The Real Cost of Immigration
The current White House Administration is inciting fear and ignorance about immigration into the United States. Under the new presidential administration there has been a strong push for a huge wall along the border with Mexico, massive deportations of undocumented immigrants and two executive orders have been put forth for travel bans on certain countries. All of these actions are said to strengthen homeland security and provide a nationalist approach on these issues, however the costs outweigh the benefits on an economic and humanitarian level. The current travel bans, deportation reform and border walls will hurt, not help, this country.
These three legislative topics were strong campaign promises throughout the republican primaries and presidential election. However, now that we have a new president who is pursuing these issues at a rapid pace, we the people need to critically evaluate the repercussions of such actions. We all need to be aware of these issues and how they impact the American population and the nation itself. Immigration is certainly not a new idea and we can learn from past history that this fear-based rhetoric that the Trump administration claims is a fallacy and has been proven to be false in reality. The President has put forth exaggerated facts and figures to scare the American public without checking and verifying valid sources. People are not pouring into this country as the President would like us to believe they are, this simply is not true. The number of illegals entering this country are actually declining.
There are positives of immigration and multiple studies have shown undocumented immigrants who participate in the US economy have shown a positive effect rather than a negative one. In the document “Undocumented Immigrants’ State & Local Tax Contributions” by Lisa Christensen Gee, Matthew Gardner & Meg Wiehe, it states:
1) Undocumented immigrants significantly affect state and local taxes, in total paying an estimated $11.64 billion a year. Contributions range from almost $2.2 million in Montana, with an estimated undocumented population of 4,000, to more than $3.1 billion in California, home to more than 3 million undocumented immigrants (3).
2) Undocumented immigrants nationwide pay on average an estimated 8 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes (this is their effective state and local tax rate). To put this in perspective, the top 1 percent of taxpayers pay an average nationwide effective tax rate of just 5.4 percent (3).
3) Granting legal status to all undocumented immigrants in the United States as part of a comprehensive immigration reform and allowing them to work legally would increase their state and local tax contributions by an estimated $2.1 billion a year. Their nationwide effective state and local tax rate would increase to 8.6 percent. (4).
Immigrants do and have played a vital role in the American labor force and the economy. A Pew Research Center study showed that “approximately 78% of undocumented immigrants are thought to have been in the U.S. for more than 10 years, while only 7% had been in the country for less than 5 years”(Gonzalez-Barrera, Manuel Kronstadt, para 4). These people live, work, spend their money and participate in their communities just like the rest of us. Many immigrants amass debt from buying homes, car loans, credit cards and student loans. If they were deported those debts would never be paid(Humphrey-Jenner, para 4–5). Furthermore there are huge numbers of children born to undocumented immigrants, what would happen to all these children?
The largest areas of employment for undocumented workers are construction and agriculture, which have loose oversight. This could lead to possible exploitation by their employers, either in wage theft or worker abuse. Workers will be afraid to complain or say anything out of fear of being deported. In an article from the Huffington Post, Sam Robles who is with the Worker’s Defense Project conducted a study with the University of Texas at Austin and found that “in Texas one half of its construction workers are undocumented and 1 in 4 have had wages withheld and 1 worker dies every 3 days” (Jamieson, para 12).
Lastly on the border issue, the proposed building of a wall all along our southern border with Mexico is so enormously costly that it’s incomprehensible. The President wants to spend billions of dollars on a wall when our infrastructure is falling apart and our schools are severely underfunded, among other issues. Past presidents have continually increased the number of border agents to make the border more secure. At the present time there is around 21,000+ agents and over 600 miles of border that is fenced, of an almost 2,000 mile border. Do we need to live behind a towering wall while being scared and paranoid? The fact is, the numbers of people trying to enter the U.S. illegally is already dropping.
Another current situation is the travel ban restricting 6 muslim countries from entering this country. The ban is unconstitutional and targets the Muslim religion and sets a negative precedent for America. “Federal Judge James Robart entered a temporary restraining order against the (first) executive order in favor of the states of Washington and Minnesota, who argued that it is unconstitutional, a violation of federal law, and it inflicts irreparable harm on their economies, universities and people”(Hamilton, para 5). Hawaii is the first state claiming that the newly revised ban is also unconstitutional and will hurt business, students, universities and tourism as well.
The travel ban doesn’t directly address the threat of terrorist attacks on American soil. Some studies have shown that the 6 countries under this travel ban have limited to no implications in promoting or monetarily contributing to domestic terrorism. The White House has asked the FBI to investigate these countries to find possible terrorism associations. However, the evidence found by the FBI so far into the influence of these banned countries in supporting radical jihadist terrorist groups is on par with countries such as France and Belgium. So using the logic of the White House, these countries should also be put under the ban.
On the other hand, many U.S. citizens are wholeheartedly in favor of walls, travel bans and deportation. The White House has issued an executive order for a travel ban against 6 different muslim majority countries in the Middle East and Africa. Their objective is to say that they are creating a policy to protect the American people from the entry of foreign terrorist’s into the U.S.. Many people will argue that this is a valid policy, but there are no documented terrorists attacks in the U.S. from these banned countries. While in fact other countries like Saudi Arabia (which was not banned), was the source for 15 of the 19 September 11th terrorists. Many of the terrorist prevention acts proposed by the Trump administration are irrational, create conflicts with other countries, and do not solve the real issues.
Opponents will argue that immigrants lower the average income in some industries because they are willing to work for less than American citizens, but that is a common misconception. Actually, “the labor market is quite dynamic and both individual workers and employers constantly readjust to changing conditions” (Shih, para 5). Most of these low skilled jobs are very labor intensive and are not in high demand with American workers. Farm owners in some cases may actually just automate labor intensive processes instead of hiring higher paid U.S. workers. So blocking immigrants will still not result in more jobs for legal U.S. workers anyway.
Another common argument against illegal immigrants is that they can easily bring black market goods and criminal activity across our borders. Not having a strong border allows for other negative activities besides illegal immigration. It is easy to think, because of President Trump, that our borders are wide open but if you look back at the work of past presidents they have actually strengthened our borders by hiring additional border patrol personnel and increasing the department’s budget. Currently there are around 21,000 border agents that patrol the southern and northern borders with a budget around $373 million. The Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) have 58,000+ agents that watch all enforcement areas. Many criminals are being apprehended right at the border. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement stated “In 2016 a total of 240,255 were deported, of those 60,318 were criminals from the interior of the country and 138,669 were criminals at the border”(ICE removals overview). In the past 8 years, under the Obama administration, the immigration number has actually been falling do to an order in place to remove criminals, felons and gang members, while trying to help mothers and families with children stay together if there was no criminal history.
The United States of America is based on a rich history of immigration and diversity.
Unless you are 100% Native American, we are all immigrants, or descendents of immigrants. This country has had a troubled past with discrimination. The first pilgrims came here to avoid religious persecution and wanted personal freedoms. This country was built on immigration, yet over the course of time we have targeted and discriminated against many migrant groups of people such as the Irish after the potato famine in 1846, the Germans in 1848, the Asians in the late 20th century, the Jewish refugees in the 1930’s and the Japanese internment camps after Pearl Harbor in the 1940’ (Haines, 1–4). People come here seeking a better life for themselves and their families. The issues around a viable immigration system can be achieved if our leaders can be truthful and forward thinking. There is always room for improvement since variables change and as the population of the world grows the tweaking of policies will always be needed. Almost all of us in some way or form immigrated to this country in hopes of Life, Liberty and pursuit of Happiness.
Who are we to create bans and build walls between us and who we once were?
Christensen Gee, Lisa, JD, Senior Policy Analyst, Gardner,Matthew Executive Director, and Wiehe, Meg, MPA, State Tax Policy Director for the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) in a Feb. 2016 report, “Undocumented Immigrants’ State and Local Tax Contributions,”
updated February 2016, web, February 23, 2017. Itep.org
Gonzalez-Barrera, Ana & Manuel Kronstadt, Jen. “What We Know About Illegal Immigration from Mexico”. Pew Research Center. 2 Mar 2017. Web. 10 Mar 2017. pewresearch.org
Haines, David W. PhD. “Learning from our Past: The Refugee Experience in the United States”. American Immigration Council. 25 Nov 2015. Web 9 Mar 2017. americanimmigrationcouncil.org
Hamilton, Marci A. Contributor, opinion. “What makes Trump’s Travel Ban so Unconstitutional.” TheHill. N.p., 06 Feb. 2017. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.
Humphery-Jenner, Mark, Assoc. Prof of Econ UNSW. “Why Mass Deportations are Costly and Hurt the Economy”. The Conversation.
26 Feb 2017. Web. 7 Mar 2017. theconversation.com
Jamieson, Dave. “Donald Trump’s Crackdown on Undocumented Immigrants is Silencing Exploited Workers”. Huffpost.
8 Mar 2017. Web. 8 Mar 2017
McDonald, Michael PhD, Assistant Professor in Finance at Fairfield University, in a Nov. 16, 2015 article, “10 Ways Illegal Immigration Affects You Financially,” 16 Nov 2015. Web. 27 Feb 2017. gobankingrate.com.
Richwine, Jason Ph.D. “The Fiscal Cost of Unlawful Immigrants and Amnesty to the U.S. Taxpayer.” The Heritage Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.
Shin, Kevin. Assistant Professor of Economics Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, “Want a stronger economy? Give Immigrants a Warm Welcome”.
The Conversation. 22 Feb 2017. web. 8 Mar 2017. theconversation.com
FY 2016 ICE Immigration Removals. US Customs and Immigration Enforcement. Year end 2016. Web. 9 Mar 2016. ice.gov
EXECUTIVE ORDER: PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES.” The White House. The United States Government, 23 Feb. 2017. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.
EXECUTIVE ORDER: PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES.” The White House. The United States Government, 6 Mar 2017, web, 8 Mar 2017