The debate regarding the future of more than 11.3 million undocumented immigrants who reside in the United States has dominated political, academic, social, and religious discourses for many years. Currently, there are more than 1.5 million undocumented immigrants from Asian countries. This debate has been intensified by the 2014 announcement by President Obama of executive actions that aim to prevent the deportation of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. The executive actions are tied up in court and are an extrapolation of a program created in 2012 to facilitate the documentation of illegal immigrants (Barsky, 2015).
The program’s main focus was on people who came into the United States as children and have spent their lives acclimatizing to the American culture. More than 500,000 undocumented immigrants from Asia are eligible for amnesty under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Another program that aims to provide temporary relief to immigrants is the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans. President Obama should stop the deportation of undocumented immigrants because they are important to the growth of the American economy.
History of illegal immigration
Immigration has been an important issue especially to the politics of America. Government statistics show that there are approximately 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the United States (Barsky, 2015). The commencement of illegal migration can be traced back to the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1875, the first federal law barring the entry of criminals in the U.S was passed. Five years later, President Chester Arthur illegalized the immigration of Chinese nationals, poor people, and the mentally unstable into the U.S. (Apana, 2012). This was the origin of immigration restrictions in America. The period between 1880 and 1920 was critical because more than 20 million immigrants entered the U.S. from different parts of the globe (Barsky, 2015).
The first mass immigration of people from Asia started in the 1850s during the famous California Gold Rush. In 1848, there were less than 400 Chinese immigrants in the United States. However, the number rose to approximately 25,000 in a span of 4 years (Chinese Immigration and the Chinese in the United States, n.d). Chinese immigrants moved to America to run way from conflicts and economic instability that were destabilizing the continent. During the 1850s, there was high demand for people to work in gold mines, plantations, factories, and the railroads. The high demand for labor initiated mass immigration from Japan, Korea, and South Asia. The surge in Chinese immigrants stopped after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 (Chinese Immigration and the Chinese in the United States, n.d).
Reasons for illegal immigration
Studies conducted by the Gallup Organization have revealed that the United States is the most desirable immigration destination for many people around the world. Widely described as the land of opportunities, its economy creates an environment that guarantees employment opportunities, a good life, freedom, political stability, and high-quality education and health care (Apana, 2012). The major causes of illegal immigration include economic incentives, political oppression, poverty, chain immigration, and limited avenues for legal migration (Roberts, Alden, & Whitley, 2013). People from the Middle East usually come to join their families take advantage of the numerous economic opportunities available. Illegal immigration is enhanced by American employers’ preference for illegal immigrants. They hire them because of the detrimental effects of effects of globalization, lack of legal channels for migration, and as a strategy to reduce costs of production (Apana, 2012).
The current legal system allows immigration on certain grounds that include family reunification and provision of scarce labor (Roberts et al., 2013). Therefore, low-skilled workers find it difficult to enter the U.S. due to limited availability of work permits and stringent immigration laws. The current system mainly favors highly-skilled workers who provide scarce labor that is in high demand. Only 675,000 permanent immigrants are allowed into the country annually (Apana, 2012). This number is very small considering the high demand for low-skilled workers in different economic sectors especially agriculture and the services industry.
Limited availability of visas makes illegal entry the only channel that low-skilled workers can use to pursue and take advantage of the numerous job opportunities in the U.S. (Davis, 2014). This situation will worsen because of the availability of jobs and the lure of high wages offered by employers (Roberts et al., 2013). The Migration Policy Institute suggested that processing migration applications faster would mitigate the problem of illegal migration because people would not have the urge to use illegal channels (Davis, 2014).
Treatment of immigrants
Immigrants are usually discriminated against and treated unfairly because many people feel that they have adverse economic and cultural effects. One of the issues associated with unfair treatment of immigrants is unemployment. Discourses and initiatives that oppose illegal immigration are strongest in states where rates of unemployment are high (Davis, 2014). Opponents argue that illegal immigrants take the jobs that should be offered to American citizens. Others argue that illegal immigrants affect the bargaining power of American workers because they provide cheap labor that lowers the cost of labor. However, studies have shown that many immigrants take low-skilled jobs that many Americans shun. There have been widespread complaints that the government treats immigrants better than it treats homeless and starving citizens.
This has resulted from a humanitarian crisis that has been initiated by high numbers of immigrants especially from Central America. The U.S. government provides illegal immigrants with food, housing, medical services, and vocational training (Gomez, 2015). Criticisms have been launched against welfare programs that are not effective in taking care of homeless and starving populations. Critics argue that the resources provided to illegal migrants should be given to American citizens who are homeless and starving. This has resulted to widespread criticisms targeted at Obama’s administration for prioritizing illegal immigrants over U.S. citizens who are struggling (Gomez, 2015). The move by Obama’s administration to assist immigrants has been seen as an invitation to people around the world who need help to come to America.
Government statistics reveal that there were 11.3 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. in 2014 who accounted for approximately 3.5% of the population (Goo, 2015).The population of illegal immigrants from Asia comprises people from various countries that include China, Japan, Philippines, India, Korea, and Vietnam (Lovelace, 2014). Government statistics show that Asian immigrants represent approximately 40 percent of all illegal immigrants in the U.S (Lovelace, 2014). A large percentage of Asian immigrants live in California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Texas, and New York. In recent years, many Chinese immigrants have been deported. For instance, 1,678 illegal Chinese immigrants were deported in 2012 and 2013 (Lovelace, 2014).
The Chinese population has been increasing rapidly since the 1960s thus prompting the government to take stern action against undocumented immigrants. Even though the rate of illegal immigration has declined, there are many immigrants in the country. The U.S. labor force comprises 5.1% illegal immigrants who work in different sectors and industries (Goo, 2015). The economic and cultural contributions of immigrants make their deportation a bad decision. The situation is likely to change in future for the better. For example, Obama’s administration has promised to use its resources to take care of immigrants (Gomez, 2015). This decision coupled with the executive actions to offer amnesty to illegal immigrants might encourage more illegal immigration. Future laws could offer citizenship to the more than 11 million illegal immigrants.
Why undocumented immigrants should not be deported
The main reason Obama should stop the deportation of illegal immigrants is because of their immense impact on the growth of the economy. They make immense contributions to industries that include construction, agriculture, and hospitality (Hanson, 2007). A report released by the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project revealed that the immigrant population accounted for approximately 5.2% of the U.S. workforce. In 2014, 8.4 million undocumented immigrants were working in different industries (Goo, 2015). A report released by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs demonstrated the pivotal role played by immigrants in the state’s economy. According t the report, exclusion of the population from the state’s labor market would cut the workforce by 6.3% and lower Texas’ gross state product by approximately 21% (Goo, 2015).
Agriculture is an important economic sector that primarily depends on the services of illegal immigrants. The U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that approximately 50% of workers in the agriculture industry are illegal immigrants (O’Leary, 2014). The department has also warned against anti-illegal immigration reforms because they will adversely affect the agricultural sector. An open letter written to President Bush in 2006 by more than 500 hundred economists opposed the claim that illegal immigrants are detrimental to the country’s economy (Hanson, 2007). The letter stated that Americans benefit greatly from the contributions of immigrants especially due to the role they play in providing low-skilled labor and lowering consumer prices of products and services (Hanson, 2007).
Asian immigrants play a key role in development and growth of the American economy. A census conducted by the Survey of Business Owners revealed that immigrants of Asian descent owned more than 1.5 million businesses in different sectors of the economy (Lovelace, 2014). Sales from their businesses totaled to $506 billion in 2007. In addition, the businesses were responsible for the employment of more than 208 million people. Immigrants have also made significant contributions towards the Social Security Trust Fund. According to the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, illegal immigrants contribute about 10% of the money used to finance the trust fund (O’Leary, 2014).
The positive economic contribution of illegal immigrants was supported by an economist known as Jorge Borjas. Illegal immigration has increased the average wealth of Americans by 1% primarily because of immigrants’ contributions to the growth of key economic sectors (O’Leary, 2014). Many economists have proposed immigration reforms that will facilitate the provision of cheap labor to key industries such as hospitality and construction. There is an increasing demand for services in agriculture, hospitality, and construction. Therefore, it will be beneficial to the U.S. if immigration reforms provide permanent citizenship to undocumented immigrants (Markon, 2015). They will help to lower the cost of labor and allow companies in the aforementioned industries to provide competitive prices for their products and services (Hanson, 2007).
Rise in consumer demand is another economic benefit that explains the positive impact of illegal immigrants. The money spent by illegal immigrants on basic amenities such as housing, food, and medical services is responsible for the employment of approximately 5% of the U.S. workforce. A research study conducted by UCLA revealed that illegal immigrants occupy about 3 million houses in the U.S. real estate market and engage in economic activities that generate $150 billion every year (Hanson, 2007). Employers are the main beneficiaries of illegal migration because they get cheap labor and lower their contributions to welfare programs. Opponents of illegal migration have argued that illegal immigrants do not pay taxes and therefore affect the economy. However, reports by the IRS reveal that nearly 6 million undocumented immigrants pay taxes. Many immigrants pay federal, state, and local taxes and therefore contribute o the economic growth of the country (Hanson, 2007).
Many economists and proponents of illegal migration have argued that illegal migrants support the growth of the American economy. However, they have far-reaching effects on the economy. They have lowered the average wages for American low-skilled workers such as high school dropouts and as a result, they have affected the welfare of many citizens significantly (LeMay, 2007). Moreover, undocumented immigrants exert great pressure and strain on social services that should be reserved for natives. For instance, the Obama administration is spending a lot of money to provide food, housing, education, health care, vocational training, and legal counsel to illegal immigrants. These services are exerting great pressure on the federal and state fiscal budgets. The children of illegal immigrants make up approximately 4% of children in the American public school system (LeMay, 2007).
They increase the cost of education and strain the budgets of state governments. The cost of educating the children of illegal immigrants is estimated at$11.2 billion annually. The economic costs of taking care of illegal immigrants are very high. For example, the state of Alabama spends more than $500 million annually to take care of the education and social service needs of immigrants. In California, undocumented immigrants who attend schools in the state for a minimum of 3 years get subsidized tuition in all public colleges thus increasing the costs of education (LeMay, 2007). Groups of undocumented immigrants that are eligible for Medicaid include children, pregnant women, disabled people, and the elderly. The U.S. Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act facilitates the provision health care services to people in emergency situations regardless of their legal or economic status. Emergency medical treatment provided to illegal immigrants is very expensive and is paid for by the federal government. Finally, the rising population of illegal immigrants could have negative economic effects because it could lower the country’s per-capita wealth.
Critics argue that illegal immigrants lower the probability of employment for U.S. citizens because they bring high competition to the labor market. However, the critics ignore the benefits of cheap labor to the country’s economy. On the other hand, the population of low-skilled workers is very small and mainly comprises high school dropouts. It would be irrational and economically unwise to deport undocumented immigrants so that high school dropouts can enjoy the numerous job opportunities in the low-skills labor markets. The argument that illegal immigrants strain the government’s fiscal programs and welfare programs is inaccurate because even though immigrants pay social security payroll taxes, they do not access their contributions (LeMay, 2007). Their contributions subsidize the contributions of other Americans who benefit. People also enjoy low prices as a result of the cheap labor provided by illegal immigrants. Low wages lower the cost of production and the prices of products and services.
Undocumented immigrants make immense contributions to the American workforce. Reports from the Center for American Progress showed that removal of immigrants from the workforce would have dire consequences. It would cause shortages in various industries such as construction and agriculture (Markon, 2015). It is important to consider the future of the low-skill labor market because the education levels of Americans are rapidly rising and in future, there will be very few workers available to do jobs that require low skills. Therefore, the services of immigrants will be highly needed in future. Deporting illegal immigrants would not lead to increased wages for American workers as argued by some proponents of immigrant deportation. Instead, it would affect the economy adversely because there are many low-skilled jobs that educated Americans would not even consider taking.
Providing health care services and emergency treatment to illegal immigrants is very expensive. However, studies have shown that failing to provide health care could have long-term disadvantages. For example, denial of prenatal care to illegal immigrant women could lead to low birth weight infants, still births, and premature infants. Denying prenatal care can save state governments a lot of money. However, it could have adverse effects in the long term because of increased costs of postnatal care (Markon, 2015). According to Professor of Law Francine Lipmann, the advantages of illegal immigrants outweigh the disadvantages.
The argument that immigrants spend more taxpayers’ money that they contribute is false. Lipmann argues that they contribute immensely through consumption of goods and services, investments, provision of labor that is important in many industries, and reduction of the costs of production. In addition, they make contributions to Social Security and Medicare. The taxes they pay benefit Americans, and their contributions toward unemployment insurance programs are important. The rate of paying taxes is higher than the rate of using services such as health care and recreation.
President Obama should stop the deportation of undocumented because of their immense contribution to the economy of the United States. America’s economic prosperity is the major factor that fuels illegal immigration. There are limited channels for legal migration in the U.S. hence the high rates of illegal immigration. Immigrants get jobs and receive wages that are much higher than those paid in their native countries. Several research studies by economists and government agencies have revealed that deporting immigrants who have severe consequences on the economy of the U.S. the levels of educations among Americans is rapidly rising.
Therefore, in future, there will be many low-skilled jobs available and employers will require the services of immigrants to fill them. The government spends a lot of money to provide services such as food, shelter, health care, and education to immigrants. However, the contributions they make are so huge that providing these services has long-term benefits. Contributions made by immigrants towards social security and insurance programs benefit any American citizens especially the aging population that is growing rapidly.
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Davis, J. H. (2014). United States of America Right Now. New York, NY: Xlibris Corporation.
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Goo, S. K. (2015). What Americans Want to Do About Illegal Immigration. Web.
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Roberts, B., Alden, E., & Whitley, J. (2013). Managing Illegal Migration to the United States: How Effective is Enforcement. New York, NY: Council of Foreign Relations.