U.S. is often called the land of immigrants and it is not difficult to understand why. Besides Native Indians, all other ethnic groups can trace their ancestry to other countries including those in Europe and Africa. As a country that has primarily been built by the immigrants, one would expect a more welcome attitude towards immigration yet a significant proportion of the population holds strong opinions against undocumented immigrants. Some extremist groups may even be opposed to all forms of immigration including legal immigration, due to factors such as racist ideology. It is usually the undocumented immigrants that bear most of the criticism. In many instances, the arguments presented by the critics are either weak or one-sided. Some states such as Arizona have even enacted policies to encourage them to at least leave the state if not the country. Such attitudes and policies do not only violate the longstanding American tradition of welcoming immigrants but also imposes huge social and economic costs on the country.
It is estimated the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. were 11.2 million in 2012 and 11.3 million in 2013 (Krogstad and Passel). Some critics argue laws should be enacted to stop illegal immigration but such suggestions may not be reliable. Legal barriers may do little to discourage illegal immigration and a better course of action may be to focus on factors that actually have major impact on illegal immigration. One such factor is economic incentive as we observed illegal immigration from Mexico to U.S. significantly declined in the year 2008 (Preston). The simple explanation is that financial crisis significantly reduced the economic incentive for illegal immigrants from Mexico. This also makes us wonder how we can reduce economic incentives in other ways and it becomes clear undocumented immigrants are not any more responsible for the current illegal immigration crisis than U.S. employers are. U.S. employers are willing to hire them to achieve low labor costs and undocumented immigrants simply respond to the economic opportunities created by U.S. employers. Thus, U.S. employers are also guilty of breaking the law and the fault lies on both sides. It is not practical to deport all undocumented immigrants, thus, an immigration reform should be introduced which also places higher levels of accountability on U.S. employers to reduce the probability of an immigration crisis in the future.
There is no doubt undocumented immigrants are guilty of breaking the law but so are U.S. employers. Instead of suggesting solutions that may yield significant political capital even if they are impractical, policy makers should focus on solutions that will yield the greatest economic benefits for the country. Economic analysis indicates immigration reform is not only a practical solution to the current immigration crisis but will also carry tremendous economic benefits for the nation. Economists at UCLA estimated an immigration reform will generate $2.5 billion tax revenue and create 160,000 jobs in the short-term. White House conducted a study which revealed immigration reform will help the economy grow by an additional 0.4 percent – 0.9 percent over the next decade which translates to about $90 billion to $210 billion. Even an immigration analyst named Alex Nowrasteh of right-leaning Cato Institute suggested legalization of undocumented immigrants will generate significant economic benefits for the nation (Gittleson). Thus, immigration reform should be introduced on a priority basis and populist but impractical actions should be avoided. The best solutions are not always the most popular ones but policy makers have a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interests of the nation.
Besides economic rationale, there are also moral reasons to support immigrants whether legal or illegal. Most immigrants simply come to the U.S. in search of better economic opportunities, just as ancestors of most Americans came to this land generations ago. Most immigrants simply strive to work hard to provide better future for their families and being undocumented may be their only crime. Thus, immigrants who do not have any other serious criminal offense, should be given the opportunity to earn their way to legalization. Of course, such a path would include paying fines and proper background test to ensure such immigrants become productive members of the society. Immigrants, even undocumented immigrants, have made valuable contributions to this country. It is estimated one in six small businesses are started by immigrants (Koba). The Silicon Valley is full of stories of immigrants including the founders of Intel and Google. Similarly, undocumented immigrants are pivotal to California’s agricultural sector and without undocumented immigrants, a significant proportion of American farmers may not be able to remain in business (Caldwell). Thus, it is also the right thing to provide the path to legalization to those undocumented immigrants that follow the American tradition of hard work and professional integrity.
Immigration has emerged as one of the most politically divisive issues in America. Even though certain extremist elements oppose immigration of all kind, most of the opposition is aimed at undocumented immigrants. The critics suggest laws that punish undocumented immigrants and ideally deport all of them but such solutions are not practical. It is also important to note American businesses are as much responsible for the current immigration crisis as undocumented immigrants. Immigrants make valuable contributions to U.S. economy and it is also our moral obligation to welcome them in the same manner our ancestors were welcomed when they first came to this country.
- Caldwell, Alicia A. Agriculture Industry Fears Disaster If Illegal Immigration Enforcement Program E-Verify Is Implemented. 6 April 2011. 5 May 2015 http://www.huffingtonpost.com
- Gittleson, Kim. US economy: will immigration reform help the recovery? 25 November 2014. 5 May 2015 http://www.bbc.com/
- Koba, Mark. How Immigrants Are Changing US Businesses. 4 September 2012. 5 May 2015 http://www.cnbc.com
- Krogstad, Jens Manuel and Jeffrey S. Passel. 5 facts about illegal immigration in the U.S. 18 November 2014. 5 May 2015 http://www.pewresearch.org/
- Preston, Julia. Mexican Data Show Migration to U.S. in Decline. 14 May 2009. 5 May 2015 http://www.nytimes.com/