Problems Caused by Illegal Immigration in the US

Andrew Pasterczyk

Immigration has been a crux on which the United States has been built, from the very origins of the nation to massive waves of Immigration in the late 19th and early 20th century. More recently however, The United States of America has experienced a spike in illegal immigration. Mainly stemming from Latin America, illegal immigrants have been pouring across the border in what has become a central political issue. The purpose of this paper is to asses this current, illegal immigration wave, identify the problems with the immigration, and offer solutions to the root problems of today’s illegal immigration.

For starters, it is important to define what exactly an illegal immigrant is. An illegal immigrant should be considered an individual or a group of individuals that either crosses the border of a foreign nation or resides in the foreign nation, in a manner that violates the immigration laws of the country they illegally pass into or reside in. Under this definition, even drug dealers who temporarily cross the border for even just a few hours are still classified as “illegal immigrants”. The intent of addressing the term “illegal immigration” in this manner is to help solve any future problems by closing potential future loopholes to get around being defined as an “illegal immigrant”.

First and foremost, we need to identify the real purpose and desire behind illegal immigration to help better understand the causes to the problems it creates. On the side of the immigrants themselves, it’s not hard to see where the desire for illegal immigration stems from. In many cases, and particularly that of the United States’, illegal immigrants travel to the country looking for a better lifestyle, more opportunity, or things as simple as work. These desires can often stem from poor living conditions in their mother country. In the case of the country subject to the illegal immigration however, the motives and desire for illegal immigration are much more hazy, especially in the case of the United States.

While the government doesn’t support illegal immigration, and it may be societally frowned upon, many people in the United States, particularly small business owners don’t seem to have much of a problem with this illegal immigration. Illegal immigrants come undocumented to the united states, and as a result, are not subject to the benefits that a citizen or immigrant would normally receive. Small business owners don’t have to pay medical benefits, or any sort of benefits for that matter, and can pay the illegal immigrants lower than minimum wage to do many jobs that American citizens wouldn’t bring themselves to do. At the root of this problem is a combination of several factors, ranging from American arrogance to pandering politicians and parties vying to use immigration as a wedge to draw Latino and Hispanic votes. The main problem that needs to be addressed when attempting to solve the problems illegal immigration creates is the small business owners and congress. Any attempt to outright halt or slow immigration could seriously alienate small business owners, and a policy that is theoretically sound may never get through congress due to the severe partisan nature of the congress today.

Bearing all that in mind, we need to ask ourselves what the problem with illegal immigration today actually is. One of the common ideas about illegal immigration today is that the illegal immigrants have a largely negative impact on the US economy. By draining welfare money, decreasing standard wages, and taking up American jobs, illegal immigrants supposedly are incredibly detrimental to the US economy. Despite this popular conception however, illegal immigration doesn’t have a detrimental effect on the economy of the United States. For starters, illegal immigrants actually improve the living standards and wages of American citizens. One of the popular misconceptions is that illegal immigrants actively compete with Americans for American jobs, but recent studies suggest that illegal immigrants actually work in cohesion with Americans, to the delight of small business. The increase in availability for cheap labor allows for business to expand, and makes immigrant intensive services like cleaning cheaper, and recent data suggests that immigrants can boost the average American’s salary by .1 to .6 percent. The increase in salary isn’t actually that much. In fact, it’s barely nothing, but the wage increase is a far cry from the supposed wage decreases that American workers experience as a result of illegal immigration.

One of the other common arguments to suggest a problem with current illegal immigration is that immigrants are a drain on the welfare state. There are a few misconceptions with this idea however. First of all, welfare in the nation, such as social security and Medicare are focused on the old, not the poor. Secondly, most illegal immigrants actually pay taxes, rent, and bills. In fact, almost 10% of the current Social Security fund today comes from illegal immigrants. To make it even more obvious, Arizona passed bill SB 1070 that made it illegal to be an undocumented worker, and as a result, the state economy lost almost $141 million due to economic revenue loss, and the bill had been severely hampered by the state supreme court, suggesting that had the original bill gone through, Arizona could’ve lost something in the ballpark of $48.8 billion. The overall point here is that on a large scale, there is no serious economic problem with illegal immigration.

That being said, there are two major problems caused by illegal immigration that need to be solved. The first of these is the concentration of illegal immigrants in specific areas of the United States. While illegal immigrants may not be a drain on the federal government or the overall economy of the United States, they can prove harmful to local governments if in concentrated doses. Unfortunately, this is a truth in much of the US, as immigrant populations are heavily concentrated in cities just across the borders of the US. From a local perspective, illegal immigrants can be incredibly damaging, as they take advantage of things like free education without ever actually contributing money to help fund them. Additionally, in low income neighborhoods, a concentrated dose of illegal immigrants can put low skilled citizens out of work. When looking at it from a local perspective, illegal immigration can actually cause some economic problems. That being said, this is an incredibly convoluted problem, one that cannot be solved within the confines of this paper given the times and views today. If we wanted to stop the damage concentrated groups of illegal immigrants do to local governments in the US, the most logistical solution would be to legalize them, forcing them to help pay for the welfare that they use. This solution is flawed however, because it would alienate the low skilled workers of America and small business, and would never pass through congress. Another potential solution could be to just give the strained local governments more money, but this in itself is a poor solution. We would first have to determine what parts of the country would qualify to receive the aid, which would be incredibly hard seeing as it would require the federal government to find where illegal immigrants are specifically located. Something that the immigrants themselves won’t be compliant in. Not only that, but throwing money at communities affected by illegal immigration won’t solve anything, it will only delay the inevitable need for a solution. Lastly, it would be incredibly hard to ensure that the money was actually used where it was intended to be used. Overall, the problem of concentrated illegal immigration populations at local levels isn’t unsolvable, but such a solution would have to tackle longstanding American prejudices and the workings of congress, which is something that we cannot do within the confines of this paper.

The other problem with illegal immigration, and the one that this paper will dedicate itself to solving is the problem with security created by illegal immigration. In their analysis of whether or not illegal immigrants are beneficial to the economy, many people forget the underlying fact that these immigrants got to the United States by breaking the law. Not only that, but it occurs with a frightening regularity and is accepted as a reality in the United States. Many attempts to fix the supposed “economic problem” have actually made the security dilemma even worse, driving immigrants underground and fostering a culture of illegality. Thus there is a serious problem created by illegal immigration. While most illegal immigrants simply come here to find work or opportunity, they make the borders dangerously unstable, opening up pathways that can be followed by drug cartels and crime, and potentially terrorists. There are stats that only reinforce this opinion as well, suggesting that in a three year span from 2008 to 2011, the number of cities feeling a cartel presence increased from around 230 to almost 1700. This suggests that the massive security breach created by illegal immigration is having a very bad impact on the US, and needs to be solved. To be able to effectively solve this problem however, we first need to take a look at what is causing this problem with security at our borders.

Small Business Demands/Desires

As we can see in the synthesized chart above, there are really two root causes to the security problem caused by immigration. Terrible laws dictating US border policy, and the desires of small business America are at the root of the problem with illegal immigration in America. This becomes a tricky situation to solve, because both of these root problems oftentimes contradict one another. If priority is placed small businesses, then good laws will never really be drafted, because they may interfere with a steady supply of cheap labor that small businesses desire. On the other hand, if a solid immigration policy is set in place to secure the borders of America and restore security to the borders, you will most likely alienate small business, and end up driving up prices or creating a shortage in the low skilled work force as laborers are displaced from their jobs. The problem with these two roots to the problem is that an idealistic solution, although well thought out, may not appease everyone, and as a result get stuck in congress and never have an effect on anything. The obvious solution to securing the border, while allowing for local small businesses to enjoy the fruits of cheap labor is a guest worker system. Such a system would have to be carefully designed however, and pragmatic to make it through congress.

Idealistically, this foreign worker system designed as a solution to close off the border would have to have several separate provisions. For starters, there would have to be incentives for both immigrants and companies to make the solution work. One of the trickiest parts of the solution is also probably one of the hardest to pull off. One of the main problems with the security of the border is that illegal immigrants are almost forced to come over illegally. This happens for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s incredibly hard to get across the border the legal way, especially for poor Hispanic illegal immigrants who are simply looking for work. More often than not they will be denied, or have to wait incredibly long times just to hear whether or not they get to even get a temporary residence. Knowing this bleak reality, many illegal immigrants cross illegally knowing there isn’t another option. The second problem with the legal option that makes being an illegal immigrant more appealing is that even if one were to get a temporary work permit, the permits have incredibly rigid expiration dates. This poses a problem in itself, seeing as the work visas are less desirable than illegal entry, seeing as one would only be able to stay in the country for a set amount of time before leaving again. Because of all this, one of the provisions of the plan to secure borders would have to be smaller, more easily renewed work permits. A renewable short term permit would be far more appealing to those who want to come to the country for work or opportunity. In order to get such a short term permit renewed, it should be pretty important that the migrant worker have some sort of business or company sponsorship, to signify that they actually did work while in the United States. This provision to ensure that immigrants who come to the United States actually find work to participate in, rather than just sit around and take advantage of welfare offered by local governments and the federal government.

On the other side of the coin, US companies and other small businesses would also need incentives to hire these workers. One of the main reason that illegal immigrants are desired as low skilled laborers is because of the fact that, as immigrants, they are not necessarily subject to the same regulations as US citizens. Unlike a citizen, illegal immigrants aren’t protected under minimum wage laws or health care benefits. It is this quality that makes them desirable for small businesses to hire, and for communities to turn a blind eye to. That being said, if immigrants are being allowed into the nation to work as low costing laborers, there need to be a number of restrictions placed upon them so that the solution has an actual realistic chance of passing through congress. Of these restrictions, there should be a few that even out the playing field when it comes to hiring workers. Regulations or business practices that make it near impossible to hire migrant workers, and laws and practices that make it easier and more beneficial to hire migrant workers should also be scrapped and made illegal. The idea here is to allow migrant workers to enter the country and find work, while trying to level the playing field for those that complain about migrant workers coming in a stealing jobs from them.

Finally, both workers and employers who choose not to comply with the new law should be punished. If there is no consequence for not obeying the regulations, nobody will follow them anyway. There needs to be some sort of punishment for not complying with the new law and regulation. If a migrant worker violates their agreement, they should be deported and not be allowed to re-apply for access into the company. How a migrant worker could theoretically violate their agreement is pretty simple. Any migrant worker staying past the expiration of their permit without getting the permit removed is considered within the boundaries of breaking their contract. Another possibility is if the worker has brought anyone with him not protected by the working permit, like family members or relatives. Should the worker fail to comply with the permit’s instructions word for word, they will be deported, without an option for renewal.