It seems to me…
It is somewhat surprising there is so much animosity about illegal immigrants. This is about the same as shutting the gate to prevent anyone else’s arrival after our own. All of us, other than Native Americans, are here because of immigrants – either legal or illegal.
My paternal lineage is from a Revolutionary War Hessian deserter. My mother’s parents came from Slovakia and though they lived in this country over fifty years, never learned to speak English. Other nationalities in my background are Irish and Jewish. In other words, I am a fairly typical American and proud of it. And the majority of people in this country have similar backgrounds.
America is viewed by many throughout the world as the Land of Opportunity. There shouldn’t be any question as to why so many want to come here. Traditionally, even in the relatively recent past, we have opened our doors welcoming new arrivals. But times have changed and so apparently have our attitudes.
Most immigrants always have arrived with nothing. Most were impoverished, uneducated, not knowing anyone, and without any prospect for immediate employment. Out of necessity, they took the jobs no one else wanted just to survive – and they fought their way out of the ghetto to a better life for their families. They brought creativity and a willingness for hard work now missing in many of the more established current generation. Their children did not choose the least difficult educational path and majored in the sciences and engineering resulting in our country leading the world in innovation.
We also welcomed the smartest and brightest from around the world to study at our colleges and universities which once were considered the best available anywhere. After completing their education, we encouraged the best to remain and find employment in research and development for universities and corporations.
Now the emphasis not only is on keeping “foreigners” out, it is on the expulsion of all “Illegal Aliens”. While an “alien” is a resident born in or belonging to another country who has not acquired citizenship by naturalization, the pejorative label of “illegal” frequently is applied indiscriminately to anyone suspected of not being in this country legally – especially anyone possibly of Mexican or South American heritage.
While I agree we need to improve our border security, a world where it would not be necessary, where people could freely move unrestricted seeking freedom or opportunity, would be far more ideal. Realistically, there are hostile elements in the world whose entry must be restricted. Likewise, importation of illegal or controlled items or substances must be prevented. While we have policies regulating every aspect of immigration, those policies remain somewhat arbitrary.
Anyone granted entry on a student-visa should be offered a temporary work-visa upon satisfactory completion of his or her studies and proof of employment. Anyone in our country on a green-card work permit and meeting all requirements of that visa should be permitted to apply for full citizenship after five years. No one should be permitted to remain longer than ten years without becoming a citizen.
The primary question is how to deal with so-called “illegals”. The pendulum swings and it now is unnecessarily restrictive.
Many of the assumed facts about the economic costs associated with illegals are untrue (not that actual “facts” about emotionally-charged issues ever have made very much difference). Like most of the immigrants preceding them, they, for the most part, take jobs no one else wants. The vast majority are hard-working law-bidding people seeking a better life for themselves and their families.
Illegal immigrants are another of those problems that does not have an easy solution. Deportation sounds great in theory but the reality is that much of our agriculture, hotel service, and other low-level industries are highly dependent on them. Americans will not do many of the jobs in which illegals are employed regardless of the wage offered. Many of them have been in this country all of their life – we can not do without them. Many of them also have paid taxes into the Social Security system using false ids and do not qualify for the benefits they otherwise have earned. This is another example of a few bad apples ruining things for the majority that are honest and hardworking. Yes, something has to be done but the more I think about it, the less sure I am as to what it should be other than increasing border security.
Part of the problem is that no one seems genuinely interested in determining what illegals actually costs our country – only in justifying prior beliefs which in many cases are based on nothing but prejudice. Most anti-immigration claims trace back to either the conservative Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) or the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), both of which call for more restrictive immigration laws. Many of those claims have been judged to be either completely false or very misleading by FactCheck.org[i]. If you doubt this, check for yourself.
Cost estimates usually only measure the fiscal cost, which weighs government spending (such as on public schools, medical care, incarceration and unemployment benefits) against government income (from income, property and sales taxes.) ignoring that undocumented workers do not qualify for unemployment or medical benefits.
Those with legally paid jobs – at least fifty percent, by some estimates – end up paying social security and other payroll taxes without ever collecting benefits. Since illegal immigrants are believed to constitute up to 5 percent of the U.S. economy, their tax contributions represent a revenue windfall for legal residents. While not usually garnering the attention of less positive estimates, several studies have concluded illegals actually are beneficial to our economy.
Without health care, illegals, like uninsured American citizens, delay seeking medical attention until their condition has deteriorated to where they must be taken to an emergency room for treatment resulting in substantially increased treatment costs. Infectious diseases left untreated have a higher probability of spreading also increasing costs associated with treatment. Universal healthcare insurance would be beneficial to both illegal and legal citizens while reducing costs of medical care.
As for educational benefits, it is never right to punish a child for the crimes of his or her parents. All children, legal or not, deserve the right to be educated to the level of their ability. This is a national problem that needs an immediate solution rather than being sidetracked by secondary issues such as who is to be denied access to schools. Unfortunately, educational costs have increased to where it has become unaffordable to most people. The world has become increasingly competitive and we need as many highly educated people as possible, especially in science and technology.
And how would we actually secure our borders? It never has been possible in the past. While border security must be improved, at a certain point, the costs of additional improvement become prohibitive. Regardless of how high a fence is constructed, a higher ladder always will cost less. At some point we must accept and welcome some illegals to our community.
That’s what I think, what about you?
[i]Justin Bank. Cost of Illegal Immigrants, http://www.factcheck.org/2009/04/cost-of-illegal-immigrants/, 6 Apr 2009.