The recent presidential debates have inspired a lot of talk regarding immigrants in the US. In some cities, hate crimes against immigrants were witnessed, and everywhere the situation feels tense. Immigration has always been a controversial topic in the United States and was even present in the early days when Benjamin Franklin worried that an influx of German immigrants would erode America’s British culture. While many reasons have been posited as to why immigrants are dangerous to the US, the reasons always feel superficial. This paper hopes to show that the current tension around immigrants is misguided and immigration should be embraced particularly in this modern age.
Recently there has been an upsurge of anti-immigrant rhetoric driven by politicians, media personalities, and other high profile figures. Most of the anti-immigrant rhetoric present in the presidential campaigns bordered on promoting violence against immigrants. Groups that are against illegal immigration such as NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies have also been biased in their approach towards immigration reform. While they have attempted to keep a clean image, these organizations have often been linked to extremists in the anti-immigration movement (Messerli). National media personalities such as CNN’s Lou Dobbs have also contributed to the spread of hateful rhetoric, especially against immigrant minority groups. In a 1993 inquiry by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), it was found that telecommunication has been frequently used in advocating for hate crimes against immigrants (NTIA).
What is striking about these trends is that there has been no public outcry on the danger they pose to freedom and liberty in American society. Already, such rhetoric has caused protests to arise in some states such as the protests in Murrieta, California in 2014 when angry citizens waving American flags blockaded three buses filled with 140 immigrants. Cases of citizens taking the law into their own hands have increased, and clashes between Americans and immigrants have spiked. The Ku Klux Klan has used the anti-immigrant bubble to fuel racial frustration and boost its membership (Fox). With such radical groups taking root, it can only be hoped that the anti-immigrant rhetoric will be stopped before it boils over into a large-scale confrontation.
Reasons against Immigration
Take Away American Jobs
One of the biggest causes for the debate on immigrations has been the idea that immigrants take away American jobs. These critics posit that many American firms favor immigrants since they take lower pay and work more hours (Frum). As such, many Americans are forced to compete for these jobs and take lower pay as the laws of economic supply push wages down. These critics have a reasonable argument since there are over a million citizens who are out of work. There is, however, no evidence to support this notion, as employment in the USA is caused by numerous factors including the educational background. The competition noted is also low, as many immigrants take up the low-paying jobs that many Americans do not want. These immigrants are also responsible for the creation of jobs through their entrepreneurship ventures.
Another reason offered by opponents of immigration is that it undermines the liberty of American people who have to accommodate immigrants and their culture. Since the American constitution protects the liberties of all, some things that were commonplace to Americans would become restricted or prohibited as they would offend immigrants who are from diverse cultures. An example of such prohibition is when some high school students were forbidden from wearing American flags to school on Cinco de Mayo since doing so would presumably provoke immigrant students who might then react violently (Friedersdorf). Another issue is the current debate on prayers in schools where schools have been banned from holding public prayers.
Tied to the undermining of liberty is the alleged disappearance of national identity. Many people feel that America has transitioned from a place where immigrants adopted the customs, language, and culture of America, and today there are numerous distinct social groupings. As politicians continue advocating for multiculturalism, immigrants have been motivated to maintain their own distinct cultures. Immigrants are also advocating for their own cultures, as witnessed during the recent protests against the immigration debate where protesters waved Mexican flags and shouted anti-American slurs.
It should be noted that such cases of undermining liberty are not primarily caused by immigration but rather by globalization that has led to the assimilation of many cultures. Even without immigration, intensifying globalization means that people have ready access to numerous ideas and material without having to cross borders. People are thus being influenced by a lot of forces, leading to a diversification of society and a need to accommodate the needs of everyone. The need to accommodate diversity is thus a consequence of globalization and not a direct consequence of immigration, and should not be used in immigration debates. With increasing globalization, people also feel a need to maintain a distinct culture as this is what differentiates people. Americans should stop protesting against other cultures as this is seen as an elitist belief in the superiority of American culture over others.
Drain on Resources
Immigrants have been said to be a drain on government resources. Most of these immigrants earn a minimum wage and have to be subsidized by the government. Critics also state that most of these immigrants cannot afford health insurance and their medical bills have to be paid by the government. Additionally, the children of immigrants have to be taken care of using taxpayers’ money. Immigrants also use state welfare without giving back a proportionate amount in the form of taxes. Most of them are eligible for Earned Income Credit and Child Tax Credit, and due to their low-income bracket almost pay zero income taxes.
The notion that immigrants are a drain on resources is, however, misjudged. Data from NAS shows that over their lifetime, an immigrant pays a net $80,000 more in taxes than they receive from the government, and thus add to the GDP of the nation. Immigrants with college degrees have a higher net fiscal return of $198,000 (Griswold). The 1996 Welfare Reform Act also made it a lot harder for immigrants to collect welfare, and thus the rumor of immigrants exhausting government revenue should be dispelled.
Opponents of immigration additionally posit that immigrants lead to overcrowding of buses, trains, and cities. Immigrants also increase competition for spots in learning institutions and take up scholarships designed for natives. The notion that immigrants increase the American population adversely is, however, untrue as America’s present growth rate of 1 percent is below the average growth rate over the last century. The 2000 census also found that between 1990 and 2000 a quarter of America’s counties had lost their population. Immigrants are also a needed replacement for America’s aging workforce, and without them, the labor force would begin to shrink.
Most immigrants also have a wish to return to their countries of origin. Many immigrant students, for example, express a wish to use their studies to advance their home nations. These immigrants do not wish to reside in America permanently and are thus not a threat to American jobs. Americans should encourage such immigration as it is consistent with America’s foreign policy of helping other nations advance. These individuals export American values and technologies to their homeland hence helping to improve the welfare of the entire society. These immigrants also portray the true picture of American society and not the one propagandized by the international media
Promotion of Vices
Immigration leads to the opening of national borders, which have been posited to be the main entrance points for terrorists, drug dealers, and other criminals. Once these people come into the nation, they spread terror and recruit other people into their endeavor. There are over 100 documented criminal cases related to illegal immigrants which help fuel the debate on the role of immigrants in crime. Not all immigrants are harmful, however, and the cases of criminals crossing over into the USA have been a result of security lapses. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies tasked with protecting the borders have been focused on stemming the flow of illegal Mexican immigrants without doing proper screening of all (Walsh). With a realignment of efforts and better coordination, the inflow of criminal characters will be stemmed and potential threats eliminated.
Additionally, the burden of immigration today is lesser than it was in previous decades. Today, a majority of immigrants aren’t exactly beggars, they are self-sustaining people who are willing to work. America’s economy is also strong and hence the country can accommodate the inflow of immigrants without significant damage to its society. The wave of immigration today, for example, has not caused population increases in cities such as the one witnessed in New York tenements during the biggest wave of immigration. Today’s immigrants are also disease free and more peaceful than has been witnessed in the past when early European settlers brought diseases that wiped out scores of Native Americans (Friedersdorf). Those who survived the diseases were brutally killed by these European immigrants. The violence witnessed by Italian mafia gangs of the 1950s is also unlikely to be replicated by today’s immigrants. Those worrying that immigration imposes a heavy burden on society should thus look to the past and realize that the perceived dangers are not enough to justify the exclusion of immigrants.
Americans should also view immigrants as human beings too and realize that most of these immigrants relocate as a way of fleeing oppression and poverty. Many immigrants from Third World Countries, for example, suffer from a lack of basic resources. They also live in conflict zones where their lives are perpetually threatened (Ballotpedia). Barring such people from entering one’s nation amounts to resigning them to a life of hardship and misfortune. Humans have inalienable rights to basic freedoms, and American culture should be seen to be promoting these values. Americans should also realize that their forefathers immigrated in pursuit of a better life, and they should thus not bar other generations of humans from pursuing a better life too.
Benefits to American Society
Immigrants have numerous benefits to American culture especially in promoting diversity. These immigrants introduce novel ideas and perspectives about the world. They also bring in different customs, music, food, entertainment, and traditions that make American culture what it is today. These immigrants are also some of the most innovative and ambitious people around. Unlike America that accommodates diversity and promotes the welfare of all individuals, many nations lack the structure or security of America, thus limiting opportunities for creative minds. These immigrants thus come to the USA looking for entrepreneurial opportunities and education opportunities in America, in so doing helping bring new innovations. Many health workers in the US, for example, are health workers who were dissatisfied with conditions in their home countries and relocated to the USA. The effect of immigrants has been particularly evident in Silicon Valley where operations would cease without immigrants.
Immigrants also provide a cheap source of labor for American industries. Most of these immigrants are desperate for work and would take wages that are too low to induce Americans to work. They are also willing to perform duties that ordinary Americans detest, and are willing to work longer hours. Since most of them are illegal immigrants, they are also not unionized and cannot, therefore, advocate for higher pay. This benefits ordinary Americans who pay less for essential services including domestic services, and who purchase commodities at a lower price due to the low production costs. Cheap labor also adds to the flexibility of business leading to higher quality goods.
As globalization and international trade intensify, more people will immigrate from their homeland. It is expected that the next group of large immigrations will not be as a result of conflict like in the past but as a result of increasing interconnectedness of the world systems of trade. The number of expatriate workers is increasing all over the world as nations and communities look to share ideas and technologies. In the US where advances in technologies and knowledge outpace those of other nations especially in the developing world, more immigrants are expected, and US citizens are also expected to immigrate to other nations of the world. The world of tomorrow will strive to break down national boundaries and the barriers of communication leading to an interconnected world, and America must be seen to be leading that revolution.
In conclusion, the immigration debate has heated up especially in the recent presidential campaign with many myths being spread about immigrants. These immigrants have been accused of taking up American jobs, eroding the diversity of American culture as well as its liberty, leading to population increases, promoting vices, and drain government resources. These myths are far from the truth, however, as there is no data showing that immigrants take up American jobs, nor do they increase the population. Diversity is also not a bad thing for American culture if not abused. All in all, immigrants can be said to be beneficial to America. They not only have a net fiscal benefit to the economy but also contribute cheap labor. Many immigrants are also intelligent and ambitious and bring numerous technologies to America. In future, the need for immigration will only increase, and the American populace should ready itself for this eventuality.
Ballotpedia. 2016 presidential candidates on immigration. 08 November 2016. Web. 03 December 2016.
Fox, Lauren. Anti-Immigrant Hate Coming From Everyday Americans. 24 July 2014. Document. 03 December 2016.
Friedersdorf, Conor. How Immigration Can Restrict and Enhance Liberty. 04 March 2014. Web. 03 December 2016.
Frum, David. America’s Immigration Challenge. 11 December 2015. Web. 03 December 2016.
Griswold, Daniel. Immigrants Have Enriched American Culture and Enhanced Our Influence in the World. 18 February 2002. Web. 03 December 2016.
Messerli, Joe. Should America Maintain/Increase the Level of Legal Immigration? 07 January 2012. Web. 03 December 2016.
NTIA. The Role of Telecommunications in Hate Crime. Policy Paper. Wahington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, 1993. Document.
Walsh, Kenneth T. 50 Years Ago, Immigration Changed in America. 02 October 2015. Web. 03 december 2016.