Immigration and the Economy

As The United States continues to fight the “War on Terrorism”, Immigration continues to be a major concern facing Americans on a daily basis. Americans everywhere have their various opinions as to whether or not Immigration reform is necessary to tighten our borders and help our country’s financial security. Among these discussions, is the idea that Immigration Reform is considered necessary to help build our economy and focus our spending on our legal citizens rather than those who are here illegally. The strain the illegal population has put on the United States Economy is staggering and The United States Economy is constantly struggling to provide monies necessary to assist illegal immigrants on their basic human needs. Through taxes the American people are providing health care, education, food assistance and many other services to these illegal immigrants who are not returning money back into the system through income tax, sales tax and property tax. What can be done to strengthen our economy and control illegal immigration?

According to the 2006 census there are nearly 10 million immigrants living in the United States; almost 47% of those are illegal. Unfortunately the only benefit of our “recession like” economy in 2007-2008 is that the illegal immigration of Hispanics into America has actually declined according to the Pew Hispanic Center (2008). It is essentially estimated that the number of undocumented immigrants has declined by roughly 500,000. Even the illegal immigrants can’t find jobs so they are returning home. In prior years there were an estimated one million new immigrants that came to this country, either as a permanent resident or illegal immigrant (Smith & Edmonston, 1998).

Every year each state spends anywhere between $11 billion and $22 billion to provide public assistance to immigrants and $250 million to incarcerate them; yet these immigrants only returned $80,000 back into the system. With a valid and fair Immigration Reform Program put into place, some of these figures could be offset by immigrants and permanent residents paying federal, state, and local taxes.

Our country has had many forms of Immigration Reforms such as the Naturalization Act of 1790 which stated that “naturalization was limited to aliens who were ‘free white persons’.” The Naturalization Act of 1790 made no provisions for servants, slaves or women. The policy also encompassed citizenship for children of citizens, born abroad, without the need for naturalization.

Another form of Immigration Reform was The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (Also known as the McCarran-Walter Act), (Woolley & Peters, 2008) which, according to Wikipedia, restricted immigration. The Act defined immigrants into three categories: relatives of United States citizens, immigrants whose numbers are not to exceed 270,000 per year, and refugees.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 required deportation of immigrants and naturalized citizens who engaged in illegal activity and also barred suspected criminals from entry into the United States. President Truman vetoed the Act but it was overridden and parts of the policy still remain in place today.

The policy that has most drastically changed how the United States looks and acts upon immigration is the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA). This policy outlined how the United States is to handle crimes committed by illegal immigrants, the act also allowed the Attorney General to hire new border agents and support staff. There are major drawbacks to the IIRIRA and those are that the act stipulates that minor offenses can be deportable and applies to residents that have married American citizens and have had American born children. When the policy was passed, it was made retroactive to apply to all who were convicted on deportable offenses (Chang, 2006). After some debates in the United States Supreme Court, it was ruled that it would not apply to non deportable offenses at the time they were convicted (Chang, 2006). Although, this country has adopted new reforms for immigration, none have effectively thwarted the mass exodus of immigration that have drained our economy and the pockets of the American people.

Although the recent Bush administration has been dragging their feet regarding Immigration Reform and been unable to make bi-partisan decisions there have been a handful of advances. Border security has been increased from 9,000 agents in 2001 to over 15,000 agents in 2008 and an expected 18,000 agents by year’s end of 2008 according to the Comprehensive Immigration Reform (2008.) Also, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is working towards constructing a pedestrian fence along the southwest border nearly 370 miles long by the end of 2008. With the current amount of fence already constructed which is roughly 265 miles, the DHS is reporting a 20% decrease in apprehension of illegal aliens.

One unfortunate side effect of the Bush administration’s work on the Immigration issue is discontinuing the ability for Canadians and Americans to cross in and out of each others county freely by a verbal declaration of citizenship. Being a Metro Detroiter I enjoy crossing the border into Windsor to go to the many night clubs as well as the casino on a whim and have done so for well over 11 years now. I am a bit uneasy carrying such a valuable piece of identification such as my birth certificate or passport but as my father says that is the price we pay for freedom. Thankfully the U.S. Department of State (2008) introduced the Passport card on July 14, 2008 for land or sea travel between The United States and either Canada or Mexico which puts at ease my concerns.

The reforms policies that are up for debate now seem to group all immigrants into one category. Many of the current reforms policies that are in the news today do not have provisions for the many immigrants who have been in this country for decades, the immigrants who have done everything legal to be here, or those that are serving in the United States Military. How can our country overcome the huge burden that immigration is having on our economy and lifestyles? First, we need to realize that this country was founded by immigrants and that has been a way of life for over 200 years. Second, we need to understand that there are already so many illegal immigrants in this country to deport them all without costing billions of dollars. Lastly, we need to put into place a way for the immigrants who are already here to become legal quickly and easily within a set period of time without incident and urge the illegal immigrants to understand the necessity of becoming a legal immigrant or even a citizen. Since the cost of illegal immigration is staggering, urging the illegal immigrant to become legal require them to pay taxes, get healthcare, apply for better and legal jobs and help them get out of poverty. Helping the legal residents better themselves will also help strengthen our economy by moving money through the system, creating job and reducing crime.

Chang, H. J. (2006). Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. Retrieved October 1, 2008, from
Comprehensive Immigration Reform (2008, January). Retrieved October 7, 2008, from
Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. (2008, September 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:56, October 1, 2008, from The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 tp://
Naturalization Act of 1790. (2008, May 26). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:53, October 1, 2008, from
Smith, J. P., & Edmonston, B. (1998). The Immigration Debate: Studies on the Economic, Demographic and Fiscal Effects of Immigration.
Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008 (127th ed.). (2008). Washington: U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved October 2, 2008, from
The U.S. Passport Card (2008). Retrieved October 7, 2008, from
Undocumented Immigration Slows Along With the U.S. Economy (2008, October 1). Retrieved October 2, 2008, from
Woolley, J., & Peters, G. (2008). American Presidency Project. Retrieved October 1, 2008, from