If you’ve been paying attention to the politics of the contenders for your vote in 2016, or perhaps if you have inadvertently heard their politics, illegal immigration is dominating debates and stump speeches alike. This topic, unlike many other political issues, is fairly easy to understand, and for many immigrants or those natives with immigrant lineage, it can turn into a moral quandary dealing with American values. There’s no signs of stopping for the campaigns running on this issue, so let’s get some facts straight:
- Building a wall at the Southern border of the United States would be great (if you like to waste tax money). But that won’t stop the influx of undocumented immigrants. Not only would a physical wall blockading the southern mainland border be nearly impossible to build and cost billions of dollars but also it will not achieve the desired purpose of lessening the number of undocumented workers in the U.S. Years of study and experiment with physical borders have shown that more often than not, they end up keeping the current immigrants in rather than keeping new ones out (usnews.com). Moreover, a wall that covers about 2,000 miles of varying terrain in various conditions with various building materials will undoubtedly form something far from a complete seal.
- Undocumented immigrants are not the cause of crime. Crime rates have near universally been dropping in the United States, and criminals are statistically native born (usnews.com). From 1990 to 2013, undocumented immigrants grew from 7.9 to 13.1 percent of the population, and in this interval crime dropped by 48 percent (usatoday.com). As individuals, immigrants are also less likely to commit crimes, and the longer an immigrant stays in the U.S. the less likely he is to exhibit criminal behavior (American Immigration Council). A 2010 nationwide study by Adolescent Health simply stated: “Fears that immigration will lead to an escalation of crime and delinquency are unfounded.” So why the stigma? Having “illegal” or “undocumented” in your identifier certainly doesn’t help, but the demographics are also unappealing. Undocumented workers are most typically young men who work low-income level jobs. Just by these groupings, undocumented workers are in the suspect class.
- To say we’re in an illegal immigration crisis may be a bit of an overstatement. Not to say it is not worth discussing, but illegal immigration peaked in 2007 and has steadily decreased since then (pewresearch.com). Pew also found that Americans do not particularly care about this issue, with illegal immigration ranking #12 in most important issues. Undocumented workers do give workers with less than a high school diploma a run for their money, sometimes undercutting wages, but they? help complementary skilled workers. Salaries of complementary industries rose by 10 percent from 1990 to 2007 as a result of the productivity of undocumented workers (nytimes.com). Social welfare programs also are not taking a huge hit, with undocumented workers actually contributing more to programs like Social Security than they take out. In 2015, undocumented workers contributed $15 billion but only received $1 billion (nytimes.com).
- This isn’t the first time anyone has brought up illegal immigration as a campaign topic! Name-rhymes-with-dump may have espoused otherwise, but a look into politicians past will reveal that this discussion has been going on for a solid thirty years. Immigration is as American as apple pie, and much of the appeal of the USA comes from the “Melting Pot” mentality which was inclusive of newcomers even as the law and society frequently were not. Clinton made illegal immigration an issue on both his runs, Bush and Kerry continued the discussion in hopes of getting the Latino vote, and who can forget the coining of “anchor babies” by Sarah Palin? Don’t be bought by Trump’s “I did it first” hipster mantra− it’s just not true.
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