From the very beginning of its modern history, the United States have been build, nurtured and shaped to a large extend by the immigrants from all over the world. These people arrived to the States in search for new opportunities and freedom, and some people still do.
Immigration is a complex and controversial issue, as it is closely connected with such topics as homeland security, economic well-being and international competitiveness, as well as human tolerance.
Several aspects have to be analyzed while discussing the prospects of both legal and illegal immigration: economy, workforce, society, healthcare and education, etc.
Despite popular myth, research data proves immigrants bring additional benefits to the economy and employment market.
Numerous waves of immigration brought to the United States inflows from various parts of the world – some of them did not seem to fit into the community but eventually enhanced it with innovative ideas and entrepreneurial spirit offering additional productive capacity of the nation.
According to the 1990 Immigration Act (IMMACT) the annual number of immigrants should be limited to 700,000, with family reunification as the main criterion, adding to employment-related immigration. However, due to historical and current levels of illegal immigration; the factual number of non-American born people residing in the United States is far higher. According to the reports, there were 8.3 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. labour force in March 2008. Figures vary on a yearly basis as some portion of the unauthorized aliens tends to return home or dies. The numbers are still approximate due to the difficulty of measuring the illegal immigration.
Two of the three possible ways to be classified as illegal imply that a legal immigrant becomes unauthorized to stay (e.g. via staying beyond the authorized period after legal entry, or violating the terms of legal entry). Another way is entering without authorization or inspection – the largest portion of the third type immigrants either cross the U.S. border with Mexico or Canada or arrive by the sea. Illegal aliens are still unwelcome in the United States, as they are perceived as a threat to social, economic stability and national security, especially after September 11th. Most of these apprehensions have been proved wrong, including the fact that immigrants mostly take the low-cost jobs U.S. citizens tend to avoid thus bringing no threat to the vacancies, they contribute as much as $10 billion to the U.S. economy each year and none of the 9/11 terrorists was an illegal immigrant – all of them received legal tourist or study visas.
The measures taken to prevent illegal immigration activities vary from numerous amnesties (initially believed to and aimed at stopping illegal inflow) to debates on the necessity to increase the enforcement of existing laws, building a barrier along some or all of the United States – Mexico border, or creating a new guest worker program or any other type of program dealing with illegal immigration. According to the Washington Post, in the quarter of the century, the U.S. government has benefitted over 5 million people, offering seven amnesties to various categories of illegal immigrants. Last major bailout of the U.S. unauthorized alien population took place with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). However, the negative side of the act was that at least one third of the 2.7 million aliens that secured legal status obtained it fraudulently.
It is obvious that amnesty offers no clear benefits to the country – on the contrary, it might and will invoke huge costs and additional burden for the taxpayers, including legal immigrants. Even more sophisticated programs that imply heavy fees and fines, waiting lists and background checks do not guarantee the existing illegal immigrants will eventually improve their knowledge of English or increase qualification, and the input of the governmental policy returns to the initial source; moreover, some of the aliens do not seek citizenship, wishing to always have a chance to come back to their homeland.
Opponents of the Amnesty claim that it only provokes further extensive illegal immigration and the country will not be able to tolerate them all due to high costs of supporting a huge portion of unskilled and uneducated labor in a welfare state. It is clear that something has to be done with the existing means and ways of dealing with the unauthorized immigration. The nation reacts to both benevolent and hostile activities of the government. For example, Arizona, the state involuntarily letting through the absolute majority of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico, which in turn constitute the absolute majority of the U.S. illegal immigrants, has recently passed an anti-immigrant law, which resulted in mass protests and overreaction of numerous local communities hosting both legal and unauthorized immigrants. Hostility is not the option in the land of free built and shaped by immigrants. Moreover, it is clear that immigrants bring additional benefits to the country in the long run. It has been estimated that legalization of low-skilled illegal resident workers in the US would result in a net increase in US GDP of $180 billion over ten years.
As for the social and economic security and welfare, it has been proved that typical immigrants and their children will pay a net $80,000 more in taxes during their lifetimes than they collect in government services, and for immigrants with college degrees, the net fiscal return is $198,000.
The figures are quite pleasant; however, it is very important to realize that amnesty is not the best option for the current unauthorized aliens. The government continues to offer new or improved ideas on how to tackle and control the existing levels on illegal immigration. The measures proposed include Biometric Social Security Cards for verifying employment eligibility, further improvement border control and security, means for allowing entry of temporary workers and less costly ways of legalizing the workers that are already in the United States. These steps might bring benefits to both workers and the country – the main idea is to let those who wish to work to bear their own costs for the opportunity.
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