For the past year, a great deal of time and money has gone into focusing on illegal immigration into the United States. The Bush Administration and the congress have seen this as a priority issue, in an effort to protect the United States and to protect U. S. borders. Little progress has been made in order to resolve this issue, short of a bill to build a fence that will cover part of the border, but is un-funded. The country seems divided on the issue. There are those who see the illegal immigrants as good workers, and a critical labor force. There are also those who see illegal immigrants as a burden to our country.
The struggle they endure in coming to this country, from paying loan sharks to coming across in unsafe transportation, risking their life, suggests that this is a critical decision for them. Why do they come here? Why do they have such an intense desire to leave their families and their homeland? Roughly 10 percent of Mexico's population of about 107 million is now living in the United States according to recent estimates. About 15 percent of Mexico's labor force is working in the United States. One in every 7 Mexican workers migrates to the United States.
One couple living eight blocks from the international boundary that separates Douglas, Arizona, from the Mexican city of Agua Prieta, described their experience. For years they saw men who have illegally crossed the border on their way north looking for work. They would see them passing through town in pairs or small groups. Then the groups began to grow to groups of thirty to well over a hundred people at a time pouring across the border, hurrying through alleys, through people's yards and between their houses, climbing over roofs and clambering over graves in the cemetery.
They knocked down fences, trampled flowers and shrubs, and cluttered neighborhoods with litter. Some United States citizens living on the border, have taken it upon themselves to capture and hold the immigrants until the authorities arrived. The incentive for migration into the United States is the availability of low-skill jobs here and poverty, low wages, and an expanding population in Mexico and Central America. So driven is this force that it has spurred networks, created to help continue trend. Communities have formed in order to not only attract immigrants, but to support them.
The very transfer of these immigrants would not be possible without the existence of an organized smuggling industry involving millions of dollars each year. Illegal migrants do not simply show up at the border and then cross over. “They first arrange a reception with friends and relatives in the U. S. who line up jobs for them and who often advance them the cost of the trip. The migrant or his U. S. relatives or friends then contract with a smuggler not only for the border crossing itself, but also for safe houses and necessary transportation along the way. ”
Families are sometimes brought to the border in cattle trucks, packed into vans like sardines. Once in the United States and employed, the illegal alien is not typically paid well. He works to pay off his debt, and to send money home to his family. He may also contribute to help others gain entry to the country as well. Critics argue for the strain this puts on the American economy, but it can be far worse on the immigrants themselves.
They are entering a strange and hostile environment, often coming from a lowly existence in Mexico, and risk being abandoned on the U. S. side by those who brought them over. They may not know where they are, how to deal with the desert they must cross, or what to expect. Some immigrants do not make it. Some have drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande River in Texas or the All America Canal in California. Some have died of cold in the mountains in winter or of dehydration in the Desert. Some are injured or die in accidents in overcrowded vans carrying them north from the border. Despite these dangers, they continue to come and work for a menial wage, as they believe it to be better than anything earned in Mexico.
“An unskilled laborer from the Sierra Madre is lucky to make $25 a week; in California he can easily earn nearly $10 an hour and often more. To the worker, the initial realization that there is such an El Dorado is dazzling, quite unbelievable. Young males under 30 years of age in their first tour of duty in America seem starved for work. They toil 10 hours a day — amazed that they have more money in their wallets in a week than they once had in an entire year. ” Perhaps these young men dream of a better world for themselves and for their families.
It is likely that they wish to bring their earning home with them, and enjoy an American lifestyle in Mexico. There is also a third force that drives these men to look for better wages. Mexico is a hierarchical society, where skin color, accent and ancestry determine one’s social place, from the upper echelons of Mexico City to the governor’s office in Yucatan. For the rustic Mexican who occupies the bottom rung of a static society and has virtually no chance of upward mobility, America represents not just an escape from drudgery, but the phantasm of redemption — a way
not so much of getting rich, but of getting even. Certainly they are aware that there is a group of Americans that believe it is their duty to help those less fortunate. “The well-intentioned Americans can deliver to the illegal immigrant housing, medicine, and food at a level beyond almost anything found even among the well-off in Mexico City. ” The immigration of Mexican citizens to the United States cannot be clearly understood from one point of view. The United States is not winning the battle to keep immigrants out or to even manage them once they are in the country.
Immigrants who are here and working claim that the process to become a United States citizen is too difficult and too costly, especially given the debts they may have incurred coming into the country. Law enforcement believes they don’t have the ability and resources to deport immigrants. Employers believe they need immigrants to do their work, or their businesses will fold. Ultimately we need to address the underlying cause of illegal immigration. The social, economic and political conditions in Mexico often lead to the influx of illegal immigrants in the United States.
It’s as simple as self-preservation, people leave a bad situation in their home country to pursue opportunities in our country. This illegal immigration hurts both the United States and Mexico. It is essential that our two governments work together in order to understand the issues that produce the most illegal immigration and then strategically plan how we might address this issue to stop this influx into our country. This should include a serious look at our legal immigration policy, which inadequately serves the economic interests of our country and ignores the current realities.
An effective study of immigration would first need to look at the age of immigrants, in order to determine their reason for entering the United States. In addition, it would be beneficial to determine who these immigrants are in terms of family status, education, and their life situation in Mexico. Are they coming here to earn higher wages, to send to their families at home? Are they coming here to acquire an education? Are they coming here in hopes of becoming a United States citizen, and therefore bring their families with them? Are they coming here to obtain health care that is not available to them in Mexico?
Without fully understanding their reasons for coming to the United States, it is unlikely that the United States or Mexico can take action to remedy the situation. If we are going to ignore the immigration situation, then we need to determine what actions need to be taken to make the recent influx work.
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