Illegal immigration in the United States attracts more controversy than virtually any other subject. Virtually everyone has an opinion. In most cases, it’s a very firm and clear opinion – but it’s not always clear why they have that opinion. What’s really bothering people? Should there be a legal path to citizenship for illegals? Under what circumstances should it be offered, if it ever should? Having known a number of illegal immigrants myself, some literally accessing the only avenue that would prevent their families from starving, I’ve often had cause to ponder this massive topic.
Are illegal immigrants stealing jobs in the United States?
Employment seems to be the hot ticket in the illegal immigration debate. Detractors feel that immigrants – both legal and illegal – are taking jobs away that should go to US citizens. Some citizens even go so far as to say that this is why they themselves cannot find a job. However, illegal immigrants must stick to the jobs that don’t require authentication of citizenship. These are often working for private individuals or in agricultural jobs where minimum wages don’t apply. They may work for just a few dollars an hour, and work ungodly hours in conditions that most US citizens would never tolerate. At the same time, citizens outside of agriculture can’t legally be asked to work for less than minimum wage, so legalized immigrants couldn’t use lower wages as an advantage over other citizens during the job search.
In most cases, the illegal immigrant is with no social security number, possibly a limited command of the English language, and little or no recognized education can “steal” the less-desirable jobs of a high school kid. If that. Few, if any, take the jobs that would allow the average US citizen to earn a comfortable living wage. Is it really killing the job market if someone is sniveling up the jobs as seasonal farm workers, domestic help and food truck workers? In most cases, employers will opt for someone who can legally be on payroll, who has a native command of English, and who has strong ties in the area so that they’re likely to stay in that job.
Is deportation a good use of tax dollars?
Let’s face it – deportation is expensive. Worse, there’s a good chance that it’s ineffective, particularly in countries that are attached to the United States by land. If they found a way to get in once, it’s a pretty good bet that they know how to get back in after deportation. This is a little trickier for people who arrived by air or boat and overstayed a visa, but it still shows how deportation may be ineffective in many cases. Unless the person is a violent criminal, why use so many resources to expel him or her from the country? With a federal budget that just doesn’t want to balance, it might be difficult to justify such expenditure for someone who has committed no crime other than illegally entering the country.
Does it make sense to legalize immigrants for their financial contribution?
The lack of taxation for illegal immigrants is an excellent argument for their not being allowed to stay. However, with the cost of deportation in mind, it does perhaps make more sense to simply not have them stay illegal. Once they’re working through legal means, their income can be taxed just like everyone else’s. At the same time, a legal citizen is likely to be more productive within the economy by making large purchases – such as a car or house – at some point, while an illegal citizen most likely would not be able to get financing or sign contracts for such items. Legal immigrants can also seek higher education, potentially filling gaps in professional fields that desperately need more qualified people. Given the chance, most – if not all – illegal citizens would opt for citizenship and pay all their taxes.
What conditions should be imposed for illegal immigrants to achieve citizenship?
Should citizenship be free for the asking to any illegal immigrant? Absolutely not. It should be possible, but not easy. It is perfectly reasonable to expect a lengthy probation period, exemplary conduct in the community, and reliable employment. The key here is to allow productive individuals who are not causing trouble to stay and continue to be productive. Especially in tough economic times, the United States needs nothing more than people who will work hard and be active in the economy. Sadly, this can’t always be achieved by relying on US-born citizens.
The immigration debate often calls for more regulation and making it more difficult for people to legally come into the United States. Some potential immigrants are made to wait for years for a legal avenue to come into the country already, so stricter guidelines would only make it seem even more impossible to go through a legal route. The true solution, then, is a hard look at reasonable regulation on immigration, and a workable solution for the portion of the approximately 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States now who are productive. Citizenship for people who are willing to work hard could spell a much-needed economic boost.