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Illegal Immigration

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"E Pluribus Unum"-- from many, one. We are a nation of immigrants, yet still must constantly be reminded of our shared heritage with those currently setting out for America. Immigration benefits our country, permitting immigrants to better themselves as they enrich the United States. Still, we are unable to admit all those who wish to start new lives within our borders, and ultimately many of those denied legal entry still fight to achieve the better life America has to offer.

Illegal immigration today is having devastating effects on our country, occurring at historic rates and far exceeding that of any other time in our history. Illegal immigration spurns violence and crime on the border, takes jobs away from our citizens while lowering wages, and costs the federal and state governments millions of dollars each year.

The U.S. Border Patrol estimates that more than eight million illegal immigrants reside in the United States, and half a million more continue to cross the border each year. These immigrants, about a third of whom originate from Mexico, are posing a serious strain on our economy and job market. Mexican immigrants in particular are estimated to earn ten times the wage in the U.S. as they earn in Mexico, making the illegal trek into America even more alluring (U.S. Census Pg. 2).

Illegal Immigration has grown into a specialized industry, dealing jointly in the trafficking of human lives and drugs. Lance Izumi, a journalist for Capital Ideas, points to the fact that nearly 15 percent of California's state prison inmate population is made up of illegal aliens (approximately 22,000 prisoners), and that in 1997-98, the state expected to spend half a billion dollars for incarceration and parole supervision of convicted illegal alien criminals. In Los Angeles, 95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide (which total 1,200 to 1,500) target illegal aliens and up to two-thirds of all fugitive felony warrants (17,000) are for illegal aliens (MacDonald Para. 8).

Aggravating the problem is the fact that the economic benefit and burden of illegal immigration is not evenly distributed. Instead, according to Gordon Hanson in his book Why Does Immigration Divide America, "Capital owners, landowners and employers capture most of the benefits associated with immigration, which they enjoy in the form of higher returns from the low cost of labor" (Pg. xi). Taxpayers in high immigration states ultimately shoulder most of immigration's fiscal costs, which they bear in the form of higher taxes that go to pay for the public services used by immigrant households.

While some might argue that the best solution to illegal immigration constitutes sealing our borders or engaging in the mass deportation of those illegal immigrants already residing in the U.S., there is a better solution. We need to revamp our immigration policy to allow for increased legal immigration and grant some kind of temporary amnesty to those currently in the U.S. At the same time we need to tighten immigration controls and better enforce our current laws.

The absolute fortification of our borders would result in what Tamar Jacoby calls in her article Debating Immigration "a virtual police state" (Jacoby Pg. 2). This policy can only incite increased determination on the part of those attempting to cross and lead to further border violence and unrest. The reality, as Hanson points out, is that "after the United States dramatically increased border enforcement in the early 1990's, illegal immigration actually increased" (Hanson Pg. 63). The only people who could stand to profit from this policy would be the smugglers and forgers whose help would be increasingly needed for the immigrants to stay ahead of the law.

The mass deportation of illegal aliens is impossible and impractical. Many of these illegal immigrants now have homes, families and businesses in America, and have taken major steps towards completely assimilating into our culture. As Jacoby points out, "sooner or later we must face up to the reality created by the more than 30 years of willfully blind immigration policy...(but)... attrition would be a disaster, all but crippling the economy" (Jacoby Pg. 2).

The best option is to increase legal immigration



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