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The present debate about illegal immigration

Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2008 17 Pages

American Studies - Culture and Applied Geography

Excerpt

Contents

1 Introduction

2 Illegal Immigrants in the U.S.: Facts and Figures
2.1. Who is an Illegal Immigrant?
2.2. Countries of Origin and Distribution
2.3. The Economics of Illegal Immigration

3 Latest Attempts to Control Immigration: H.R.4437 and S.2611
3.1. H.R.4437 – Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act
3.3. Reactions to H.R.4437 and S.2611

4 Conclusion

5 Works Cited

Another way of indicating the importance of immigration to America is to point out that every American who ever lived, with the exception of one group, was either an immigrant himself or a descendant of immigrants.[1]

Immigration policy should be generous; it should be fair; it should be flexible. With such a policy we can turn to the world, and to our own past, with clean hands and a clear conscience.[2]

1 Introduction

As former U.S. President John F. Kennedy indicates in his posthumously published and recently re-edited[3] essay A Nation of Immigrants, all citizens of the United States are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. Therefore, according to the author, immigration policy should suit their needs in order to ensure the well-being of a country which depends on “the contribution of immigrants […] in every aspect of [its] national life.”[4] However, with 37.4 million foreign-born residents in the United States in 2006[5], of which 9.1 million have obtained legal permanent resident status since 1997 (1,266,264 in 2006 only)[6] and an estimated 11.6 million are unauthorized migrants[7], immigration has become a highly controversial subject. Fuelled by the 9/11 attacks and a growing xenophobia in the United States, protest against legal and illegal immigration is increasing, forcing politicians to take action. Although the U.S. economy depends largely on immigrant labour, immigration policy is becoming tougher than ever.

This paper deals with the latest legal efforts to control illegal immigration: the 2005 Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act, House of Representatives Bill 4437 and the 2006 Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, Senate Bill 2611 and the reactions they caused among Americans. In order to illustrate the momentousness of the current debate about unauthorized migration, I will start with an overview of the most important facts and figures including a definition of the notion ‘illegal/ unauthorized (im)migrant’, the countries of origin and distribution of illegal immigrants and their impact on the U.S. economy. This will be followed by a discussion of the H.R.4437 and S.2611 bills and the conclusion to this paper.

2 Illegal Immigrants in the U.S.: Facts and Figures

2.1. Who is an Illegal Immigrant?

Unauthorized immigrants are defined as foreign-born non-U.S. citizens who have not been permitted permanent or temporary residence. Most of them enter the United States either clandestinely or without valid documents, or overstay their visa’s expiration.[8] Illegal immigrants applying for lawful permanent residency under the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 245 (i) remain unauthorized until granted the status they applied for. Persons applying for asylum or for Temporary Protected Status are also classed as unauthorized.[9] The number of unauthorized immigrants is estimated by subtracting the number of legal residents on a particular date from the number of foreign-born residents in the United States on the same date.[10]

According to a study carried out by the Pew Hispanic Center in 2006, nearly half of all illegal immigrants currently living in the United States entered legally using mostly non-immigrant visas, which allow stays for pleasure, business and study, but also Border Crossing Cards, which allow frequent border crosses for short stays. About 50%-60% of the total unauthorized population[11] evaded the immigration inspectors and border patrol by entering the country clandestinely.[12]

2.2. Countries of Origin and Distribution

The vast majority (approximately 72%) of illegal immigrants living in the United States in 2006 was born in the North America region, including Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Approximately 12% were from Asia and 8% from South America. The remainder came from other countries, including Europe. With numbers rising from 4.7 million in 2000 to 6.6 million in January 2006, Mexico is still the leading source of unauthorized immigrants, contributing more than half of the total number (approximately 57%). The greatest increase in percentage terms, however, can be seen among immigrants from India (125%), Brazil (110%), and Honduras (75%), which are placed 6th, 8th and 5th respectively in the top ten countries of origin of illegal immigration.

In 2006, the most popular states of residency were California, which harboured approximately a quarter of all unauthorized immigrants, Texas (14%), and Florida (8.5%). Although total numbers show a considerable increase in the number of illegal immigrants in California, the percentages show a decline in immigration from 2000 to 2006. Georgia, Washington, and Arizona, on the other hand, are experiencing the greatest percentage increases with 123%, 65%, and 52% respectively.[13]

2.3. The Economics of Illegal Immigration

According to the populist Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) “by draining public funds, creating unfair competition for jobs with America’s least prepared workers and thereby lowering wages and working conditions, and by imposing unwanted strains on services designed to provide assistance to Americans, illegal immigration causes harm to Americans and legal residents.[14] Considering that the employment of unauthorized workers is highest in occupation groups that require little or no formal education and involve no licensing, the FAIR statement seems logical. The share of unauthorized immigrants is highest in agricultural occupations (where illegal immigrants make up 24% of all workers), cleaning (17%), construction (14%), and food preparation (12%).[15] However, although these jobs are essential for the U.S. economy, the demand among native-born U.S. workers is dwindling due to an improving education. In 2000, only 12% working-age citizens dropped out of high school without graduating. Also, in the last two decades, the United States have experienced important advances in new technology, which have increased the number of occupations available for high-skilled workers. Consequently, well-educated native-born U.S. citizens tend to prefer white-collar occupations to blue-collar ones. The resulting gap in the work-force supply can only be filled with foreign workers.

[...]


[1] Kennedy, John. F. A Nation of Immigrants. New York: Popular Library, 1964. 17.

[2] Kennedy 1964. 121.

[3] Originally published in 1964 Harper Perennial re-edited the essay in collaboration with the Anti-Defamation League on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its writing. It was published in January 2008. “About John F. Kennedy’s A Nation of Immigrants.” adl.org. 2008. Anti-Defamation League. 21 February 2008 http://www.adl.org/immigrants/

[4] Kennedy 1964. 18.

[5] Martin, Jack. “The Immigrant Population of the United States in 2006.” fairus.org. 2007. Federation for American Immigration Reform. 22 February 2008 http://www.fairus.org/site/DocServer/06USFBPOP.pdf?docID=1561

Whereas the 2006 Pew Hispanic Center research report also estimates 37 million (in 2005) the U.S. Department of Homeland Security states 29.2 million (in 2006). Passel, Jeffrey S. “The Size and Characteristics of the Unauthorized Migrant Population in the U.S. Estimates Based on the March 2005 Current Population Survey.” pewhispanic.org. 2007. Pew Hispanic Center. 20 February 2008 http://pewhispanic.org/files/reports/61.pdf

United States. Dept. of Homeland Security. Office of Immigration Statistics. Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2006 . By Michael Hoefer, Nancy Rytina, and Christopher Campbell. August 2007. 21 February 2008

http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/publications/ill_pe_2006.pdf

[6] The figures are based on: United States. Dept. of Homeland Security. Office of Immigration Statistics. 2006 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics. 21 February 2008 http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/yearbook/2006/OIS_2006_Yearbook.pdf

[7] The number varies depending on the source since it is impossible to determine an exact figure. The rabid anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) claims that there are over 13 million illegal immigrants living in the United States (in 2007). “How Many Illegal Aliens?” fairus.org. 2007. Federation for American Immigration Reform. 22 February 2008 http://www.fairus.org/site/PageServer?pagename=iic_immigrationissuecentersb8ca

The information used here is taken from: Hoefer et al. “ Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2006 .”

[8] Passel “The Size and Characteristics of the Unauthorized Migrant Population in the U.S. Estimates Based on the March 2005 Current Population Survey.”

[9] Although technically the term “illegal immigrant” is not the same as “unauthorized (im)migrant”, I will use both synonymously.

[10] United States. Dept. of Homeland Security. Office of Immigration Statistics. Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2006.

[11] The Pew Hispanic Center estimates the total unauthorized population in 2006 to be 11.5 to 12 million.

[12] “Modes of Entry for the Unauthorized Migrant Population.” pewhispanic.org. 2006. Pew Hispanic Center. 22 February 2008 http://pewhispanic.org/files/factsheets/19.pdf

[13] United States. Dept. of Homeland Security. Office of Immigration Statistics. Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2006.

[14] “What’s Wrong With Illegal Immigration?” fairus.org. 2005. Federation for American Immigration Reform. 24 February 2008 http://www.fairus.org/site/PageServer?pagename=iic_immigrationissuecenters7443

[15] Passel “The Size and Characteristics of the Unauthorized Migrant Population in the U.S. Estimates Based on the March 2005 Current Population Survey.”

Details

Pages
17
Year
2008
ISBN (eBook)
9783638054331
ISBN (Book)
9783638946438
File size
448 KB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v90903
Institution / College
University of Paderborn – Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik
Grade
1,0
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Title: The present debate about illegal immigration