There has been a lot of controversy surrounding immigration in the United States over the past few years. There have been a lot of groups protesting the entry of illegal immigrants as well as the naturalization of these immigrants (Knox 203). Most of the controversy, however, surrounds the fact these immigrants are supposedly taking the jobs away from Americans and contributing to the deteriorating welfare condition of the United States (Ngai 253). Another effect of illegal immigration according to certain government officials is the fact that it also increases the risk of terrorist attacks (Campbell & Flourney 377). The main effects of illegal immigration, as will be discussed in this brief discourse, can be summarized as security issues; job security and national security.
The first problem that will be discussed is the national security issue. The main problem here is that illegal immigration makes it difficult for the authorities to control the influx of foreigners. Without the proper screening, any person, regardless of background, will be able to enter the country and such act presents a dire threat to national security.
The entry of the attackers of 9/11 was greatly facilitated by the lax immigration standards and other legal loopholes. These allowed the terrorists to secure driver’s licenses and other permits that allowed them to move around the country freely and make the preparations that they needed to do (Campbell & Flourney 377). If the border security measures were not as lax those days, it might have even led to the prevention of 9/11.
According to Dave Camp, former Chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Borders and Infrastructure, “while there is a need to protect the borders and ports of entry, any new policies regarding this matter do not have to intervene with the avowed American history of legal immigration (1)”. What the policies do suggest is that if there are those who violate the immigration and border laws, they will be dealt with strictly (Campbell & Flourney 377). Plans such as a REAL ID act or the removal of certain asylum laws that have loopholes are certainly plans that deserve a serious consideration.
Campbell & Flourney, in their study on measures against terrorism have cited that, “A large step in curbing the possibility of terrorist attacks lies in improving border security” (372). Many critics have continually cited that the first step in winning the war against terror is by first preventing the happening of any future attacks. As such, airline security in conjunction with border security must be improved.
The American-Mexican Border remains to be the largest concern since it remains as the largest security vulnerability of the United States. The porous domestic border could provide much greater problems than that of illegal immigration. It could lead to the entry of terrorist groups into the United States on a massive scale, leading to the proliferation of a large number of terrorists in the United States and possibly the establishment of a network that would make them extremely difficult to apprehend (Campbell & Flourney 372).
Another effect of illegal immigration is the problem with regard to job security. In order to come to a better understanding on this matter, it is important to first take brief look into how the United States Visa System functions and how certain businesses may abuse this system. In the recent years, there has been a change in the migration policies of the United States partly in response to national security measures and partly over economic measures. The current Work Visa for most migrant workers is the H-1B Visa which allows highly skilled workers to fill the gaps in the local labor market (Donnelly 2002). Though originally intended to bring it workers to fill in the gaps, the cheaper labor rate has prompted many to procure cheap labor to fill in jobs that can actually be filled in domestically. The legal requirement is that for every H-1B petition that is filed with the USCIS, there is a requirement for a Labor Condition Application (LCA) certified by the U.S. Department of Labor (Donnelly 2002). The problem here is that, while this system was originally designed to protect the migrant workers, it allows the employers to exploit the workers since it is the employer and not the Department of Labor that determines what the prevailing wage will be for the offered position (Donnelly 2002). This allows the employer to exploit the worker by fabricating wages that will be used as the benchmark and simply place a higher rate and thereby circumventing the law and in effect shortchanging the migrant worker. This is called wage depression and has been the subject of a number of studies which have found that H-1B workers are paid at a rate that is significantly lesser than their American Counterparts (Ngai 2003).
Now that the issue on Work Visas has been discussed, a discussion on the illegal trade of migrant workers in the United States will now be presented. Immigrant and migrant workers are often forced to enter the low-wage labor market as day laborers, food handlers and delivery workers (Flores 2003). While there are certainly a number of migrant workers that enter the United States every year, it seems that there is simply not enough labor to fill up the available jobs. This creates an illegal trade in migrant workers. Businesses encourage the illegal trade in migrant workers because of the savings that they gain by employing cheap labor (Flores 2003).
Table 1: New York City’s Low-Wage Immigrant Workforce by Place of Birth
Country of Birth
Share of Low-Wage Immigrants
Approximate Number of Low-Wage Immigrants
Share of Foreign-Born Population (Census 2000)
Trinidad and Tobago
Total, 15 Countries
Source: Fiscal Policy Institute analysis of Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group files provided by the Economic Policy Institute; Census 2000.
Low-wage workforce is defined as those earning less than $10/hour in inflation-adjusted 2003 dollars. The immigrant low-wage workforce numbered approximately 500,000 for the four-year period 2000 to 2003.
While this is certainly a sorry situation, the trouble of migrant workers does not end there as there have also been many instances where businesses cheat their immigrant workers by not only paying them below minimum wage but also with regard to the diminution of benefits that these migrant workers are legally entitled to (Ness 2006). The economic law that holds in this issue is the fact that all business firms are motivated by profit which can be derived by increasing income and decreasing operating expenses. The implications of acquiring a Work Visa have allowed businesses to exploit this fact and find a way to increase their profits by decreasing the cost of production through the reduction of salary expenses and benefit expenses (Ness 2006).
Since there is cheap labor available from migrant workers, more American business are inclined to look for migrant workers to fill in their job positions (McCarthy 1997). The reason that this system flourishes is because these migrant workers are also desperate for a job. It is a fact that United States born workers have an exit strategy as opposed to the migrant workers who have no such strategy (McCarthy 1997). This means that any offer for labor is soon accepted by a migrant worker rather than a domestic worker even if it means getting paid at a relatively lower rate.
Until there is a better recognition of the rights of migrant workers or even a respect for the human dignity of these workers, the problems that plague these migrant workers in the United States will only continue. The real reason for the problem, while it may arguably be just simple economics, comes from the failure to understand that these migrant workers are also invested in the development of the United States. These workers have come to America in the hope of finding better jobs as well as the hope of being able to live a better life in the United States. They do not seek to exploit America nor do they want to drain it of its resources. Instead, these migrant workers would like to partake of the better life that they have heard is available to everyone who works hard in America. It is all part of the American Dream, a dream which these migrant workers dream as well.
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Flores, William V (2003). “New Citizens, New Rights: Undocumented Immigrants and Latino Cultural Citizenship” Latin American Perspectives 2003 30(2): 87-100
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