During the presidential campaigns, immigration was a hot topic. Gaining U.S. immigration is quite a complex procedure which is limited by green cards, the Immigration Act of 1990, and the antiterrorism act (Wernick, 24). There is also the issue of illegal immigration, most which comes from Mexico. One of the solutions posited by Donald Trump was to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, but as 40% of illegal immigrants from Mexico come by airplane, this is not necessarily a solution (Torre 18). The purpose of this paper is to discuss the current U.S. immigration system with a focus on the rules and regulations that present a challenge to those wishing to become naturalized. It will also focus on opinion about the immigration system and the current issues that it faces, regarding some of the comments made by President Trump and other politicians. It will become clear that, whilst the U.S. immigration system has issues, the best solution for the United States is not to make it more difficult to enter.
Current Immigration Laws
Certain laws, rules, and regulations govern immigration into the United States. The main federal law for immigration is the Immigration Act of 1990 (Wernick 21). This law states that the main consideration to make when granting green cards to potential immigrants is family reunification, with a secondary focus on employment (Wernick 24). It gives a limit for potential immigrants as 700,000 annually, but of course this does not include illegal immigration. The current system also has a strong focus on the quality of potential immigrants, with the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act stating certain rules and regulations that immigrants must follow or risk deportation (Wernick 24). The idea behind the latter two acts is to protect U.S. citizens from criminal activity of immigrants.
There are also rules and regulations that aim to help immigrants settle in the United States, particularly in the case of refugees from war zones. For example, the U.S. has offered to resettle 60,000 refugees from Bhutan who were displaced as a result of conflict there (Torre 112). Asylum seekers are also considered as a special case, the admittance of which is reliant on international laws. These individuals must seek and apply for asylum in the United States, and comprise around 10% of the annual immigration rate and total 1.3 million from Asia alone since 1975 (Torre 112). Illegal immigration is, of course, another issue – there are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country (Torre 112). These individuals are also estimated to have around 5 million children born on U.S. soil, who no longer qualify as immigrants but as U.S. citizens (Torre 112).
Opinions on U.S. Immigration
As noted above, immigration was one of the central topics of debate during the 2016 presidential election campaign. Large proportions of U.S. citizens do not have a favourable opinion on immigrants, and believe that they generally take more out of the economy than they contribute (Wernick 52). It is notable that public opinion is more generally favourable towards immigrants from groups that have been visible in the United States for longer, such as Chinese and Japanese immigrants, than those who are considered to be new arrivals (Wernick 53). White immigrants are also seen more favourably by the public, particularly Italian and Polish immigrants (Torre 119). Public opinion is generally against Mexican immigrants, most of whom are wrongly considered to be illegal immigrants (Torre 119). The reason for the strong focus on immigration reform during the presidential debate is largely due to these mixed feelings on immigrants and what they contribute to the economy.
Personally, I believe that the U.S. immigration system does need to be reformed, but not in the way that President Trump is suggesting. During the history of the United States, there have been many times at which the U.S. provided safe ground for immigrants and the entry of those seeking asylum has meant millions of lives being saved (Torre 121). The installation of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico is not likely to stop illegal immigration between the two countries, and there will be many more that arrive by plane from all over the world. The green card system, whereby an individual must apply for the right to be a permanent resident, is often challenging, and can appear to be somewhat of a lottery. Although the safety of U.S. citizens is a concern, citizens perform many more terrorist attacks and gun crimes than those arriving from abroad.
In summary, the U.S. has been a favourite choice for immigrants seeking a new home for several reasons. This has led to the reasoning behind several complex rules and regulations that govern immigration in the United States. Although the rules are designed to protect U.S. citizens, crime is more likely to be associated with residents and citizens than it is with illegal immigrants. This means that some of the measures that are in place are unnecessary and cause stress to those wishing to apply. This can be particularly problematic if individuals are seeking asylum, in that they will have already endured psychological stressors and the intimation served to them by U.S. immigration officials is unkind. Overall, I think immigration law needs a reform but not by any of the measures that have currently been suggested – the economic benefits that immigration brings to the country far outweighs the danger and this needs to be inserted into the debate.
- Torre, Miguel A. De La. The U.S. Immigration Crisis: Toward an Ethics of Place. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2016. Print.
- Wernick, Allan. U.S. Immigration and Citizenship. Emmis Books, 2004. Print.