The Unites States of America has two neighbors. It shares its border to the north with Canada, and it shares its borders in the south with Mexico. The northern border is probably the biggest unguarded border in the world. The south border to Mexico is probably the most guarded in this hemisphere. The reason for that is because the Unites States lies in between two worlds. Canada and the USA both have a stable economy and strong currency. Mexico, on the other hand the gate to Latin America with its instability and corruptive governments. Mexico consequently became the start off base for the immense flow of illegal immigration from all over the southern continent.
The struggling of the US gets everyday more by keeping the illegal flow of immigrants out of the country. There have been reforms, treaties and billions of dollars spent to stop the illegal immigration, but nothing was successful yet. This paper will address controversial question like are illegal immigrants boosting the American economy? Can the money spent on illegal immigration become a major problem for the United States government? Does the United States lack its own cheap labor workers? Are the coming American generations too educated to work low wage jobs? Those are some questions that we need to ask ourselves if we want to talk about illegal immigration. The illegal immigrants should be granted a much easier way to receive working visas, because they are really helping the economy of the United States.
Many restrictions and many laws have been passed to deal with the illegal immigrants that are already inside the United States. A report from the Wall Street Journal by Joel Millman stated that “the number of unauthorized immigrants residing within the US is at an all time high: between seven and nine million people.”1 The numbers obviously are growing by the year. The state of California passed a very controversial law named “Proposition 187,” It was one of the most radical laws passed that attempted to prevent illegal immigration. It was later called unconstitutional. This Proposition ruled that everybody had to show any signs of legal papers like Social Security or proof of citizenship to benefit from health services, school education and many other rights. The text of the Proposition demanded that “no public elementary or secondary school shall admit, or permit the attendance of, any child who is not a citizen of the United States.”2
Another aspect of the Proposition was that “A person shall not receive any health care services from a public-funded health care facility, to which he or she is otherwise entitled until the legal status of that person has been verified.”3 What that meant was that if a person had a accident and had to be operated on and couldn’t show any sign of legal document, this person wouldn’t be attendant. The proposed law declared that Therefore, the League of United Latin American Citizens went to court, stating that Proposition 187 was unconstitutional because it was preempted by the Federal government’s exclusive constitutional authority over the regulation of immigrant. Even without the Proposition, it was hard fro the immigrants to hold ground in the US. “Illegal aliens are already ineligible for most welfare and education benefits and that working-age, legal immigrants often get less government assistance than U.S. natives,”4 says Kenneth Jost for the CQ Researcher.
The North American Free Trade Agreement was passed in 1993. It was an agreement between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. This was seen as the future and stop to illegal immigration, because the free trade would encourage Mexicans to stay in their country and would have provided with better work opportunities. An article written by David Masci, a staff writer for the CQ Researcher stated that “It was hoped that over the long term, NAFTA would invigorate Mexico’s economy, giving Mexicans a reason to stay home instead of seeking work beyond their borders, “5 Masci shared that The treaty has lived up to most of those ideas, because it has resulted in “impressive growth in Mexico’s gross domestic product since its passage.”6
By opening trade with Mexico, the United States was able to change the 75-year old Mexican monopoly on political power. The reigning Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) governed Mexico more like a dictatorship rather than a democracy. “NAFTA helped break the lock of the PRI on governing institutions because the ruling party didn’t have the control over the economy that it once did…”7 said Masci. In the Mexican elections of 2000, Fox, the newly elected President got into power and therefore changed the whole system. It was a very significant because it was the first time that somebody came to power from another party.
If NAFTA worked so well, why did the numbers of illegal immigrants do increase by the year? Masci commented that the answer is simple, because NAFTA “benefited big-business interest at the expense of the country’s lower middle class and working class.”8 The problem, therefore, is that Mexico’s vast majority is poor, so NAFTA “disrupted commerce in Mexico, forcing businesses to lay off many of the country’s workers, who then had to seek new, lower paying jobs.”9
President Bush came up with another idea that was tried in the past without much success. Bush planned a reform that would “allow as many as 2 million Mexicans living illegally in the United States to become permanent residents,”10 reported McLaughlin who is a staff reporter of the Christian Science Monitor. This was a good idea for reforming and dealing with all those illegal immigrants that lived in the United States already. The problem is just that the idea spread so fast that a border rush would become inevitable. In 1986, the government did the same, and granted amnesty to nearly 3.2 million4 illegal immigrants. Now, there are around 9 million, as mentioned earlier, and the result is that amnesty simply makes the problem worse. Why? That is very simple, because that way the illegal immigrants get encouraged to stay long enough and wait until the government grants amnesty again. The new policy by Bush does not even have a “get-tough element, [which gives] the people the message that America’s doors are open wide,”9 says McLaughlin. This law is supposed to protect the jobs of American workers, and all it does is allow illegal immigrants to come here and to be exploited by their employers, especially when there are no get-tough elements. The main mood about Amnesty is very clear and McLaughlin states that Bush’s plan states clearly “If u sneak in and keep your head down, we’ll eventually give you a green card.”10
With all those laws, and reforms, the main question is: how much taxpayer money gets spent in protecting the Mexican boarder? The problem that the boarder patrol faces now is that the immigrants do not enter through the original points where big cities are located. Now, they are crossing the border anywhere including deserts. Joel Millman, a staff writer for the Wall Street Journal, came to the result that “despite tripling the total annual budget for boarder patrol since 1995 to more 2.5 billion this year-the total number of unauthorized immigrants residing within the U.S is at an all-time high.”11 The other problem that the boarder patrol is facing is actually, because it is much less back and forth migration. The illegal immigrants once they are here are most likely to stay in the United States. The end effect of spending so much money has forced the government “[to] impose burdensome regulations on American employers and dramatically increase spending on boarder control,”11 say’s Daniel Griswold from the Wall Street Journal about the money issue concerning the boarder patrol. Patrick Marshal from the CQ Researcher lists a very interesting list of numbers and data that show the real issue about immigrants. The fact is that it is not only the border patrol but “customs and immigration agents must monitor 7.500 miles of land and sea boarders, dozen of airports and 300 official ports of entry. They also monitor the 11 million trucks, 2.2 million rail cars and 7.500 foreign-flag ships that enter the country each year.” 12
Although they face many difficulties, illegal immigrants continue their journey thru the desert. Even tough they could be killed or dye of dehydration, or get picked up by the border patrol and sent back, they still never stop trying. What drives them? Griswold stated: “Migration from Mexico is driven by fundamental mismatch between a rising demand for low -skilled labor in the U.S. and shrinking domestic supply of workers willing to fill those jobs.”13 The American population looks for greater jobs, jobs with more money, with a better future. Mexican, and other immigrants coming from low wages in hard working economies, are happy with those jobs. They don’t need much practice and America indirectly needs those workers because nobody wants them. “Americans understandably have better things to do with their work time than to wash windows, wait tables and hang drywall,”14 stated Griswold. This is a very common mentality here in the United States, and much of it has to do with the growing numbers of the educated generation. “The supply of American workers willing to do such worker continues to fall because of an aging workforce and rising education level.”15 Mexican immigrants provide a ready source of labor to fill that gap. The problem again is that there is no easy, legal way for those work-ready immigrants. Therefore, most of the times there are no other opportunities for them except illegal means of work.
How can we change this situation is the question that of many Presidents. International trade was tried and it did not really work out. NAFTA did not bring the fruits that the US expected. Masci clearly states by saying “the treaty was an attempt by businesses in the United States to create a low-wage manufacturing platform close to their market,”16 instead of building a Mexican nation, which would help stop the flow of illegal immigrants. That would have been a very logical step to do. The money that is spent now on border patrol could have been saved or spent to fight terrorism. This would free up “thousands of government personnel and save an estimated $3 billion a year,”17 says Griswold.
What would really boost up the economy here in the US would be a system of a temporary work Visa, which would invite immigrants to come and stay for seasons. That would give a good image to the United States and encourage immigrants to come and only come for work. I agree with Griswold that the “current immigration law has made lawbreakers out of millions of hard-working, otherwise law-abiding people immigrant’s workers and natives employers alike- whose only “crime” is a desire to work tighter in our market economy.”18 Especially the Mexicans are very close to their own country and if they can return after the season and know they will come back next year, this would produce a very peaceful workers relationship between the two countries. If those workers would return to their families with American dollars, they would surely spend it in Mexico and the economy would benefit from it, because more people would be able to buy goods. David Masci sums this very controversial issue very well up. I think this comment from him; explain very well where we stand about immigration in the US:” Unskilled workers created by higher levels of immigration have greatly contributed to the nation’s prosperity.”