Illegal Immigrants in the United States

A quick glance at international newspapers shows that the topic of illegal immigration has been receiving more and more interest all over the world. It has become a heated public debate in the USA, it is a major topic of right-wing parties in Western Europe such as the Front National in France or the Freiheilichen in Austria, and it is also discussed in Japan and other countries in the Far East. Illegal migrants break laws and rules and clearly challenge and authority. Their presence also conflicts with public transfer systems.

Illegal foreign laborers do not pay their income taxes directly, but use public products or publicly financed services like schooling or medical treatment for their children. ‘Illegal’ contends with ‘legal’ workers for job employments but have the chance of avoiding certain responsibilities, costs, taxes and fees mandatory for legal workers. Politicians and voters are not willing to accept the phenomenon of illegal migration with these legal, economic and social provocations that make it easily understandable.

Regardless of these negative impacts on the host society, illegal migration exists and is growing throughout the world. And this is not only due to the passionate and irreversible will of hopeless and desperate people from poor regions to enter the ‘Holy Land’ of wealth and glory. There is a necessity and demand for illegal immigrants though. Some people as house owners that needs help in the cleanliness and maintenance; economic groups such as restaurant owners or farmers account from illegal migrants.

By these they avoid direct labor expenses, indirect social debts and costly regulations. Establishment of an economic market for illegal migration and political market for the supply and demand of border controls and labor market regulations causes the supply and demand for illegal foreign workers. This results to the phenomenon of illegal migration that has to be examined within an economic structure but also with an comprehension of the political economy behind the status of laws and rules. It is the aim of this article to give a general view of these two views of illegal migration.

Furthermore, we will present some economic and politico-economic insights into the political action that has been taken to control and regulate illegal immigration. We summarize some experiences with different political instruments (i. e. border controls, internal controls, employer sanctions and amnesty programs) (Edwards & Arango, 1999). Immigration Today Before 1965, there were limits on the numbers of immigrants who could come to the United States from many countries. These quotas, based on national origin, were abolished by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

The United States began to give preference to those who were refugees and those who already had family members in the country. Between 1981 and 1990, more than seven million immigrants were admitted. Most of the new citizens were Asians and Hispanics. Today, nearly one million legal immigrants arrive in the United States each year. Many others enter the country illegally. These immigrants do not have permission to come. Because they are often desperate to leave political unrest or economic hardship to home, they take great risks, travelling by boat or coming across the border with Mexico.

Smugglers sometimes “help” these illegal aliens to get into the United States. The cost is very high – some die in transit, and many others find themselves virtual slaves when they reach their destination. Although the government tries to intervene, illegal immigration is hard to control (Maestro, 1996; Ryn, 2003). What Makes Migration Illegal? The formal distinction between legal and illegal migration is obvious: the former is within the laws and rules of a mostly nationwide valid migration policy, the latter remains outside.

While the right to exit is a fundamental human right protected by international law – and more or less respected all over the world since the collapse of the Iron Curtain – the right to enter a country remains a matter of national sovereignty. It is an undisputed basic principle of international law that national governments have sovereign right to decide whom and how many non-nationals or non-citizens they allow to enter, stay and work in their territory.

Nation states would lose one of their most fundamental constitutive powers if they abrogated the right to set rules defining what aliens are allowed to do (rights), what they are required to do (duties) or what they should do (orders). Consequently politicians all over the world are very anxious to keep control over the entrance, residence and economic behavior of non-nationals. They know that their voters would just not accept an uncontrolled free immigration policy. Consequently, it is the immigration law of the recipient country that rules whether foreigners come in, remain or work legally or illegally in a community.

If we had no legal barriers to the entry, residence or employment of person – as within national boundaries or, for European Union nationals, within the EU – illegal migration would be a non-issue. A look at contemporary migration laws around the globe shows very clearly that there is no such thing as illegal migration per se, but a large spectrum of different opinions about the circumstances in which the entry, stay and work of foreigners is legally allowed and those in which the activities of people are defined as ‘illegal’(Edwards & Arango, 1999).