Illegal Immigration and the Fall of America
The United States of America has reached its pinnacle; we are beginning our fall and cannot see why our country is failing. Americans today are unable to see how illegal immigration is ruining our country. By contrast, legal immigration has always been the backbone of our country; it is how we started this great nation. Sixty years ago our country was at a turning point. We had helped win a world war, our economy was booming, Americans felt proud to be American and we were viewed as the greatest nation in the world (Becky Bradley). America needs to get back to this point again and we can. Immigration should be legal and our sense of pride in our own country should be a source of strength. Illegal immigration is and will continue to be the downfall of our nation.
Why do people want to come to America? America has always been known as the land of opportunity, the United States of America offers some of the greatest benefits to its citizens. Health care, education, freedom of speech and religion; all of these things make our country an appealing place to live if you do not have these things right now. World War II left many people all over the world without basic services or jobs and many had nothing to lose by leaving home and traveling to America. The year 1952 saw the multiple laws governing immigration combined into the Immigration and Nationality Act. In 1953 the law was amended to allow 200,000 more refugees (Federation for American Immigration Reform [FAIR]).
President Truman stated
...We do not need to be protected against immigrants from these countries on the contrary we want to stretch out a helping hand, to save those who have managed to flee into Western Europe, to succor those who are brave enough to escape from barbarism, to welcome and restore them against the day when their countries will, as we hope, be free again...
The United States has always welcomed immigrants into this country; our only caveat should be that immigrants enter legally.
Immigration is not a bad thing; on the contrary, immigration is what makes America the melting pot of ideals, language, culture and religion that we have come to expect from our citizenry. Anyone entering the country legally, with the intention of staying and becoming a US citizen should be welcomed with open arms and given every opportunity that all citizens have, the “right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Jefferson). Illegal immigration on the other hand is wrong. Entering the country by any means other than the legal way is by definition breaking the law and should be punished accordingly. Along the border of Texas and much of the southwest, immigrants are crossing onto private land and merging into our society. One Texas ranch has actually helped immigrants get a foothold in this country, giving them room and board in return for farm labor. Federal and state agencies are called after about a dozen immigrants are on the ranch and they are collected up and processed for illegal entry. Private citizens should not be the ones responsible for enforcing federal laws.
Who is getting the better deal, illegal immigrants or those who try to use the systems that are in place and enter legally? According to the Annual Report of Immigrant Visa Applicants in 2009, “The steadily growing waiting period in this preference, now approaches ten years for countries of most favorable visa availability and even longer for some oversubscribed countries”. Ten years is a long time to wait for an entry visa. This is the far end of the spectrum, although depending on your age, marital status and many other factors you may be in this group. 2009 saw over 3.4 million applications for entry visas (National Visa Center) many of these will be on the waiting list so long that they will no longer qualify for the original category and will be placed into a new application list and wait longer. This is not the best way to facilitate persons wanting to become an American, pay taxes and contribute to society.
Illegal immigrants enter this country at a staggering rate. According to the LA Times “there were 11.6 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States in January 2006” this is triple the amount of people that applied for legal entry in 2009. According to FAIR, Illegal immigrants are eligible for “school lunch and breakfast programs, immunizations, emergency medical services, disaster relief, and others programs that are necessary to protect life and safety as identified by the attorney general, regardless of immigration status.” (Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 § 432). They are also eligible for welfare according to the 1996 Welfare Reform Bill. California, along with several other states, has already passed a law that allows illegal immigrants to get a driver’s license. With all of these benefits available, many of which are not available in their native country, why wait upwards of 10 years to take advantage of everything America has to offer? The answer is simple; waiting the specified time is the law. Although you may get put on a different waiting list, or have to go back to your home and reapply for a different visa while waiting for citizenship, it is the right thing to do and that is the main difference between criminals and productive members of society.
The first thing an illegal immigrant does is break a law. There are laws in place to support the majority of the population’s freedoms, breaking these laws, by definition, makes you a criminal. Criminals in our society are charged, tried and sentenced according to the crime they have committed. However, illegal immigrants are not being charged as criminals in many cases, they are being given amnesty, social services and government benefits. Cities like Houston, San Diego, Denver and Cambridge are actively providing sanctuary to illegal immigrants. How can we continue to allow entire communities to break the law and harbor criminals? The federal government continues to allow illegals to live, work and collect benefits even after they have been identified. They are not charged as criminals, they are not deported and they are given every opportunity to continue to live as criminals in our society, costing us billions of dollars that should be spent on the legal residents of this country.
Illegal immigration is costing this country more than just money, although the amount of money spent is staggering. “The Center for Immigration Studies estimated in 1995 that immigration costs us a net $29 billion a year” (CIS). In 2007 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published figures that estimated illegal immigration numbers over 11 million people. We were spending over 13 billion dollars in 2002 to incarcerate illegal immigrants (House Concurrent Resolution 95). In 1996 37.6% of all domestic government money was spent on illegal immigrants (Donald Huddle). The country is already broke and borrowing from foreign states now, can we really afford to spend this kind of money on criminals from other countries? Other studies put the numbers into perspective. One hundred and eighty billion dollars was spent on illegal immigrants in 1996 alone (Borjas and Hilton), that is an amazing amount of money spent on criminals that should have been stopped before ever entering the country. Imagine what kind of border security we could have for just a fraction of 180 billion. Money is always the final say in what our country is doing, why are we ignoring this fact then? Should we care how immigration is affecting our children, the crime rates in our cities and towns or how it affects our futures?
When a criminal is caught committing a crime or we become aware of the criminal act after the fact, evidence is collected, the individual(s) are tried and sentenced for the crime. This is the standard procedure throughout America. This is not the standard procedure when dealing with immigration. The average amount of time an illegal immigrant spends in jail is 32 days before being deported, when they are caught in the act. According to the Department of Homeland Security “Employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens are subject to criminal penalties of up to $3,000 for each illegal hired and/or 6 months imprisonment”. Under the new immigration reform, immigrants who are living in the US and admit to entering illegally will be given amnesty and allowed to remain here until there are willing or able to apply for citizenship, after paying a fine and agreeing to learn English (Obama). Would we give a rapist or thief the same leeway and allow them to admit they were wrong and pay a fine and go along with the life they have chosen? No, we would not. We would expect the government to prosecute these criminals to the full extent of the law and see that justice was served.
Immigrants who are caught crossing the border illegally should be charged with breaking and entering as well as any other applicable laws that were broken, tried and deported with an understanding of the consequences that are already in place. Immigration and Customs Enforcement states “Persons who enter the United States illegally are subject to criminal penalties of up to 6 months imprisonment for a first offense and up to 2 years for repeat offenses”. Why are we offering amnesty and trying to pass new laws if we cannot even enforce the current ones? People who commit criminal acts should be treated as criminals, not given a do-over like a grade school kickball game. In order to ensure future immigrants can come to a country that has laws that will protect the freedoms they want and are willing to wait for, we must enforce the laws we have.
Even if you would say that the money we spend is not an issue, that it is to help fellow human beings, it is our duty to provide for the less fortunate. What about your job? Would you be willing to give up your job? Would 13 million people in our country be willing to give up their jobs, and live in near poverty in order to help their fellow man? I do not think if faced with the question too many people would be happy to go home and not collect a paycheck. Unfortunately, that is what is happening; in most cases Americans are losing their jobs and not being asked if it is ok. We need to take our country back. We need to believe that we are the greatest country in the world. We need to allow immigrants to come to this country legally, apply for citizenship and let them continue to enrich our nation through new cultures, languages and traditions. The only way this can happen is if we stop illegal immigration and support the laws that are already in place. The greatest thing about our government is that if you do not like the way things are, all you have to do is convince people that your way is better and make a new law for others to vote on. Our government was not designed to allow any one branch to decide a law is no longer in our best interest and change it. My best interest is represented at the voting booth. We must stop illegal immigration. We must stop spending our money to help criminals that are here taking advantage of our country and the hard working men and women of these United States of America.
References available upon request...