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Illegal Immigration Essay, Research Paper

EnglishMay 23, 1998Research PaperIllegal Immigration Should Be Allowed Along the dusty Mexican boarder California and Texas, new chain link fences are being built to keep out unwanted immigrants. In Sacramento the California Legislature looks with suspicion at the bilingual education it once possessed. In Los Angeles there is renewed political pressure to deny non emergency medical services unable to provide proof of citizenship. These reactions reflect a persistent and growing belief that illegal Mexican immigrants are a drain on tax supported services with the potential of turning California into a Spanish speaking version of Montreal. Often the Mexican immigrants are targets of complaints such as one voiced by a newspaper writer who referred to them as, lazy undesirables who clog up the welfare roles and take jobs of the Americans. (Betheel26)The facts give no comfort to the view. They suggest just the opposite. They suggest that immigration is a large plus to this country, a thing we should be cheering, not criticizing. At least half a dozen studies on the impact of illegal Mexican immigration provide convincing evidence that these migrants pay heavy taxes (for which they receive no benefits) hardly use the welfare and other social services and contribute far more to the United States than they take from it. As Wayne Cornelius expressed in a newspaper on Mexican immigration in San Diego, More generally it could be argued that Mexican migrants represent something of a windfall for the United States in the sense that they are young, highly productive worker, whose health care, education and other costs of rearing have been borne by Mexico and whose maintenance during periods of unemployment and retirement is in Mexico. The significance of this windfall becomes more apparent when one considers that as of 1980 the cost of preparing a U. S. born man or woman for interrogation into the U.S. labor force was about $44,000. (The Humanist 66) These migrants pay into the Social Security trust fund millions of dollars that they will never collect, as well as state income taxes, and even property taxes for which they will receive relatively few benefits. In the words of Douglas Massey of Princeton s Office of Population research, far from ripping off the system, illegal immigrants are more likely to be subsidizing it. (Griffen22)Culturally, Mexican migrants are reluctant to accept welfare, an attitude reinforced in the U.S. by fear of deportation if they apply for any social benefits. In San Diego County, by far the largest entry point for Mexican migrants, a 1985 screening of welfare and food stamp recipients found only 378 illegal immigrants in a caseload of 285,000. A study by the Orange County Force in 1989, though weighted toward long-term illegals presumably more likely to use such services, found only 9 percent of them had received public medical care, only 2.8 percent had collected welfare payments and only l.8 percent had received food stamps. The Orange County Task Force estimated that illegal migrants in the county paid a minimum of $83 million in taxes annually while receiving medical services costing $2.7 million a year. A study by the Human Resources Agency of San Diego County discovered that the cost of all services for illegal migrants, including education, health care and welfare assistance, totaled $2 million a year. These same migrants contributed $48.8 million annually in taxes. These sorts of data prompt Mexican sociologist Jorge A. Bustamante to suggest that the proper term for describing illegals would be undocumented taxpayers. (Fox86) Another complaint against illegals is that they supposedly take jobs away from American workers or at least depress the labor market because, as U. S. Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall put it, they work hard and scared. Undoubtedly there are instances, as in the current United Farm Workers strike in California s Salinas Valley, where illegal immigrants are placed in direct competition with American workers. But academic studies usually have concluded that fears of economic competition from illegals are greatly overstated. This attitude is particularly evident in California, which is now enjoying the longest sustained economic boom in their history-a boom that coincides with heavy immigration, both legal and illegal. During this period, as Vilma Martinez, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, observes the areas absorbing the greatest numbers of migrants also have had the lowest unemployment rates. The economic benefit to the United States of Mexican migration is best demonstrated by California agriculture, the most prosperous, diverse and specialized in the world. A few years ago, when Cesar Chavez was beginning to organize, his opponents complained that paying higher wage scales and granting the industrial benefits of unemployment insurance and health insurance to farm workers would make it impossible for California agriculture to compete.

Instead, these reforms have guaranteed California farmers a stable work force that is mostly Mexican or Mexican-American and that, because of the skills involved in such work as lettuce harvesting, is largely irreplaceable by untrained Anglos. While farm work is the largest single occupational category, more than half of the new immigrants head directly for the big cities, especially Los Angeles, where their entry into the labor market is apt to be at the bottom of the scale as dishwashers or busboys. Because of the southern California business boom, there is a high demand even in these jobs. Furthermore, some l5 percent of the illegals may work in skilled or semiskilled construction jobs, according to one study, though they are more likely to be concentrated in unskilled heavy labor and domestic service and in janitorial, laundry, food processing, garment or shoe-factory jobs. Some economists believe that many of the service and domestic jobs performed by illegals simply wouldn t exist if the illegals weren t in the market. And some of the other jobs might not be there, either. Illegal aliens typically work in menial, low-paying positions shunned by citizens, who often work in supervisory and administrative positions in the same firms, Princeton s Massey writes. If illegal aliens were unavailable, it is argued, these firms would either leave the country or go out of business, taking the supervisory and administrative positions held by American citizens with them. Griifen43) Cornelius contends that the migrant is willing to take the menial, unstable, dead-end position, because he is economically benefiting his family, and because the absence of a long-term career ladder is not a disadvantage to the migrant who considers himself only a stranger in the United States. (The Humanist30) Typically, the Mexican migrant makes no distinction between legal and illegal immigration. Unlike immigrants from Europe and Asia, Mexicans lived in the area they are now emigrating to before the Anglo-Americans came. Geography and climate in Mexico and the U. S. Southwest are similar, access is relatively easy and the two countries are physically indistinguishable along much of the border. The prevailing view among Mexicans seems to be that the illegals have every right to be in the United States, as indeed they did through much of U.S. history. The Border Patrol was not established until l924, and entry without a visa did not become a crime until l929. From the beginning of the Western frontier, Anglo-Americans tended to regard Mexico as a vast labor reservoir that could be tapped and turned off at the asking. In prosperous, labor-short periods, such as during the two world wars, Mexican workers were recruited, subsidized and lavishly praised. But during three periods of slack labor markets (l920-2l, l930-35 and l953-54), Mexican migrants were rounded up and deported sometimes in actions so indiscriminate that legal U.S. citizens of Mexican origin were deported with them.Bustamente maintains that the model of industry in the Southwest on both sides of the border reflects the reality of the large and growing Mexican labor pool. On the U.S. side there is a real concrete need for cheap labor, he says. On the Mexican side there is an increasing population, unfair distribution of income and a traditional pattern of migration to the United States. The border is not a place where realities end. It is a place where realities permeate. And we have to understand them in order to live together. (Simon137) One pre-condition of that understanding is to recognize that migration from Mexico to the United States is here to stay, no matter what kind of fence is built on the border. Another would be to acknowledge that this immigration, in countless ways is of real and lasting benefit to the United States. Bibliography Bates, Paul. US Immigration Policy The Humanist Dec, 1986 Bethel, Tom. Illegal Agreements National Review June, 1987 Fox, Geoffrey. Inferior Status The Nation Sept, 1986 Griffin, Ed. Help Mexican Workers At Home Foreign Affairs March, 1988 Simons, Julia. In Favor of Immi


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