Illegal Immigration Immigration, legal or otherwise, is a huge issue right now. Debates rage about how many immigrants should be allowed into the country and how zealously we should guard out border from illegal intruders. To a point, these people are correct, illegal immigration is something that should be stopped. People should not cross the border illegally or overstay on visits.
The important question is, however, does illegal immigration deserve the massive amount of attention it receives No, it does not. By looking at the respected immigrants of the past and thinking about the issues in a clear and objective way, it becomes apparent that illegal immigration (and legal immigration, for that matter) is not as vital an issue as many consider it to be. A key point in this discussion is that many of those who are vehemently opposed to illegal immigration are also opposed to large amounts of legal immigration as well. These thinly hidden agendas mean that often the debate on illegal immigration cannot be separated from the debate on legal immigration. According to Negative Population Growth (which is a suspect source), Americans are firmly believe in tough laws against illegal immigrants and that 70% of Americans want no more than 300, 000 legal immigrants to enter the U.
S. per year. In fact, N. P. G. says that 20% of Americans want immigration completely stopped.
Taking these numbers as the truth, it is clear that America thinks that we have too many immigrants. Such a dislike of immigration is interesting considering the success of past immigration. Many people would say that today's immigrants are somehow different than those of the past. However, the truth is that the similarities between the immigrants of today and those of the past are numerous. Thei reasons for coming to this country are often similar. Many of the immigrants of the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries were compelled to leave their homes by the rapidly changing nature of their countries.
In the Europe of the 19 th century, this meant quickly growing population and a rapidly industrializing economy. In nations like Mexico and Vietnam, the same thing is happening today, they "are undergoing the same convulsive demographic and economic disruptions that made migrants out of so many nineteenth century Europeans" (Kennedy p. 64). Those who are against the immigration of the 1990's also say that the European immigrants of the past were culturally similar to Americans, and that they were more willing to assimilate and become "American." Neither of these things are true. Old immigrant groups like the Italians and may be seen as generically "white" and "American" now, but when they first began moving to the United States, they were as alien as the immigrants are today are. They were seen as culturally (and even physically) inferior to native Americans.
Old immigrant groups had significant cultural differences that caused friction between them and the natives. Those immigrants of the past also did not come to America and instantly throw off all semblances of their and language and society. On the contrary, according to David Kennedy, "many... exerted themselves to sustain their religions, tongues and ways of life" (Kennedy p. 64).
Current opponents of mass immigration also point to the large numbers of crimes committed by immigrants. They are forgetting that the immigrants of past had similar problems. When illegal immigration is not confused with legal immigration, debate can take place in a sane matter. As George Boreas noted on page 77 of his article, the economic consequences of illegal immigration are unclear. Convincing cases can be made that illegals hurt and help the American economy. I have heard that the United States needs the cheap and undiscriminating labor of illegal immigrants to do the "dirty work," and that illegals take jobs away from natives.
Until more convincing data is available, the approach to illegal immigration should be sensible. Outlandish solutions like building a huge 2, 000 mile-long fence and gathering a virtual army to defend the border from Mexicans are not the answer. Making legal immigration easier and more common is the best solution that we have now.