The United States of America has always been proud of its diverse heritage. Ellis Island provided the opportunity for this country to grow stronger with its unique blend of cultures and religions. These individuals became legal American citizens and worked hard to forage a new life in this country, and their success stories are inspiring to this day. However, in recent years, some immigrants are not interested in building a new life with their families and contributing to the diversity of the country.
Instead, they are interested in exploiting the nature of the country and illegally reaping it benefits at great expense. The conflicting duties of state and federal government and the drain that these illegal immigrants have on the economic and social fibers of the country have led to clash over what to do with illegal immigrants that live in the country now. Although many view this activity as cruel, racist, and anti-American, illegal immigration enforcement activity is important in order to restore the legal, economic and identity balance in the United States.
Boatwright (2006) of the Texas Law Review states that 12 million illegal immigrants currently live permanently in the United States. They make up nearly half of all the immigrant population and are expected to exceed the legal population in coming years. She further argues that the American public believes that illegal immigration is “a severe and growing problem” in this country. She concludes that allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the country by not enforcing immigration laws weakens national identity and undermines the rule of law (Boatwright, 2006).
Several specific legal issues surround the controversy of enforcing illegal immigration laws. First, these laws are varied, conflicting and generally ignored. “Americans may be surprised to learn that most criminal aliens who should be deported are instead released into the country after serving jail time, a recent Homeland Security Department inspector general report says” (Friel, 2006). The Homeland Security Department reports that of the 605,000 illegal immigrants in American prisons, only half will be deported.
In fact, this department further notes that they will probably only deport 73,500 in 2007. Generally, only 261 agents exist to handle these cases whereas at least 1,000 are needed (Friel, 2006). The US should prioritize this department in order to combat these illegal aliens by providing it more manpower, funding and jurisdiction. Another legal problem with deporting illegal immigrants is the confusion between the duties of local, state and federal authorities. At times, this confusion turns to animosity, which only benefits the illegal immigrants.
The Interior and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) was established to oversee these immigration issues, among other things. ICE, a federal agency, however, is understaffed and clearly unable to be an appropriate presence in every state. As a result, the burden has fallen to the individual states and localities (Boatwright, 2006). Several problems exist with this scenario. First, some localities, for safety or political, generally turn a blind eye to the illegal immigrants there.
Others fear that their authority does not extend to what is perceived as a national issue because “Congress, the federal courts, and the executive branch have sent confusing (and sometimes contradictory) signals concerning the scope of state and local legal authority to enforce immigration law” (Boatwright, 2006). Others refuse to deal with the immigrant issue because they do not think that ICE will support them, because “ICE has historically refused to take custody of those immigrants, citing a lack of resources and detention space” (Boatwright, 2006).
The fact remains that a government cannot retain credibility among all of its citizens if it does not enforce the law with everyone. However, illegal immigrants have clearly concluded that these laws will not be enforced and can be broken at will. How long until this attitude spreads to other facets of the legal system? According to Boatwright (2006), “When laws no longer serve as a deterrent to potential violators, the integrity of the entire legal system is jeopardized. ”
One specific example of rampant violation of law by illegal immigrants is in the areas of identity theft and false documentation. It is incredibly easy for these illegal individuals to purchase either a fake identity or to assume the identity of an existing US citizen. For example, undercover agents were able to purchase a three-pack of fake documents, which is comprised of a drivers license, a Social Security Card and a permanent-resident card, for only $160 with little or not effort at all (Bower, 2006).