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Illegal Immigration Immigrants

Running Head: Illegal Immigration in the US: Is it hurting us or helping us?


For years, the debate on unauthorized immigrants has been a hot topic in the United States. Although it is an issue that has been a part of our society for a long time, it is a very difficult issue to study. The amount of illegal immigrants that have made the country their homes is not an actually known number. Many of the illegal men, women, and children that we have living in the US have not been observed or accounted for making it hard to distinguish just how big the problem is. In addition to this issue of unaccountability, the nation has yet to develop a census that asks members of our society of their legal status in the US. This has been an ongoing debate and it seems as though, despite the many departments established and bills passed on this issue, we will never find a common ground. Should we continue to spend money and time trying to fight the illegal migration of unauthorized immigrants in the US or are their presences helping to build a stronger nation?

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Illegal immigration in the US is a complex issue for several reasons. There has been a history of attempts to control the illegal population in the US, but yet and still, we have no answer. The number of immigrants that we have living in the US is not precisely known making it hard to determine how large the issue is and how wide spread is it affecting our nation. Where do we start if we don’t know where they are? The complexity of the issue is one that needs to be observed more than the prevalence of the issue because no one on this side of statistical research and the analysis of our population has proven that this is indeed a problem for our economy and the society we live in. Some of the nation’s economist and business owners have determined that the American economy depends on illegal workers because they except low-wage jobs, pay taxes and spend money, all of which expands back to our national economy.

On the other hand, there are illegal immigrants that are in the US to take advantage of the services that our federal government provides to the less fortunate. States such as California, Texas, Florida and Arizona are concerned with the large amounts of unauthorized immigrants in their jurisdictions and are seeking government assistance to provide education, health care and other social services that the state is required by law to provide to every person that abides in that state. Looking at the issue from this perspective would cause one to think that the cost of providing a “better” life to an unauthorized immigrant is too high.

This review of the effects of illegal immigration is not something we can devote one field of study or one discipline to. The problem is so complex that when you look at the issue from one perspective it eliminates the chances of finding a common ground due to the biases of the research. The fast growth of our population can take effects on our government policies, education system, work force and job availability, health care system, and the amounts of crime that any one city may face. With an increased number of people there are to take care of, there is a decreased amount of resources to provide to any one individual or family. This issue lacks the simplicity of a right or wrong answer. Illegal immigration is an issue that needs to be research based on an interdisciplinary perspective based on the premise that, devoting one discipline to the study leaves out so many important factors and arguments that are for or against this issue.

The number of disciplines that have taken an interest in this subject can range from government to the institution of the family but in this paper we will focus on the disciplines of Economics, Sociology and Political Science. These three disciplines have been proven to provide analysis of this issue on a wide spread basis.

The study of economics includes the study of labor, land, and investments, of money, income, and production, and of taxes and government expenditures. According to the Gallop Poll, 66% of Americans believe that illegal immigrants are costing taxpayers too much money by using up government services such as public education and medical programs, rather than becoming productive citizens. At the same time, 74% of the people surveyed insisted that illegal immigrants in the US are helping the economy because they are willing to take low-paying jobs that most Americans are not willing to take. The problems that an illegal worker can cause on the economy are apparent in many of the scholarly studies on this issue and common ground seems far from being discovered.

Sociology is the study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behavior. Sociologists investigate the structure of groups, organizations, and societies, and how people interact within these contexts. Illegal immigration is obviously one of those issues that are affecting our society as a whole. Every year the size of the population living illegally increases by as much as 500,000 people. This flow of people is exploited by criminal structure involved in the smuggling of people and trafficking of illegal documents across the border. Illegal immigration has become a drain on social services and because of the conditions in which illegal immigrants work and live, many have found it difficult to follow the law and are at risk of becoming under-class and the source of social conflict.

Political science is the study of governments, public policies and political processes, systems, and political behavior. The government in the US has attempted to reduce illegal immigration mainly by making use of two immigration policies: border patrol and employer sanctions. Each year the border patrol makes more than a million apprehensions of aliens that violate our nation’s laws by unlawfully crossing US borders. Such entry is a misdemeanor, but, if repeated, becomes punishable as a felony. In addition to sneaking into the country in violation of the immigration law, others enter with legal documentation and overstay their welcome. Political Science is at the heart of this debate because the government is the sole source of the policies and procedures that we must follow.

The purpose of this paper is to identify the negative and the positive effects of illegal immigration in the United States and come up with a valid answer to the question…is the illegal immigration population in the US helping our nation or hurting it? So much time and effort has been spent on this issue and there is still no common ground. The policies and the procedures that have been set aside to regulate this mass of migration have failed to do so in several ways and with each year that passes by the issue of illegal immigrants prove itself to be uncontrollable. Should we establish a comprehensive effort to end illegal immigration once and for all or should the people of our nation accept the fact that there is no answer to the problem and move on to other important issues that are affecting us? This paper will establish an answer to just that.


The United States holds the prestige of being the best country in the world to live in. It is the land of freedom with endless opportunities. It is understandable why citizens of poorer, foreign countries are flocking to the US. America give immigrants the opportunity to receive higher wages and an increased amount of employment options. It is an opportunity for them to have a better life and provide a better life for their families.

America in its simplest form can be considered a melting pot of all different kinds of people. There are hundreds if not thousands of different race groups, ethnic groups, and religion living on one common ground. Generation after generation people from all over the world have com e to America to start a new life. Some of these immigrants follow the rules of entrance and others do not. We not only share our land and country with Americans, we also share with a very large population of illegal immigrants. Often times when Americans think of illegal immigration, the first thing that comes to mind is the crossing of Mexicans illegally across the US border. The truth is, Mexicans are not the only illegal immigrants that we host in our country. An illegal immigrant is any foreign national that has resettled in the US in violation of immigration and nationality laws (White). There are a number of people from all over the globe that have illegal entered America and others that have overstayed their welcome according to these same laws.

Illegal immigration in the US is not a problem that is new to American people. It is one of the issues that we have dealt with for a very long time. Illegal Immigration reform can be dated back as far as 1891, which is when the first laws on immigration was established in the United States. At this time legislators were given the right to deport people living in the US with illegal status. The act also put a tax on immigrants landing on US soil. Immigrants would have to pay a 30 to 40 cent fee and the monies collected went towards things to help the town that the immigrant has landed in. This was the beginning of the citizens starting to notice the impact illegal immigration had on the country. Although the issue was recognized legislation didn’t do so well. At that time illegal immigration was not seen as a big problem as many see it today.

As years went on, the American government used different tactics in order to regulate the excessive amounts of foreign nationals entering the country. There were quota systems which limited the amount of people that could reside in the US from one particular country. In a way, one can say this system used prejudice tactics because members of the committee decided which ethnic groups of people were most and least desirable to live in the US. In 1952 the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) was put into place. This act was basically our way of governing citizenship and immigration in the US. The INA gave authorities the right to deploy illegal immigrants once apprehended and questioned. The act also prohibited the entry of citizens from certain countries into the US. This act, also known as the McCarran-Walter act, is the basis of immigration law enforcement today. The INA relied on a national origins quota system also with a preference system for Eastern Hemisphere immigrants, and was concerned with excluding and removing subversives and communists (Weissinger).

Since the INS was first established, several amendments have been established in an attempt to put the illegal immigration crisis at ease. This paper does not go into detail on each of the legislations but it is apparent in research that the road to a perfect policy on immigration is a long one. By 1954, illegal immigration was perceived as so serious that the US Border Patrol launched “Operation Wetback” during which more than a million undocumented Mexican migrants were rounded up and deported back to Mexico (Espenshade). Within 5 years the number of illegal immigrant apprehensions dropped by 95% to fewer than 50,000 in 1959. This was a good start to correcting the problem but it wasn’t a permanent fix which brings us to the Immigration Act of 1965. It was established after the Immigration and Nationality Act and it repealed the national origins quota system. This gave people of all nations the right to migrate to the United States regardless of their country of origin.

In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act was signed into law by President Reagan. It included amnesty for aliens who could establish residence in the United States by January 1, 1982. It allowed over 4 million immigrants to rightfully stay in the US. The act also allowed employer sanctions aimed at removing the lure of employment and gave a special exception for those aliens working in the field of agriculture. The IRCA is a very detailed description of the policies that are supposed to be enforced by immigration regulatory agencies. A strong emphasis was put on the employment of illegal immigrants. It made it unlawful for employers to hire an immigrant knowing of his or her illegal status and it also made it illegal to employ a person without receiving documents required to prove that person’s citizenship. Before this act, employers were getting involved in hiring undocumented worker but once the act took place, it made the penalties for this much higher causing the numbers of employers that were not in compliance to fall.

Another issue related to illegal immigration is crime. Having an increased amount of people in the country that then, because of the Immigration Reform and Control Act, can’t work, increased the amount of crimes throughout American cities. The Immigration Act of 1990, which actually took effect in 1992, attempted to remove illegal immigrants with aggravated felony convictions (Weissinger). As far as the removal and deportation of criminals was concerned, the Immigration Act was successful but other stipulations within the act allowed for the number of visas provided to foreigners for employment-based immigration to more than double.

The focus on removing criminal aliens continued with the addition of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). This act attempted to apply retroactivity to aggravated aliens felons in the United States. Over several years over 5,000 Border Patrol agents and 300 interior enforcement agents were added to the tasks force. The IIRIRA and all of the various amendments to immigration reform are under continuous judicial review which makes it difficult for all of the different agencies regulating this to get on one accord.

A major player in the difficulty of regulating illegal immigration in the US is the fact that the actual number of illegal immigrants we have living in the US is not a known number. In addition to the number of illegal immigrants entering the US not being observed, there is also no census or other federally sponsored survey asks respondents of their legal status. Basically, we can guess how many illegal immigrants are living in the US but we will never reach an actual number. The Immigration and Nationalization Service only documents the number of illegal immigrants that have been apprehended. It does not count the number of illegal immigrants that have actually made it into the US.

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The Immigration and Nationalization Service is the main source of immigration reform. The two major functions of the INS include service to the public and enforcement. There is a right and a wrong way to enter the country and for those trying to obtain legal status in the correct way, the INS is there to help. The service provided involves processing applications for benefits such as lawful permanent residence and citizenship. In order for the strategies of the INS to work successful, interior enforcement must be the most important factor in controlling immigration. Interior enforcement includes investigations, deportation, and inspections. These are all separate units within the INS. Critics of the INS claim that much more time is spent on border control than on the investigations.

Based on the national census in 2000, the US Census Bureau puts the estimate of illegal immigrants at 8.7 million. Since then, United States immigration officials have said the number has grown by as much as 500,000 every year. It is apparent why illegal immigration is an issue for most Americans but it is difficult to find a solution that really works. Many scholars from fields such as political science, economics, geography and social science have studied and suggested their theories and beliefs on illegal immigration in America. The issue is however too complex and the window is way to big to see it from one view. Integration is needed to get a clear understanding of the effects and future of this phenomenon.


Political Science

Wessinger, PhD, George (11/7/2003).The Illegal Alien Problem: Enforcing the Immigration Laws. New York Institute of TechnologyCIBC66-327, 1-9

Orrenius, Pia (2001). Illegal Immigration and Enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico Border: An Overview. Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas1, Retrieved 2/1/2008, from www.frbd.com

Woodland, Alan D., & Yoshinda, Chisato (7/2004). Risk Preference, immigration policy and illegal immigration. Journal of Development Economics81, 500-513.


Knickerbocker, Brad (5/16/2006). Illegal Immigrants in the US: How many are there?. The Christian Science Monitor516, Retrieved 2/1/08, from www.csmonitor.com/2006/0516/p01s02-ussc.htm

Chapman, Stephen Birth Control: Another Assault on Immigration. (4/8/2006). The Chicago Tribune, p. A14

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Espenshade, Thomas (1995).Unauthorized Immigration to the United States. Office of Population Research21, 195-216


White, Deborah (2/7/2008). About.com. Retrieved February 9, 2008, from About.com: Illegal Immigration Explained-Profits, and Poverty, Social Security and Starvation Web site: www.usliberals.about.com/od/immigration/a/IllegalImmi.htm?p=1

Lecker, Tikva (2000). Foreign Aid as a Discipline on Illegal Immigration. F22, 571-577.

Jacobe, Dennis (3/27/2007). Investors Believe Illegal Immigration is Hurting the U.S. Economic Climate. Gallup News Service, Retrieved 2/1/2008

Jacobe, Dennis (9/14/2006).The Real Impact of Illegal Immigration. Gallup Management Journal

Dula, Giora, Kahana, Nava, & Lecker, Tikva (2004). How to partly bounce back the struggle against illegal immigration to the source countries. J Popul Econ19, 315-325

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