by Benjamin Howell
1 December 2006
The controversial topic of illegal immigration resides in debate between a nation's legal citizens and those who enter it illegally. It is a very hotly contested argument because of what is at stake for both sides. Illegal immigrants run the risk of being deported and having to return to the nation they left for a reason, while legal citizens stand to lose their jobs and primarily economic stability. Crime among illegal immigrants is another concern that native residents are apprehensive about. It is understandable that every human being seeks the best possible life, and indeed it is a very American ideal for all humans to follow after the "pursuit of happiness." Unfortunately science has yet to substantiate why one person is born into wealth while another is born into poverty. The bottom line is those who immigrate to another nation illegally bring upon that nation heavy burdens.
From Algerians immigrating to France, Middle Easterners immigrating to Greece, and Mexicans immigrating to the United States these established nations are suffering from multiple burdens placed upon them by immigrants who cross their borders illegally. Crime is a major concern of the native citizens of these countries, and it is substantiated by statistics showing that crime among illegal immigrants is high. In fact, Carl Horowitz claims "[c]rime involving immigrants in the United States is underreported because among other things certain immigrant cultures view family crime as a 'family matter' and is not something that ought to concern police" (1). From murder and drug trafficking to petty crime all are major concerns to these nations' residents. Unfortunately, while many illegal immigrants are merely looking for an improved life, they all fall under the shadow cast by some illegal immigrants who are participating in crime. The solution is to not migrate illegally. Although some believe these established nations' immigration laws ought to be reformed and relaxed, by breaking a law upon initial entry the illegal immigrant is establishing a precedence of disrespect for those nations' laws. It gives the appearance that an illegal immigrant will only follow the laws that they see fit.
The Economic burden caused by illegal immigrants is immense. Something as simple as driving on a country's roads without contributing to the roads' upkeep is one of many examples of how illegal immigrants impose a burden to a nation's economy. Another economic burden is the cost of enforcing a nation's borders against illegal immigrants. Some immigrants make it across and when caught also contribute to the burden by using the host nation's healthcare and education systems without compensation. If an illegal immigrant is injured and caught, they are taken to the local hospital, they are treated at cost to the hospital which is then subsidized by legal residents, and then the illegal immigrant is taken back to the border and deported. If the illegal immigrant crosses the border and has children they will enroll their children in school. An article on the Center for Immigration Studies estimates that in America, "The estimated annual net cost per illegal household is $2,736, if the estimated net fiscal drain…were multiplied by the nearly three million illegal households, the total cost imposed on the federal treasury comes to $10.4 billion a year" (Camarota 1). The fact that illegal immigrants pose a burden to a nation's economy cannot be refuted.
A third concern that citizens have with illegal immigrants is that they take away a native citizen's job. George Borjas an economist for the Encyclopedia of Economics points out that, "Immigrants have a harmful effect on the labor market opportunities of American natives because immigrants and natives tend to have similar skills and compete for the same jobs, thus driving down the native wage" (4). This is a very liberal all encompassing statement and he points out clearly that not all immigrants and natives have the same job skills, but that there are currently native citizens whose jobs are threatened by immigration. A professor of politics in Paris suggests that, "Being illegal is seldom the migrant's deliberate choice. When the opportunity to get authorization occurs, most of those meeting the criteria are only too eager to file an application. In fact, the advantages of illegal migration tend mostly to be on the side of the employer. An employer will benefit from the illegal status of a migrant who is desperate for work and therefore prepared to accept poor pay, usually below local norms" (Tapinos 1). The bottom line is that immigration does impact native citizens' jobs, however if that encourages the native population to pursue skilled labor positions, and unskilled labor is left as a starting point for individual economic progression, then that is a cost benefit ratio that is acceptable.
Illegal immigrations' most visible impact is the fact that they do not pay taxes to their host country while reaping the benefits of health care, education, and others. Some argue that illegal immigrants do pay taxes such as property and sales taxes. While this may be the case, they still are not one hundred percent contributors in contributing income and federal taxes as legal citizens are, yet they are still receiving one hundred percent of the benefits. As would be expected from any rational human under similar conditions, these immigrants are merely fleeing from undesirable and sometimes dire circumstances. Many immigrants from the Middle East are leaving the instability and heading for more economically stable European countries in search of previously unavailable opportunities. In the case of Mexico many are leaving because of the rampant corruption within their government. In large part illegal immigration has come around to slap the host nations of illegal immigrants in the face as a rampant problem of their own doing. Often migrants are leaving for more democratic nations than their own, but sometimes these nations are then taking advantage of the migrants' harsh circumstances as illustrated by a Professor at Cornell, "Many [illegal immigrants] are working under conditions that are appalling, some are paid in violations of hours laws, some are children working in jobs they shouldn't be. It's one of the seamier sides of democracies… Some are working basically as slaves" (Briggs 3).
The United States, European nations, and other developed nations around the world have improved economically, often times at the cost of third world nations, where they encourage keeping their labor costs low to increase their own profit margins. By doing this they have left immigrants with no choice but to head towards where the money and opportunity lies. The United States does not seem to understand this, as it believes building a fence along its southern border will fix the problem. Ultimately a compromise must be reached. Politicians as well as legal citizens ought to reach out a brotherly hand to help those in need such as illegal immigrants, while any human migrating to another country ought to become familiar with the host countries' political system, language, and culture. Most importantly in order to receive the benefits of a host country the migrants must start off on the right foot by not migrating illegally, and second they must contribute to the system by paying all taxes as legal citizens do.
- Borjas, George J. "Immigration." The Impact of Immigrants on Native Earnings. 1991. 8 pp. 15 Nov. 2006 />
- Briggs, Vernon M. Jr. "The Immigration Debate: It's Impact on Workers, Wages, and Employers." Democracy's 'Seamier Side'. 17 May 2006. 7 pp. 15 Nov 2006>.
- Camarota, Steven A. "The High Cost of Cheap Labor: Illegal Immigration and the Federal Budget." Balance of Tax and Cost. Aug 2004. 1 pp. 29 Nov 2006>.
- Horowitz, Carl. "New Report Examines Crime Among Immigrants." An Examination of U.S. Immigration Policy and Serious Crime. May 2001. 2 pp. 29 Nov 2006>.
- Tapinos, Georges. "Illegal immigrants and the labour market." Employer's Privilege. Feb 2000. 3 pp. 20 Nov 2006>.