21 Jan 2010
With millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States and at least half a million being able to gain access into the country annually, it is no doubt that they have an extensive effect on the country. It has been argued that illegal immigrants put a strain on the economy of the country and can be a social nuisance. They also have a major influence on the various decisions and policies that are made in the country. Whether the net effect of illegal immigration is positive or negative is still subject to debate.
This paper shall begin by looking at the definition of illegal immigration. Then the various effects that illegal immigration has on the United States of America (U.S.) will be examined. These effects include social effects, economic effects, political effects, environmental effects among others.
Illegal immigration can be defined as disobeying the immigration rules of a destined country by disregarding the right protocol of moving into that country. It involves crossing international political borders through water, land, and air improperly. Illegal immigration can also include entering another country in the right manner but refusing to leave after the expiry of one’s visa. Illegal immigrants are sometimes referred to as aliens. Most of the illegal immigrants to the U.S have two popular ways of entering the country. The first is through crossing the U.S Mexico border, the other is through over staying their visas. Most of the illegal immigrants in the U.S are from Canada, Mexico, Europe and Africa. The effects of immigration are felt more intensely in states where large numbers of immigrants have settled in relation to others. Such states include New Jersey and California. Illegal immigration impacts the Nation and the lives of the natives in different ways and to different degrees depending on their social status and interests.
Illegal immigrants engage in criminal activities which lead to increased crime rates. Some of the criminal activities that are largely associated with illegal immigrants include dealing with drugs such as heroin and marijuana. Also, there is stealing of identities. When the government introduced new laws demanding employers not deliberately hire illegal immigrants in 1986, illegal immigrants began stealing identification documents and social security numbers from U.S citizens to enable them get work. The unique thing about identity theft in comparison to other types of crimes is that it is usually not carried out singly but in association with other crimes such as financial crimes like credit card theft .Also, those who steal the documents utilize them to try and get permanent residency and acquire other privileges that are due to U.S. citizens. The acceleration of identity crime in the last couple of years has been attributed to the advancement in technology. For instance the internet has increased the amount of personal information that can be accessed illegally. However, in most instances crimes committed by illegal immigrants go unreported.
The government usually has to bear the costs of illegal immigrants when they utilize social services. In relation to citizens, most illegal immigrants heavily rely on government social services such as schools. On the other hand, they do not utilize other government services as much such as health insurance. This is due to poverty and in trying to avoid leaving behind a trail which can be followed by legal authorities. This could lead to loss of lives in case of accidents according to (Smith, Edmonston 6)
Trafficking and exploitation
Some parts of the U.S border are very remote, and can sometimes be used by immigrants to smuggle people and controlled substances into the U.S. state. About 50, 00 people are smuggled into the U.S every year with most of them coming from Asia and former Soviet Union. Since most illegal immigrants have no legal documents or have their papers and identification documents taken by those who smuggle them in, they, especially women and children, end up being exploited. They can be used as sex slaves or forced to do physically demanding jobs with meager pay under appalling working conditions as argued by (Miko, Park 6). The young children are commercially traded in the market for adoption with Russian mafias coordinating the activities. A majority of the children are trafficked from Mexico to be sold off to people who are not interested in going through the lengthy process of legal adoption. Most of the trafficked people end up in larger cities such as Carolina, California and New York.
Harsh Transit conditions
A number of illegal immigrants end up dying or seriously injured while on transit. This is usually due to difficult conditions since they pass through places that are isolated in a bid to avoid detection by legal authorities, and the nature of the journey which is usually long. Also, they suffer from shortage of food, water, medicine and other supplies. Illegal immigrants get deceived by coyotes who promise to get them safely into the U.S and in some instances end up dumping them in harsh undesignated areas such as deserts. Often, illegal immigrants travel in overcrowded vehicles which may be mechanically defective. During the journey they stand the risk of being robbed, sexually abused, violently assaulted and used as ‘mules’ to transport illegal substances into the U.S.
Because most illegal immigrants do not undergo the necessary medical testing, they end up carrying illnesses into their host countries. For instance Malaria, which had been absent in the U.S for a while showed up in certain states such as California, New Jersey and New York. In the 1970s and 1980s, the U.S government and other Western countries had made milestones in their public health systems (Lutton12). They had found vaccines for most diseases and improved medical conditions so that they had been able to put under control various diseases. Further, to keep diseases at bay, the government came up with health requirements to be fulfilled by most immigrants coming into the country. Section 12 of the Immigration and Nationality Act stated that admission was to be denied to immigrants infected with certain diseases especially those that were contagious such as Tuberculosis, leprosy and mental illnesses However, following the March 15 1980 request by the Attorney General to lower the health standards and 1965 immigration Act, illegal immigrants entered the country in large numbers. This saw the re-introduction of various diseases in the U.S which were commonly found in third world countries as most of the immigrants crossed the borders without being medically examined first. In September 1995, the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) released a report Infectious Disease, A Global Health Threat which led to calls for a re-look at the public Health Policy due to the eminent dangers. The white House formed a committee led by Al Gore- Committee on International Science, Engineering and Technology (CISET) which confirmed that indeed HIV/AIDS, other infectious and drug resistant TB had been introduced into the country. Other sources also confirmed the incoming of foreign diseases such as the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in 1993 was able to link Tuberculosis to immigration, with the highest infection rate being in California with 61 percent of the infected not being natives. By 1995 the numerical growth of those infected by TB rose by 55 percent between 1986 to 1995 as the number of illegal immigrants increased in the country. In 2000 Centre for Disease Control stated that majority of those infected were from the Philippines. Along the U.S Mexican Border, investigations revealed that out of 17, 651 illegal immigrants apprehended at the border in 1999 in Texas about forty nine percent of them had Tuberculosis bacteria. Furthermore, sixteen percent of immigrants from the Hispanic region had Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) infections. Dengue Fever also appeared in the 1990s along the U.S Mexican Border. Other diseases that are also attributed to being spread by immigrants included leprosy, Malaria, Hepatitis according to (Lutton 12, 14).
Illegal immigrants provided competition to the U.S citizens on the few job opportunities that were available. Considering the fact that illegal immigrants who had low skill levels flooded the job market, this subsequently led to depreciating working conditions and reduced compensation for legal immigrants and U.S citizens. This is because illegal immigrants were usually willing to accept less than the required minimum compensation and do without other benefits such as insurance cover. Going by the study done by Dr. Donald Hudle in 1996, about seven hundred and thirty thousand Americans jobs were being taken over by illegal immigrants every year according to (Restoring Common Sense). Subsequently, illegal immigrants made U.S employers to develop a lax attitude towards their employees and seriously limited future career growths of citizens. On the other hand, illegal immigrants usually had the required job skills that are demanded by the market, making industries to expand further. Moreover, illegal immigrants are expanding and diversifying into other industries. While traditionally most of them were centered in the agricultural industry they are now in the manufacturing, food and construction industries. Immigrants lead to changes in the wages patterns of most U.S citizens with the estimate being that between 1980and 2000 the wages of citizens decreased by up to three percent with low skilled workers with less than a high school education falling by at least 9 percent according to (Hanson 9, 20). Illegal Immigrants also cause competition for public services due to their large population which causes overcrowding for instance in schools.
Illegal migrants do most of the work in the U.S economy that other citizens are not willing to do. This means that the economy is dependent on them. Most immigrants do a lot of work, thus end up contributing significantly to the gross domestic product of the country. Also, illegal immigrants are suitable for the labor market as they are the most flexible and are willing to move to different locations as demanded by the labor market. If there are no illegal immigrants, the labor force will be reduced by five percent and low skilled U.S labor force by ten percent according to (Hanson 20). If this labor is lost, the prices for goods and services will significantly increase, and the income of employers and income of other citizens will reduce. Again, illegal immigrants help in facilitating natives to join the work force. For example women who did housework are freed to join the main work force and pursue careers.
A lot of time and money has been spent in manning the U.S borders, especially the U.S. -Mexico border. This is because in the last couple of years the number of illegal immigrants have increased from five to twelve million. This led Congress to tighten security measures along its southern border by increasing border patrols. The time spent on patrol was increased by almost two and a half times between 1990 and 2005 according to (Hanson 3, 10).
As of 2008, President George Bush had made a proposal to use 13 billion on to beef up security at the borders including $1 billion more to construct fences to prevent further illegal immigration using the U.S Mexican border. Since 2001 Congress has increasingly increased the amount of finances budgeted for the U.S borders to try and seal them off. The cost of curbing illegal immigration increased substantially. This cost includes detention and deportation of large groups of immigrants which could rise to about five hundred thousand in a year.
Illegal immigrants tend to increase the economic costs of the country “By lowering domestic wages and raising expenditures on public services such as health care and education” as stated by (Hanson 19). They also affect public expenditure and income tax revenues. With those who have large families being the most heavily dependent on public support systems hence creating a drain on public funds as they utilize public utilities such as roads, and medical centers. This ends up affecting citizen taxpayers negatively. As much as illegal immigrants pay taxes such as payroll, sales, property and withholding taxes their use of the public such as health and education is significantly high with the net effect being that they use more public funds than they pay out in taxes.
The Centre for Immigration Studies (CIS) estimated that the amount of money spent by the state on illegal immigrants by 2002 was $10 billion dollars more than they received as taxes from the immigrants which were equal to 0.1 percent of the total Gross Domestic Product for that year according to statistics by (Hanson 24). The arrival of highly skilled immigrants has a minimal positive effect on the incomes of citizens of U.S while increase in the number of low skilled immigrants has a minimal negative effect on the incomes of the U.S citizens. The cost of incarcerating illegal immigrants rests with the tax payers. With the Federal Bureau of Prisons estimating that about three tenths of those in jail are illegal immigrants. Also, due to falsification of documents, some of them are able to get welfare. With the estimated cost of supporting an illegal immigrant after subtracting their tax payment is about 45 billion dollars.
Patricia Cotes found out that in those states with large immigrants experience a fall in costs in areas such as housekeeping, gardening, and child care among others. It’s difficult to estimate the net economic effect immigrants have on the economy as this will require data about income and expenditure habits of illegal immigrants. This is usually difficult to determine which has led to lack of information at the national level as to the real economic impact of immigration. However, plenty of studies have been carried out in California and New Jersey by the National Research Council (NRC) which have a large population of immigrants. With the conclusion showing a negative net fiscal impact on the economy. Medically, most of the illegal immigrants are unable to pay for treatment. For instance the Medical Centre in Tuscon stated that illegal immigrants cost them about $10 million. The Arizona Ambulance Association reported that $3 million dollars of costs which were overdue were owed illegal immigrants according to a report by (Arizona Bureau 25).
There has been an increase in fraud especially Medical fraud carried out by illegal immigrants according to (Lutton18). This was foreseen to cause shortage of finances for the health sector for many years to come. For instance in Arizona the Department of Health was frauded out of $15 million. Most of the 20 defendants were Nigerians who accepted committing the crime. They fraudently charged Medicare for patients with inflated prices for prescriptions or refused to deliver already paid for orders. They did this with the help of U.S nurses.
POLITICAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL EFFECTS
It has been argued that illegal immigrants might just have an effect on the political landscape of the U.S. as immigrants are able to influence voting patterns and affect election results. There is evidence to suggest that immigrants can be engaged in the process of voting and be influenced to vote in a certain no matter how minimal as argued by (Hanson 3). Illegal immigrants can be engaged in the process of voting, ultimately affecting the voting results. For instance the 2000 presidential elections between President Bush and Al Gore could have been significantly affected by illegal immigrants voting considering how close the election was. It has been proved that non citizens can easily register for voting and participate in the electoral process hence influence election results. This is one of the factors that prompted the U.S Congress to establish a Commission on Immigration Reform to do research and make necessary recommendations on the problem of immigration in 1995 according to (Smith, Edmonton 3).
Also, illegal immigration has led to the introduction and amendment of laws a number of times in an effort to curb illegal immigrants from accessing housing, jobs and other public services. The most notable enactment was the Immigration and Reform Act of 1986 which required employers not to employ illegal immigrants deliberately. To effect this, employers had to ask their prospective employees to show proof that they were legally allowed to work in the country. This could be done using one out of a number of documents such as a driving license and INS permanent resident card. After which, employers have to fill out INS form I -9. Government and local states have also responded to the issue of illegal immigration by passing new acts.
Illegal immigration serves to undermine the process of legal immigration. Those who want to legally migrate to the U.S usually have to wait for long periods, with most people waiting for at least five years to get a visa. Considering the fact that most illegal immigrants are able to live safely in the U.S without being deported and in some instances granted permanent residency, most people are tempted to migrate illegally. Only a small proportion of illegal immigrants are deported every year in relation to their total number. With the Department of Homeland Security mostly being able to track those immigrants who have been engaged in crime. By 2003 only 186,151 immigrants were deported mostly after having committed a crime. This might get out of control as “Continuing high levels of illegal immigration might undermine the rule of law and weaken the ability of the U.S government to enforce labor- market regulations” as noted by ( Hanson 4).
Illegal immigrants have impacted the environment too. They have affected various groups in society for instance farmers. They impact the natural, cultural, human resources and the land (Arizona Bureau 11).
Property and insecurity
Illegal immigrants have led to damage of property especially when large groups of immigrants pass through a territory. An example of a common damaged property is cut fences. Farmers and government have to repair these fences at an extravagant cost. Properties are also vandalized by aliens as they pass through the land. For instance vehicles, houses and other property. Again, it becomes difficult for federal employees to work and live in certain areas which are especially known as smuggling zones. This makes it difficult to attract employees into accepting such jobs. These areas are usually insecure and visitors or employees fear going into such zones in case they run into illegal immigrants and the general public become reluctant to acquire such land due to the dangers involved. Government and federal employees don’t feel safe even as they are carry field work. This forces them to be sent out in teams as they cannot go out individually. Since smugglers want to get off at high speed this usually results in accidents as they can run down people for instance using cars or pose a danger to security personnel like cops when they are stopped at barricades. Aliens are also known to break into people’s personal houses, businesses and offices that are located on federal land with money, firearms and property being stolen. This has cost the government a lot in claims. The Bueno Aires National Wildlife Refuge has tried to deal with this by adding grills into their building, used safes and dogs but this has not deterred the aliens. Also, the aliens harass people who live near the borders for water, food, medical supplies and shelter.
Vegetation and animals
Due to the huge number of alien’s crossing over into the land, a huge number of trails have been left in their wake. This serves to destroy vegetation such as cactus and others. It also prevents the growth of other vegetation and interferes with other animals that stay in that area. Some of the wildlife that are directly affected includes birds which have lost their breeding ground which usually takes place in trees and scrubs on the ground. This has led to most of the birds abandoning their nests in favor of other places. It also leads to soil erosion due to the thousands of people who pass through the land almost on a daily basis. It also affects banks of water bodies and causes confusion to legitimate users over the right federal trails (Arizona Bureau14). Aliens also uproot vegetation as they move about the land as they sometimes use pull out plants to use them to make temporary shelters. Extinct plants such as the Huachuca water umbel have been are in danger of completely disappearing as most illegal immigrants use the areas where they grow as strategic rest points and to wait for transportation. Aliens also uproot the vegetation to cover up their drug loads or other illegal substances. On the other hand, various plants can be transported by illegal immigrants into the host country. These plants could be potentially harmful as they could be weeds which could be easily carried by clothes such as Lehmann Lovegrass, Cheatgrass among others. This can pose a risk for local plant species.
Also, most aliens use vehicles and dump them when they cannot further use due to impassable terrain or vegetation. Also when they develop mechanical problems such as flat tires. This costs the government a lot as they have to tow away the abandoned vehicles and get rid of them. Abandoned vehicles also have a number of pollutants such as Gasoline and oils, which can spill out and harm the environments. Cleaning up such spills is quite time consuming and expensive for the federal government.
The federal border fence with Mexico has been severally cut many times. This is quite costly in constant repairs. When this border fence is cut, it is left open and animals such as horses and cattle can pass through. This also encourages cattle rustling from Mexicans who enter into America and can carry out raids on American farms and drive the livestock into Mexico. Destruction of property often leads to reconstruction severally by federal funds which is quite costly. For instance a fence at the Coronado National Forest has been destructed and rebuilt several times that it has been rendered ineffective severally preventing safekeeping of extinct wild animals.
Again, various wild fires have been caused by fires which have been lit and carelessly left by illegal immigrants as they move about. Fires that have been lit and abandoned by aliens have led to wildfires which have led to destruction of natural resources and property such as residential areas and federal buildings. The 1994 Miller Peak Fire in Coronado National forest could have been caused by such a fire. The fire cost upto1 million in expenses. For instance in 1994-1999 the fire brigade spent more than five hundred hours trying to put out twenty fires at Bueno Aires National Wildlife Refuge costing about $34,000 according to (Arizona Bureau 16). More money was spent on support and other needs such as on the equipment maintenance and repair of aircrafts and fire engines.
Most aliens also live trash lying around such as food remains, plastic bags, back packs, clothing, and containers among others. This impacts land and vegetation, and usually washes into water bodies creating pollution. This can seriously affect human and animal life health wise due to the spread of viruses and bacteria. This trash can cause death when taken in by wildlife or domestic animals such as cattle.
Illegal immigration can lead to creating an atmosphere where terrorists can be able to easily gain access into the U.S hence increasing insecurity. This is because terrorists can pass themselves off as illegal immigrants as they blend in while intending to harm the public. If a bunch of poor, illiterate illegal immigrants can successfully penetrate into the United States, how much more a group of well organized criminals who are well funded.
Again, complications can sometimes rise when authorities try to deport illegal immigrants. For instance in the case of Elvira Arellano from Mexico who had a U.S son by birth and sought refuge in a church to try and prevent herself from being deported so that she did not get separated from him.
Court systems also face increased work load, and spend a lot of time and finance dealing with cases involving illegal immigrants.
There is still on going debate as to whether illegal immigration has negative or positives effects to the U.S, some people argue that illegal immigration is good for any country as is usually followed by periods of growth. Others state that illegal immigrants pose a challenge to the government and should be gotten rid of. All in all, illegal immigration especially affects those that are at low levels of society. Due to the competitiveness that illegal immigrants bring, those who are lowly educated and socially placed are the ones who are most vocal in their opposition of illegal immigration. With those in the most populous immigrant states being the most loud. Again, tax payers who live in states which have large numbers of illegal immigrants are against illegal immigration.
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Hanson, Gordon. “The Economic Logic of Illegal Immigration.” The Irene and Bernard Schwartz Series on American Competitiveness. Apr. 2007. 8 July 2008 <http://www.cfr.org/content/publications/attachments/immigrationcsr26.pdf>.
James, Smith P., and Edmonston Barry. “The Immigration Debate: Studies on the Economic, Demographic and Fiscal Effects of Immigration.” The National Academies Press. 1998. 8 July 2008 <http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=5985&page=3>.
Lutton, Wayne. “The Social Contract. Immigration and Public Health.” 2003. 9 July 2008 <http://www.thesocialcontract.com/pdf/fourteen-one/xiv-1-12.pdf>.
Miko, Francis, and Park Grace. “”Trafficking in Women and Children: The U.S and International Response. Report for Congress.” Congressional Research Service. 6 Mar. 2003. 10 July 2008 <http:///assets.opencrs.com/rpts/rl30545_20030306.pdf>.
“Restoring Common Sense to America’s Immigration System.” Federation for American Immigration Reform. 2005. 8 July 2008 <http:////www.fairus.org/site/pageserver?pagename=iic_immigrationissuecenters7443>.