Illegal immigration into the U.S. is a billion dollar question that has fueled considerable public debate within the country in the past few years due the inherent social and economic costs that illegal immigration places on the U.S. government. Estimates from the Center of Immigration Studies within the U.S. place the total illegal alien population within the country at 11 to 13 million people, a number which continues to rise over the past couple of years (Hanson et al., 73).
While originally the U.S. used to welcome immigrants and distinguished itself as a melting pot of cultures, harsh economic realities and strained government systems have resulted in stricter immigration policies being put into effect in order to reduce the number of immigrants into the country (Cassidy, 25).
This is actually a logical move on the part of the U.S government since the country only has a finite amount of social support systems and resources to be able to take care of its current population and as such cannot support constant influxes of thousands of immigrants into the country on a yearly basis (GREENBLATT, 12).
Unfortunately, such policies have inadvertently resulted in people turning towards the use of illegal immigration into the country, seeking the potential luxuries of “the American Way of Life” as being far better than the situations they face in their home countries. The end result is an influx of literally thousands of illegal immigrants into the U.S. with most of them coming from Mexico and South American countries.
Estimates from FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) place the total cost of illegal immigration on American taxpayers as $113 billion year as a direct result of illegal immigrants utilizing state services such as educational institutions, medical care, social services and a variety of other programs that are meant to benefit American citizens but wind up benefitting illegal immigrants as well despite few illegal immigrants actually paying into the system (Hanson et al., 73).
From this it can be stated that, illegal immigration places a substantial burden on the U.S. government and as such the practice should not be tolerated due to its illegal nature which needlessly burdens the U.S. government. It is based on this that this paper will explore the views of policy makers, the media and the general public in order to gain a better understanding of illegal immigration and examine both sides of the debate.
Currently there are two sides to the debate on illegal immigration one is to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants and grant them the ability to apply for citizenship while the other is a decidedly harsher strategy where illegal immigrants that are caught within the country are subsequently detained, jailed and then subsequently deported back to their home countries.
States such as Arizona have taken the latter approach towards dealing with immigration as seen in its implementation of strict identity checks which border on racism in order to confirm whether an individual is an illegal alien or not (Thornburgh, 38). Such strategies are concerned with limiting two aspects related to illegal immigration namely the increased rates of crime within states that are attributed to illegal aliens as well as the subsequent drain on state resources that illegal aliens impose.
By taking a harsher stance on the issue it is believed that illegal aliens would be discouraged to even attempt migrating into the U.S. Unfortunately, what this strategy fails to take into consideration is the fact that despite the implementation of harsher rules on illegal immigration this has not discouraged foreign nationals from entering into the U.S. illegally due to the supposedly better conditions that exist within the country.
On the other side of the political debate is stance that allows illegal immigrants to work legally within the country and work towards citizenship at a later date (AVENDANO & BRUCE, 17 – 18).
What must be understood is that this particular stance is based off the concept of illegal aliens working jobs that normal American citizens are unwilling to do. Unfortunately, groups such as FAIR have stated that legalizing illegal aliens merely encourages more to come into the country and raises the potential for them to take jobs away from the hands of normal, hardworking American citizens.
While both positions present valid arguments what must be taken into consideration is the fact that with the current economic recession causing millions of Americans to be jobless allowing illegal immigrants to take jobs that could have gone to legal Americans makes little sense.
An examination of current trends in media representation of illegal immigration have shown a trend wherein the media largely does not portray illegal immigration in a positive light.
Instead of featuring stories indicating how immigrants risked nearly everything in order to find salvation in the U.S. they instead feature stories on how illegal immigrants are a drain on our countries resources, how crimes are commonly committed by people of Mexican and Latin American decent and how American jobs are going to illegal aliens willing to work for less.
Such stories have in fact influenced public opinion to be distinctly against policies which allow a degree of leniency when dealing with illegal immigrants. At the heart of these stories is the current economic recession and joblessness that the U.S. is currently experiencing.
By featuring stories showing how millions of Americans are jobless and that illegal immigrants are a burden on the current system many individuals have begun to associate illegal immigrants with everything that is wrong with the current U.S. system starting off a wave of racial discrimination in various communities within the U.S.
Public opinion over illegal immigration has been decidedly harsh with opinion polls showing most people within the U.S. being strongly opposed to illegal immigration. Commonly cited reasons range from illegal immigrants being considered a drain on the current social system to them being considered the source of crime in several cities.
In fact public opinion regarding illegal immigrants has actually reached a point wherein people of Mexican and Latin American descent are actually being discriminated against despite some of them being legal American citizens.
What should be taken into consideration is the fact that illegal immigrants are being considered an unacceptable facet in U.S. society but due to the fact that a majority of them originate from Mexico and South American countries has resulted in the creation of new methods of social discrimination targeting people of Mexican and Latin American heritage.
Studies examining this current trend even state that Mexican and Latin American minorities are being unfairly targeted and placed under suspicion by various police districts due to their ethnic origin rather than any perceived crime that was committed.
All of this is indicative of a trend that American society as well as the U.S. government are not willing to take an accepting stance on illegal immigration but rather are seeking harsher measures. Such attitudes can actually be connected to the various reports and news stories featured by the media which in effect vilify the concept of illegal immigration and add fuel to the fire resulting in increasing harsher measures being taken by states and communities alike.
Based on the facts presented it can be seen that illegal immigration has gotten “the short end of the stick” so to speak when it comes to both public opinion and media representation.
The fact remains though that what they are doing is a definite drain on the resources of the U.S. and as such should be prevented. If it were a case that the U.S. had unlimited resources at its disposable then illegal immigrants would be welcomed however due to the finite level of resources that the country has at its disposal such a situation is not plausible at all.
As such when it comes to illegal immigration, even though their method of representation in the media is highly biased and that general public opinion for them is unfavorable it is hard to actually find a positive line of thought regarding their continued prevalence in the U.S. due to the illegal nature of their entry into the country.
AVENDANO, ANA, and VICTORIA BRUCE. “The Labor Movement’s Solution to Illegal Immigration.” Social Policy 39.1 (2009): 17-19. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 3 Aug. 2011.
Cassidy, John. “ALIEN NATION.” New Yorker 82.8 (2006): 25-26. Literary Reference Center. EBSCO. Web. 3 Aug. 2011.
GREENBLATT, ALAN. “Seeking Solutions.” State Legislatures 37.3 (2011): 12.
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Hanson, Gordon H., Raymond Robertson, and Antonio Spilimbergo. “DOES BORDER ENFORCEMENT PROTECT U.S. WORKERS FROM ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION?.” Review of Economics & Statistics 84.1 (2002): 73. Business Source Premier. EBSCO. Web. 3 Aug. 2011.
Thornburgh, Nathan. “The Battle For Arizona.” Time 175.23 (2010): 38-43. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 3 Aug. 2011.