Not the case. I have one word. Descrimination
Posted by: Jordan | October 23, 2007 9:29 PM