A Path to Legalization for Illegal Immigrants

Should the United States provide a path to legalization for illegal immigrants? The issue has been at the forefront of American politics for several years but the debate continues. What does a nation do with an estimated 10 to 20 million people residing in its country illegally?

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When elections are on the horizon, one would expect immigration reform to be a hot topic on the campaign trail.

However, topics like illegal immigration are usually put on the back burner. It’s hard to win the hearts and minds of certain demographics when you’re discussing stricter enforcement and harsher penalties. You might just anger the very people whose votes you’re trying to gain.

In the absence of any new federal policies, state officials are trying to do what they can to deal the illegal immigrants showing up on their doorsteps. But their good intentions only serve to increase the problems. If states have varying policies on illegal immigrants, a state that starts to enforce its strict policies will force its immigrants to pack up and move to a neighboring state with more lenient policies.

Background

Illegal immigrants are foreign nationals who come to the United States without following the legal immigration process to enter and remain in the country. The reasons for immigrating vary, but generally people are looking for better opportunities and a higher quality of life than they would have in their native countries.

While the illegal population is concentrated in California and Texas, illegal immigrants may be found in every state. More than half of today's illegal aliens were born in Mexico, although other Latin America countries, Asia and other nations contribute to the population.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 provided amnesty to 2.7 illegal immigrants already in the U.S. and established sanctions for employers who knowingly hired illegal aliens.

Additional laws were passed in the '90s to help curb the growing number of illegal aliens, but they were largely ineffective. Another bill was introduced in 2007, but ultimately failed. It would have provided legal status to approximately 12 million illegal immigrants.

On one side of the debate are the people who believe that illegal immigrants do not pose a threat to our nation, and that we should provide them with a path to legalization. Others do not approve of amnesty in any form, and support increased security of our borders to deny illegal aliens entry in the first place. They wish to deny illegal aliens of all rights and privileges afforded to legal U.S. citizens and residents, and support deportation of anyone in the country illegally.

Arguments For

Illegal immigrants perform the jobs that Americans won’t. It’s one thing if illegal aliens were taking away jobs from legal residents, but that's not the case. Undocumented workers can be found in the agriculture, construction and hospitality industries performing tasks that only the most desperate American would consider. For this, illegal immigrants risk life and limb for the opportunity to make a living to support themselves and their families.

There are some illegal immigrants who use fake or stolen Social Security numbers for employment purposes; however, these people aren’t doing this so they can take advantage of the Social Security checks in their golden years. The fake and stolen SSNs are needed to apply jobs. Because of this, illegal immigrants are contributing billions of dollars to the Social Security Administration, but they will never collect.

It's morally wrong to punish a person whose only motivation for immigration illegally is a better life for themselves and their family.

The process of immigrating to the United States can be inaccessible to those without the financial means to cover the costs, or the ability to navigate the complex process. The immigration process can also take many years, even decades in some cases, to bring a person into the U.S. legally. Many people simply do not have the time or resources to do things the legal way.

The idea of mass deportation is unreasonable. It would be a logistical nightmare trying to verify, apprehend and deport millions of people. It is beyond what we could effectively accomplish.

Instead of punishing our immigrants, we should provide a process that would allow illegal aliens to become legal residents, with the opportunity of citizenship.

Legalization would allow this group to contribute to the economy through taxes.

Arguments Against

Why should we provide amnesty to a group of people who didn't respect our country's laws enough to follow a legal process to come here? Rewarding criminal behavior sends the wrong message to foreign countries, and encourages continued illegal immigration. It is also a terrible message to send to the people who follow all the rules to enter the country legally. Illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans because they are willing to work for below-standard wages.

Few people would argue that our immigration policies need work, but we can't fix this issue unless we start from scratch. We need to remove the people who are here illegally, provide a higher level of security on our borders to stop the flow of illegal aliens from entering the country in the first place. We would then revisit our immigration polices and enact harsher penalties for illegal border crossing, crack down on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, and fix the processes that are hindering legal immigrants from entering our country in a timely manner.

It's understandable why someone would risk coming to the U.S. illegally.

This is a great country with lots of opportunities that aren't available elsewhere. But if we continue to allow people into our country illegally and encourage their employment, then there is no incentive for these other nations to improve their economic positions.

Where It Stands

Individual states continue to struggle with how to best manage illegal immigrants within their communities. The nation wants solutions, but nothing can be accomplished without comprehensive immigration reform.

President Barack Obama's immigration reform agenda offers a solution: remove incentives to enter the country illegally by cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, and bring undocumented people out of the shadows with a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.

When will this be achieved? The timeline has already been pushed back several times during Obama's administration, but we should expect to see some movement on the issue in early 2010.