The issue of immigration has always dominated the political agenda in the United States particularly in the electioneering period. Many political candidates are usually hard-pressed to express their stand or viewpoints in regards to the issue of surging numbers of immigrants specifically those that enter the country illegally or live in the country illegally. Some immigrants find their way legally through visit visas but opt to prolong their stay hence making them illegal immigrants. This is a double-edged sword which makes it difficult to resolve within the set legal framework and political climate. I believe that the issue of immigration should be tackled through a fresh perspective which is both humane and considerate of the reasons why many find themselves in the situation they are in the first place.
A large section of society is of the opinion that the undocumented immigrants ought to be punished, but this does not suffice as the most logical thing in the current state of affairs. There are many counter arguments in place that highlight why the said parties ought to stay and thrive within the US borders. I believe the extent of immigration has reached such big proportions that immigration reforms are pivotally essential for the American society. It is not acceptable that such a big part of the American society’s life constitutes an “illegal” and irregular element. It is further crucial that the large population of these immigrants have their contributions and lives regularized and legalized at the same time. One of the major claims against illegal immigration is that fewer jobs are left for the genuine Americans as the immigrants take up the most of these opportunities. However, this notion can be debunked by the fact that many undocumented immigrants take up jobs that many of the Americans are not willing to do. Many of the US citizens are choosy on the type of jobs they want despite being desperate and unemployed. To many immigrants, these opportunities are essential for their survival in the United States. It is therefore prudent that they are legalized to ensure that there many people that can effectively occupy these jobs within the fields. It will also ensure that they are effectively spread out in the United States rather than being concentrated in the economies of few states such as Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas. Additionally, the competition with Native American workers among immigrants is very marginal and only limited to unskilled job opportunities. It thus suffices the immigrants compete with the American citizens who have low levels of education and are in the manufacturing, construction, agriculture and landscaping areas. Notably, as the education levels of the common American increase and as older workers retire, these unappealing low-skilled jobs become readily available to the immigrants.
It is a common perspective that undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes hence creating a strain on the public amenities which are created with the US populace in mind. However, an Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) in 2010 noted that illegal immigrants pay taxes at an average of 6.4% of their incomes earned. In 2010 alone they remitted $10.6 billion in taxes (Gee, et al. 43). In comparison to the country’s richest 1% that pays 5.6% in taxes, the undocumented immigrants pay more taxes against their incomes (Gee, et al. 44). With such facts, it makes much economic sense to advocate for the legalization of immigrants which will even enhance the tax remittances through their employers. It is important that some immigrants come with entrepreneurial ambitions which once executed create new opportunities as well as inject benefits to the American economy. However, many immigrant entrepreneurs have to face many bottlenecks before establishing their businesses or ventures. With legalization, many businesses can be realized which in turn generate tax revenues for the American economy. However, due to the political narrative sold to many Americans, these facts are never given much prominence.
The approach taken towards immigration in America fails to appreciate the implications of immigrants in other developed nations. Canada, for instance, has an efficient system which ensures for an immigrant to be accommodated, he or she must be capable of contributing to the national economy before being admitted conditionally. They must prove they are skilled and educated (Gee, et al. 65). The Canada government further has a list of occupations which immigrants are placed to ensure that they actively contribute to the economy without burdening the public welfare and systems. It also ensures that they do not deny Canadians job opportunities that they can fill.
In retrospect, I believe that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity. Human rights ought to be observed for all. Many of the immigrants in American are in pursuit for better opportunities, rights, and freedoms. The Mexicans, for instance, account for more than half of the immigrants living in America illegally. However, this is linked to the fact that half of the Mexico populace lives below the poverty line. This is one of the major reasons its citizens migrate to seek better livelihoods and funds to send back home. The Mexican society is also rife with high crime rates, human rights violations as well as corruption which may be a strong hindrance to leading dignified lives as compared to America. Although these are Mexican cases, other undocumented immigrants face even worse conditions.
Being an immigrant creates room for dehumanization through stereotypes, language, political rhetoric and even labels. Many immigrants are looked down upon by the natives and treated as lesser beings. This is denoted in the manner that they are usually exploited due to their immigrant status. The misinformed public links joblessness to the immigrants which creates unnecessary tension that may translate to harm to the well-meaning immigrants. Many undocumented immigrants are portrayed negatively by the media hence echoing the misjudgements and stereotypes carried by the public. They do so with no supporting statistics and studies which dangerously creates a social construction of the minorities as a threat to the civility and stability of the United States.
On the political front, Presidential candidates have used the immigrants as a vote-seeking platform. Donald Trump in 2016, for instance, cited that the Mexicans are “bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists” hence fanning the hate for this demography among his supporters (Edelman). Other politicians have continued to sell the rhetoric that Mexican immigrants are not only taking “manufacturing jobs” but also “our money” (Edelman). This is unfortunate as it creates a lasting negative impression on the gullible public which may lead to xenophobic attacks on a country that ironically has been built on the backs of the immigrants since its conception. According defineamerican.com fact sheet no human being is illegal. The term itself incriminates “the personhood of migrants, instead of describing the legality of their actions” (DefineAmerican.com). The definition of the illegal immigrant has been fused with criminal stereotypes held by many xenophobic Americans. By terming them as illegal, the immigrants act as scapegoats even for systemic problems that the government has not been keen on solving such as shifting of operations by many American firms to China in the quest for cheap labor. Many Americans are yet to understand how best to handle their national shortcomings without involving the immigrants objectively.
It is time American re-evaluated its policy on immigration. The policies must adopt a more humane approach which takes into consideration the relationships, struggles and psychological trauma associated with one being an undocumented immigrant. Jose Antonio Vargas’ documentary “Documented” captures these struggles that many Native Americans know nothing about. Living a lie due to a punitive system defines the everyday struggle of an undocumented immigrant in the United States (Vargas). There is need to fix immigration system to ensure that it creates a win-win scenario for both the United States and the deserving immigrants. It is time the migrants are embraced beyond the stereotypes and labels.
- DefineAmerican.com. “FactsMatter: Immigration Explained.” 2017. download.defineamerican.com/2017/02/170223-Fact-Sheet.pdf. Accessed 19 July 2017.
- Edelman, Adam. “A look at Trump’s most outrageous comments about Mexicans as he attempts damage control by visiting with country’s president.” 2016. www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/trump-outrageous-comments-mexicans-article-1.2773214. Accessed 19 July 2017.
- Gee, Lisa C., et al. “Undocumented Immigrants’ State & Local Tax Contributions.” The Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, 2010.
- Vargas, Jose A. “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant.” The New York Times. 2011. mobile.nytimes.com/2011/06/26/magazine/my-life-as-an-undocumented-immigrant.html. Accessed 19 July 2017.