Issues pertaining to immigration have been extremely controversial in

the recent times. In fact, different individuals have different opinions
not only with regard to the impact or effects of illegal immigration,
but also on the most appropriate and effective techniques in solving the
issue. Underlining the importance of immigration as a policy challenge
is the fact that I touches on numerous aspects of the economy. A report
released by the economic team in the White House showed that immigrants
provide a stable workforce in the agricultural sector. According to the
report, the elimination of the immigrants’ workforce would result in
the production-related losses of more than $3 billion up from $1.7
billion per year in California alone. On the same, the issue of
immigration touches on the security of the United States. Janet
Napolitano, the secretary of Department of Homeland Security told the
Congress in 2012 that terrorists enter the United States through the
Mexican border (Lyons 43) This should not be surprising especially
considering that the revelation comes hot on the heels of a 2011 report
that stated that the over 7500 individuals coming from countries that
have considerable terrorist elements or countries seen as state terror
sponsors were apprehended in the south-western border (Lyons 45). The
countries of origin included Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan,
Somalia, Libya and Yemen. Security officials believe that the Somali
Al-Shabaab terrorist group, which is associated with al-Qaeda, may have
managed to smuggle close to a thousand individuals across the United
States border.
Historical Background and Efforts in Addressing Illegal Immigration
Immigration has been part of the American fabric since time immemorial.
Indeed, this is essentially the reason why the United States came to be
known as “the melting pot”. However, the issue of illegal
immigration can be traced to the late 19th century (Lyons 46). Scholars
note that from 1881 to 1920, more than 23 million immigrants had poured
into the United States. This prompted the Congress to pass the Quota
Law, which resulted in the reduction of immigration to around 350,000
every year. Indeed, the number of immigrants by 1924 had reduced to
160,000. However, Mexicans were not restricted from entering the U.S as
they provided cheap labor. Scholars note that the legal immigration
resulted in today’s illegal immigration (Kenney 44).
One of the most fundamental policies made in an effort to limit illegal
immigration was the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which gave
amnesty to approximately 3 million illegal immigrants. The illegal
immigrants who had been in the country for more than five would be
granted temporary legal status and later be granted citizenship upon
meeting certain conditions (Kenney 40). However, the number of illegal
immigrants that were essentially given citizenship exceeded expectations
due to fraud in the exercise. The amnesty was complemented by the
Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996,
which was still aimed at limiting the numbers further (Kenney 42).
Unfortunately, the problem persisted through to the Bush administration.
Currently, the number of illegal immigrants is touted to be between 12
and 20 million, which is an immense increase from the 7 million in the
year 2000 (Kenney 45).
Underlying causes of illegal immigration
Scholars have noted that illegal immigration has been primarily caused
by the limited channels that the immigration system provides for legal
permanent migration, especially with regard to low-skilled workers. This
has resulted in the trumping up of legal structures by economic
incentives, thereby creating a large pool of illegal but low skilled
immigrants. In addition, employer sanctions pertaining to illegal
immigration have been extremely ineffective and ambiguous thereby making
it easy for illegal immigrants to find work (Miller 33). These sanctions
do not have sufficient mechanisms for verification of employment
eligibility, funding for enforcement f interior immigration, or even
political will as a result to the U.S economy’s labor needs. On the
same note, there has been conflicting political will over the issue of
illegal immigrants (Lyons 49). As much as the public is concerned about
violations of U.S law and sovereignty, it, at the same time requires
strong economic performance, which essentially hinders efforts of
disrupting economic activities pertaining to illegal workers. This has
resulted in overwhelming focus on the Mexican border, while few
resources are channeled interior enforcement.
Policy Options for Combating Illegal Immigration
Efforts to combat the problem of illegal immigration must incorporate
three ingredients.
First, it is imperative that effective workplace verification mechanisms
are established. In this case, employers should have the tools, as well
as legal responsibility to verify the eligibility of a prospective
employee to work.
Second, there should be a relaxation of the legal avenues of getting
into the country. While temporary worker programs may be good, they come
with an entire set of problems such as social divisions and
differentiation between citizens and workers (Miller 34). This
underlines the necessity of increased permanent economic migration.
Lastly, resources must be extended beyond border control. In this case,
adequate resources have to be channeled to the enforcement of
immigration laws in the workplace. Real penalties must be imposed on
employers who engage illegal immigrants.
Suggested solution
Combating the problem of illegal immigrants necessitates that a
combination of strategies are used. This would not only involve closing
the borders but also putting in place measures that would eliminate the
incentives for illegal immigrants to come to the United States. Research
shows that about 500,000 illegal immigrants get into the country yearly
with those coming to look for greener pastures being more than 96%
(Lyons 54). This is the result of laxity in enforcing immigration laws
that have real penalties to employers. In this case, meting harsh
penalties on such employers would make it difficult for illegal
immigrants to obtain jobs, thereby eliminating the incentives to get to
the United States illegally.
Works cited
Miller, Debra A. Illegal Immigration. San Diego, Calif: ReferencePoint
Press, 2007. Print.
Kenney, Karen L. Illegal Immigration. Edina, Minn: ABDO Pub. Co, 2008.
Print
Lyons, Charlton. Illegal Immigration: The Consequence of Misplaced Trust
: a Layman`s Close, Hard Look at the Immigration Reform and Contol Act
of 1986. Bloomington, Ind: Authorhouse, 2012. Print.
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