This is a research paper I did on Illegal Immigration when I was a Freshman in college. The tone of this paper may sound conservative and even insensitive at times. But bear with me and just take in some of the discussion points of the work.
by Matthew Pitaro
December 1st, 2005
I used to live in Austin, Texas and we used to have an old saying, “trespassers will be shot!” It is common knowledge that Texas law is a bit different than most of the other states in the union, but why? It is indeed legal to kill a trespasser on your own property in Texas. Perhaps Texas is concerned for the welfare of its own, or maybe, Texas’ border is often overburdened with the waves of illegal immigrants trying to get into our great nation. This is speaking in recent terms, however, to the time period of the mid 1990’s that spans to the present. Back in 1952, it was a different story. “In the United States […] it was illegal for aliens to enter the country without visas, but it was not illegal for an employer to hire such persons. Indeed, such hiring was encouraged by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 as a concession to Texan agricultural employers; the act included a provision that exempted agricultural employers from restriction on harboring an illegal immigrant” (Miller 24). Back in the mid 1950s, there was a demand for unskilled workers and we made special provisions for illegal immigrants to work in Texas. Today we shun illegal immigration.
Illegal immigration is a major concern for the United States. It is something that needs to be addressed and contained. President Bush recently made a speech in Arizona talking about his concern on the subject. “Securing our border is essential to securing the homeland. And I want to thank all of those who are working around the clock to defend our border, to enforce our laws, and to uphold the values of the United States of America. America is grateful to those who are on the front lines.” (Bush par 2). I agree with President Bush when he talks about the importance of upholding American values and enforcing out laws.
Contrary to “enforcing” the laws though, the government’s punishment for attempting illegal immigration is somewhat of a slap on the wrist. Pretty much, the trespassers who happen to get caught are told not to do it again and are bussed back to their native country. Nothing further prevents illegal immigrants from entering the Untied States. It is not likely that they will be apprehended on every attempt to cross the border. Therefore, we have a considerably large number of illegal immigrants.
We have to examine the issue more closely. Why do immigrants come here? What rights do they have? What is being done to stop them? Where is the line between legal citizenship and illegal immigration?
America is a country of immigrants. My great-great-grandfather came here from Italy legally and his name is proudly inscribed on the mantel of the statue of liberty, this country’s international symbol of freedom. My grandmother, from South Korea, was a refugee from the Korean Conflict. My enlisted grandfather met her and soon married her in Korea. While being married to an American citizen, she came here legally and in a short while, went through the nationalization process and became an American. Both my great-great-grandfather and my grandmother became skilled and productive Americans. Their hard work for becoming nationalized and learning the English language and assimilating to the world’s melting pot should be celebrated, and it is.
I am proud of my diverse heritage. When I look back on my family history, I am proud to say that my ancestors have immigrated here to better themselves and their loved ones. But if they ducked the law, and snuck into America through the back door, or by any other sleazy way, I would be ashamed to bare the family name. For these ethical reasons, I am against illegal immigration. I am not blind, however, to the positive contributions they make to our economy. But have they accumulated too many civil rights that should be exclusive to legal American citizens only? Many have driver’s licenses, health care, and public education to their kids. Eventually though, they may be eligible for a college education. The question of fairness is raised in these examples: “Why should the cluttered job market and the competitive education system be filled with illegal immigrants?” “Why should an illegal immigrant get a valid driver’s license when my tax dollars pave the roads?”
Our biggest concern with illegal immigration is the border between Mexico and the US. According to the Bear Stearns Report of January 2005, there are up to 20,000,000 illegal immigrants. The Federation for American Immigration Reform calculated the amount of illegal immigrants to be between 10,000,000 to 12,000,000 in 2005. The Pew Hispanic Research Center has deemed that there are 11,000,000 illegal aliens that same year. These numbers cannot be tabulated exactly because no one knows for sure how many illegal immigrants there are. These educated guesses do show that they are indeed staggering numbers.
In addition to illegal immigrants simply being here, there is also another concern. There remains the possibility that terrorists can sneak into this country through the Mexico/US border. Since the September 11th attack on the US, certain countries have been designated as “special interest” countries. Illegal immigrants from these countries have been able to cross the Mexico/US border. The “special interest” countries include Afghanistan, Angola, Jordan, Qatar, Pakistan, and Yemen (Hanna “Problem”).
The illegal immigration problem isn’t confined to the Mexico/US border. Heated debate over illegal immigrants having driver’s licenses has emerged currently in the Northeast. Many immigrants were getting their New York State Driver’s Licenses revoked because they do not have a valid Social Security Number. The issue here is in the process of falsifying Department of Motor Vehicles documents with bogus Social Security Numbers and obtaining a New York State Driver’s License (Bernstein “License” par 4). However, many of the illegal aliens have begun to live somewhat productive lives that others depend on. An elderly lady will lose her home health care provider whose job it is to drive her to her doctor’s office (par 6). The poor elderly lady wouldn’t be in the dilemma if the government stepped in years ago to prevent illegal immigrants from getting into this country. If there were no illegal immigrants around to be home health care providers, then a US citizen could have filled that position.
A step in the wrong direction is a proposal that was created by Fernando Mateo, who is head of Hispanics Across America and the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers. This proposal, which would allow illegal immigrants to have driving privileges provided that they relinquish their fraudulent licenses and renew a one-year permit annually, is even opposed by other immigrant groups (Bernstein “New” par 2,4). If perchance that this proposal were to be ratified as a state law, then it is like a welcome mat for illegal immigrants to come to New York under the impression that it is OK to be trespassing in driving on our property.
In response to this one-year permit however, Gouri Sadhwani brings up a good point. She said that this permit would immediately identify illegal immigrants and have them arrested and deported (par 6).
New York is shadowing a new initiative in Tennessee that has some interesting ideas for illegal immigrants getting driver’s licenses. Tennessee law states that if you are pulled over, it is under the officer’s judgment whether or not you provide a valid identification, if he deems that you don’t, then you get put in custody (par 16). In Tennessee, licenses are to be given to only people that can prove American citizenship or lawful permanent residence. Immigrants with a visa living in Tennessee would have to get one-year driving permit, just like New York (par 17). Tennessee’s statue here works because it restricts the illegal immigrants, even legal immigrants with visas, from getting a permanent driver’s license.
A driver’s license is an extremely important part of our American culture. We use it as our primary source of personal identification. We use it to get jobs, buy with credit, and do our daily banking. If an illegal immigrant, who may happen to be a terrorist, gets a driver’s license will not only have access to our everyday system of life, but be trusted by the general public as a normal, everyday, American citizen. 18 out of the 19 hijackers of the September 11th attacks had valid driver’s licenses (Bernstein “License” par 3).
Different measures have been taken to curtail the waves of illegal immigration. In 1986, California adopted the Immigration Control & Reform Act. This act requires employers to see if employees are legal residents based on their application information. California has gone one step further in the 1990’s to pass Proposition 187. Prop 187 says that anyone who uses, or sells forged or illegal documents that falsify US residency can get serious fines or jail time (Becker 49).
Another concept that may work to help contain illegal immigration is to have a much more lenient legal immigration policy. Immigration can be good for our economy, plus, its cultural and diversity aspects are beneficial to our country. If there were more lenient policies for legal immigration, then that would reduce the need to enter illegally (52).
A different theory has been brought up recently, which has stirred some controversy on all the major cable news networks. The idea is called the “We Need A Fence” initiative. It is led by Collin Hanna. His idea is to build a fortified fence along the entire border between the US and Mexico. The concept for it is quite complex and resembles a military war zone. Basically you would have an endless bush of barbed wire that is roughly eight feet high. Then you dig a trench that prevents cars, trucks or ATVs to charge rite through the fence. If you breech those first two barriers, then you reach the fence itself, but don’t celebrate yet, because it is 15 feet high and has coiled barbed wire at the top. If you got though this point somehow, you would be on an access road were patrol vehicles would be. Don’t pop your bottle of champagne yet just because you don’t see any patrol officers coming, they may be on their way because of the cameras and motion sensors you triggered. If, by the grace of God you get pass the access road, you still have to go through the fence, trench, and barbed wire that is symmetrically on the other side of the border (Hanna “Fence”).
Colin Hanna has been criticized by the media and general public as being anti-immigration. I would just say that he is determined to control the flood of illegal immigration over the US/Mexican border. He does admit that illegal immigrants don’t only come from the Mexican border, but also from the Canadian border as well. But his third party research shows that the majority of our illegal immigrants have come here through the US/Mexico side (Hanna “Problem”).
This past October, I took a trip to San Diego, California for a conference. One night, I was in my hotel and wanted to get some of the local news. I turned on the TV to see what was going on in San Diego. I found something that was quite interesting to me. Within a half hour time-span of the show, I saw three separate, yet similar, stories on the border patrol stopping a van of illegal immigrants from Mexico. San Diego is about fifteen miles from the Mexican border. As a result of the stops, the vans full of attempted illegal immigrants were told to turn around. It made me wonder though, “Were there only three vans that day? What if some got through the border patrol? If the three vans were told to turn around, what if they tried again tomorrow and ended up ducking the patrol that day?” This goes back to the theory that nothing prevents the people who want to come here illegally from trying over and over again.
The reason I bring up my experience in San Diego is to show that people are determined to come here. Building a futuristic and militaristic wall between our neighboring Mexico wouldn’t solve the problem. If a person is determined enough to come here, he/she will find a way to get through any fence. What this country needs to do is discourage the benefits and luxuries that illegal immigrants get when they come here.
In California, before Prop 187 was passed, illegal immigrants could receive the benefits of health care, and their children could receive public schooling. Now they are limited to emergency health care only (Becker 49-50).
The economic state of the United States and foreign affairs can have a great impact on immigration motives. During the great depression of the 1930s, illegal immigration was at a low. And there were only 12,000 – 15,000 illegal immigrants during the 1940s due to our involvement with World War II (Miller 20).
What is interesting to note though, are some of the common misconceptions of why illegal immigrants are here and why they are bad. Some people have argued that illegal immigrants take jobs away from potential workers who are legal citizens. The opposite seems to be true however. “Research has found that the employment prospects of native workers are only slightly reduced when immigrants enter a local labor market”(Becker 51). Some people have also said that illegal immigrants get exploited for their cheap labor. The myth is that they will not speak up or stand up for themselves out of fear of deportation. However, employers and companies are forced to raise wages, which is well above minimum wage, to make up for the labor output that would otherwise be going towards Social Security or unemployment-compensation taxes (52).
The United States of America is the greatest country in the world. People come here because of civil liberties and unalienable rights. If we keep letting illegal immigrants come here however, we tarnish the good name of the United States by saying that it’s a party that everyone is invited to. Americans work hard to make this country work. We don’t work hard to make this country work for illegal immigrants. America’s immigration policies are in place to for good reason. You can get a visa if you are a tourist interested in becoming a citizen, a foreign exchange student, or a temporary worker sanctioned to work in an international branch. To become nationalized, all you have to do is learn English and take a history test.
English must be a requirement to be a citizen of this country. My feelings towards English being a requirement go far beyond the naïve idea, “Why should an American born citizen learn Spanish to cater to illegal immigrants?” Sometimes I work really late at a local supermarket. At around 11:00pm, the floor cleaners come in and wash the floors for the overnight shift. One time, one of my managers had to tell one of the floor cleaners something pertaining to protocol. This floor cleaner didn’t understand what my manager was saying. My manager went to the next floor cleaner who didn’t speak English either. Out of the entire half dozen or so of the floor cleaners, none of them spoke English. Not only was it surprising that they all had jobs, but it just made getting the job done right and done correctly, frustrating. In actuality I do not know the legal residency of those employees, but at my most educated judgment, I would deem it questionable. Either way, in this example, it was imperative to know English, or at least attempt to understand it, so you could take direction and guidance from a manager, whether you’re an illegal immigrant, or not.
Another time, when I was younger and living in Austin, I recall in my third grade class that we were working on something extremely important on the chalk board. The final bell sounded and school was dismissed, and we needed the notes on the chalkboard to be there overnight. I don’t remember what it was exactly, but I just remember that it was important and couldn’t be erased. My teacher reassured us and said that she’d put up a sign that read, “Please Do Not Erase!” The next morning came and we settled into class. To our surprise, the chalkboard was sparkling clean. The teacher was frustrated at her self, of all people. She forgot that all the groundskeepers didn’t speak, or read for that matter, English.
This event took place in Texas. Then I didn’t know the documentation of the Hispanic workers at the school. Irrationally, I questioned their citizenship simply because they didn’t speak English. But the point is that this event potentially, or has been ,caused by an illegal immigrant who just wants the benefits of living in American. He/She expects to receive a good job and health care. He/She does not want to assimilate to our way of life. He/She doesn’t want to adopt our values. And worst of all, they won’t attempt to learn English.
Illegal immigration is something that is of great concern to this country. No matter how you feel on the situation, the fact still remains, it is against the law.
Becker, Gary S., and Guity Nashat Becekr. The Economics of Life. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997.
Bernstien, Nina. “License Crackdown Stirs Sharp Debate Hearing.” New York Times 20 Aug. 2004: 13 pars. Opposing Viewpoints
Resource Center. Gale Group Databases. NHCTC-Manchester Lib. 21 Nov. 2005 .
---. “New York Considers One-Year Driving Permits for Immigrants.” New York Times 26 Sept. 2004: 19 pars. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale Group Databases. NHCTC-Manchester Lib. 21 Nov. 2005 .
Bush, George W. “Border Security and Immigration Reform in Arizona” Presidential Speech. 28 Nov. 2005. 2:40P.M. MST. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
Hanna, Colin. “Fence_Idea.jpg” We Need A Fence. 15 Dec. 2005
---. “The Problem.” We Need A Fence. 30 Nov. 2005 .
---. “The Solution.” We Need A Fence. 30 Nov. 2005 .
Miller, E. Willard, and Ruby M. Miller. United States Immigration. Santa Barabra, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1996.