The subject of immigration has been widely discussed for the past decades due to its significant impact on the US as a country. According to researchers, there are approximately 46 million immigrants in the USA, which is a number higher than in any other country worldwide (Khullar & Chokshi, 2019). Needless to say, illegal immigration is also a common topic that divides the nation between two extremes. On the one hand, a large number of US citizens believe all immigrants have to be deported if they overstay their visas or cross the border illegally. On the other hand, there is the narrative suggesting that all immigration should be legal and crossing a border without being documented is not a valid reason for labeling someone a criminal. While both these opinions have either economic, legal, or humanistic motivations behind them, it is essential to consider all the aspects of illegal immigration and how it can wither harm or benefit the US. Based on evidence and prognosis, giving undocumented citizens a chance to pursue legal citizenship/residency can positively affect the country, its citizens, and the overall nation.
Illegal Immigration as a Crime
Illegal immigration is considered a crime in the US and everywhere in the world. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IRIRA) was signed in 1996 and classified illegal immigrants as criminals (Macías-Rojas, 2018). Moreover, based on the legal definition of the act, aliens are to be deported in case their legal history show crimes and criminal activity. While there are concerns in regards to people being extradited back to their countries for minor misdemeanors, it is logical for a government to minimize the risks for people who are expecting the officials to have the best interests of their citizens first. However, illegally crossing the board or overstaying a visa in the US classifies every person as a criminal even without prior contact with the police. This means that any undocumented person can be deported despite living in the country for a long time and being a law-abiding individual. The process of naturalization can be time-consuming and costly, which is why there are many people who do not have the means to pursue it. In this case, individuals are at risk of being pursued by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Economic Benefits from Having an Effective Immigration System
The major problem with the US immigration system is the fact that people are seldom able to seek asylum. According to Bier (2019), central American citizens often reach the border with the US in hopes of being classified as asylum seekers. However, when they cannot apply for this status, the other option is entering the country illegally. Being an undocumented resident detrimentally decreases the chance of having a job with an adequate wage, safe work conditions, and ethical standards that protect employees. Researchers point out that employees who are open to hiring illegal immigrants often do it from financial motives since there is a possibility of denying them benefits, paying salaries below minimal national standards, or exploiting their labor for free altogether (Lloyd, 2018). While there is an underlying humanistic and ethical motive to mitigate such practices, a rational solution would be viewing it from a financial perspective.
People working in such conditions do not contribute to the national economic climate since they often do not pay taxes. Moreover, since they are not paid enough money, they are less likely to have the potency to invest in real estate or have other contributions to the national money flow. On the opposite side of the spectrum, illegal immigrants with no criminal history and a desire to contribute to a strong society can be granted the chance of becoming legal residents. This allows them to apply for higher-paying jobs, buy real estate, and provide their kids with a good education. Such concepts are beneficial for the national economy, and the economic growth will continue as the next generations have better opportunities for education and other factors that facilitate success.
Dealing with illegal immigration can be costly and ineffective, as practice shows. There are several options which the government can use to mitigate this issue, such as imposing stricter deportation strategies, strengthening border control, and implementing new policies. However, all these plans require investments that may not necessarily be proactive in the long run. On the other side, letting potential immigrants or existing aliens know that by following specific rules and respecting US law, they can be granted an official status may drastically change the situation. Suppose an individual has proven to follow regulations and strive for a better future in the USA. In that case, it is important to encourage such aims by endorsing a system that allows these people to become documented. This will set an excellent example for those who consider illegal activities as a way out of poverty. Instead, more people will know that the government rewards contributing to a safe and prolific society.
At the same time, this solution still promotes the mitigation of criminal activity and illegal actions committed by undocumented citizens. On the one hand, such individuals are less likely to commit crimes because it will compromise their chance of becoming legal residents. On the other hand, deportations remain the primary response to such offenses. Implementing this solution also correlates with the first argument, which is the financial benefit of having more residents with a high and stable income who can contribute to the national economy and the further improvement of the country. The more citizens who pay taxes and have high wages, the better the overall economy becomes. This is why it is beneficial to support law-abiding and hard-working immigrants by allowing them to obtain legal status within the country.
It is certain that undocumented citizens are at risk for being taken advantage of at work, not having access to certain services, and living in unfavorable conditions. Moreover, the safety aspect also speaks in favor of immigration being a legal process. However, the reality is that overstaying visas and illegally crossing the US border remain common offenses. There are many reasons why people choose this option, including escaping from poverty and pursuing a brighter future. While the government tries to mitigate this phenomenon by implementing stricter border control rules and deportations, a possible solution would be granting some illegal citizens a legal status. Depending on the criminal history, employment status, and family-related situations, undocumented citizens who are allowed to apply for residency can contribute to the country’s economy. Moreover, it will be a positive example for those who consider engaging in criminal activities and compromise their opportunity of becoming citizens with all the benefits that follow along.
Bier, D. J. (2019). Legal immigration will resolve America’s real border problems. Cato Institute, Policy Analysis, 879. Web.
Khullar, D., & Chokshi, D. A. (2019). Challenges for immigrant health in the USA—the road to crisis. The Lancet, 393(10186), 2168–2174. Web.
Lloyd, A. (2018). Working for free illegal employment practices, ‘off the books’ work and the continuum of legality within the service economy. Trends in Organized Crime, 23(1), 77–93. Web.
Macías-Rojas, P. (2018). Immigration and the war on crime: Law and order politics and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. Journal on Migration and Human Security, 6(1), 1–25. Web.