The issue of illegal immigrants, and what to do with them, presents a major political and social issue for nearly every Westernized country in the world. In his article Costs Will Rein in Arizona’s Immigration Crackdown author David R. Francis hypothesizes that they are “perhaps 50 million illegal, undocumented immigrants” living in the shadows of Western democracies.
In Francis’ words, illegal immigrants represent “a problem for Canada, Britain, France, Italy, and Spain. India tries to limit immigrants from Bangladesh. South Africa has troubles with illegal Zimbabwean immigrants. Even Mexico has to deal with illegal aliens from Honduras and Guatemala” (Francis n.pag).
At the heart of the discussion lies the question: should illegal immigrants be deported? This paper will present both sides of the argument, and concludes with the suggestion that the idea of physical borders be revisited in the future, and replaced with global citizenship.
Cost remains the most significant countering consideration in whole scale deportation, which may explain why of the projected 11 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States, the government deports under 4 percent annually (Francis n. pag.). On the con side, simply put, finding, detaining, and deporting millions of illegal immigrants could easily bankrupt the already strained economy of certain U.S. states.
In Francis’ words, “beside the moral, humanitarian, and legal issues surrounding illegal immigrants, their apprehension poses a sizable financial cost. In Arizona, police could arrest them under the new state law, but keeping them in already crowded jails costs roughly $100 a day per person.
For 5,000 people, imprisonment costs could add up to $182.5 million a year. That’s a hefty charge for a state struggling with a budget deficit of at least $368 million” (Francis n. pag.). States that admit to an illegal immigrant problem, such as Arizona, could doubtless cut their expense by surrendering illegal immigrants to the federal government for deportation. However, as Francis notes, the federal government lacks the resources to effectively expedite deportation: “In fiscal 2008, the US deported 369,221 people.
Deportations rose to 389,834 in 2009 under the Obama administration, and are predicted to reach 400,000 this fiscal year” (Francis n. pag.). However, the actual cost to deport illegal immigrants would be “least $94 billion” (Francis n. pag.). The Obama administration does not have the funding in place to take action against the problem of illegal immigrants, let alone to deport them.
In Francis’ words, “the priorities for the Obama administration are aliens who pose a danger to national security or a risk to public safety, recent illegal entrants, and fugitive aliens” (Francis n. pag.). However, the federal government “only has resources to remove approximately 400,000 aliens per year. In other words, Congress has not approved the money to enforce fully the immigration laws it has passed” (Francis n. pag.)
On the pro side, the idea of amnesty, or earned citizenship for illegal immigrants has been bandied about in recent years as a means of adding potentially millions of dollars in revenue to the tax base, when those who have been subsisting in the American shadow economy can finally come out as fully fledged citizens and begin paying their taxes like everyone else (Goldberg 11A).
However, as Goldberg notes, amnesty could be perceived as a slap in the face to those who currently attempt to enter the United States through legal means. In Goldberg’s words, “in Hong Kong, the wait just to legally enter America for the purpose of residing here can be as long as 15 years. In the Philippines, some people have been waiting for 23 years.
“Earned citizenship” for illegal immigrants already here no matter how arduous the process still amounts to line jumping, even if it’s not technically amnesty” (Goldberg 11A). Amnesty was granted, according to Goldberg, in 1986, “to about 3 million illegal immigrants on the promise that it was a one-time deal” (Goldberg 11A). Since then, illegal immigrants continue to pour into the United States, and Goldberg points to the power that this “illegal” group now holds.
“Since , millions more illegal immigrants have poured into the country. And now they are such a sufficiently powerful constituency, emboldened by our identity-politics culture, that they demand “justice” and further concessions in public protests across the country” (Goldberg 11A). The pro may be more money in the government coffers, however as Goldberg points out, “many illegal immigrants are now part of the economy and the society,” and as such, expect access to the same rights and privileges as citizens (Goldberg 11A).
Again, in Goldberg’s mind, this insistence on rights is an affront to those citizenship seekers who are going about it through the proper channels. Says Goldberg: “Illegal immigrants are in a position to demand little. You don’t break in and then insist on accommodation” (Goldberg 11A).
Children often fall on the wrong side of immigration laws, and this is an area of concern for immigration policy makers, since children require protection. On the pro side, deporting children along with their parents, even those who have been born in the United States, has the dubious benefit of keeping families together.
However, on the con side, the United States immigration system has come under fire in recent years for its unfair treatment of children caught in the illegal immigration quagmire. In the words of author Bridgette A. Carr, “in both domestic and international law, a common legal standard for cases involving children is the “best interests of the child” standard.
The United States immigration system runs counter to this prevailing norm. Most United States immigration proceedings include no determination regarding the best interests of the child, although such proceedings frequently result in decisions that directly affect the placement of children. This failure to analyze the best interests of the child in immigration proceedings results in a failure to protect many children caught up in the United States immigration system” (Carr 124).
Children’s immigration status remains “uncertain due to their parents’ immigration status or their own,” and according to author Joaquin Rodriguez, deporting them only showcases the rampant “governmentally imposed oppression upon young Latinos” (Rodriguez 440). Rodriguez argues that America was built on immigration, and has lost sight of its heritage. “The United States is a country of immigrants with a government committed to the ideals of equality, tolerance, and acceptance.
With forefathers who sought refuge from an oppressive government, this country quickly developed a rich tradition of willingly harboring foreigners seeking a new life. However, this welcoming attitude has drastically faded in the past few decades as the national focus has turned to cracking down on illegal immigration” (Rodriguez 440).
Deporting the children of illegal immigrants, according to Rodriguez, will have far reaching cultural consequences. “By splitting families, the courts will weaken the sense of cultural identity among Latinos in this country” (Rodriguez 462). Given the current interest in welcoming diversity in the social fabric of the United States, Rodriguez argues that deportation needs to be considered in a cultural context.
“Diversity is now widely recognized, highly regarded, and purported to be welcome in the United States…[therefore] courts should embrace, rather than shun, this class of immigrants by interpreting deportation statutes with a thoughtful appreciation for potential cultural consequences” (Rodriguez 462).
Deportation advocates point to the importance of deporting criminals and terrorists from home soil, for the protection and peace of mind of legitimate citizens. On the pro side, deporting criminal and terrorists make these undesirables the concern of their home countries. On the con side, criminal activity cannot always be proved, and those suspected of terrorism will most likely suffer torture in their home countries, again, whether or not their terrorist activities have been proved.
Author Amy Bracken points to recent deportations of Haitian criminals in the United States, many of whom had clean criminal records at the time of deportation. “Although the vast majority of criminals deported to Haiti lived in the country at some point, most weren’t there for long, and many consider themselves, and are considered by others, far more American than Haitian. Most deportees left Haiti when they were younger than seven years old and lived in the United States for more than 20 years” (Bracken 7).
In Britain, the suggestion of amnesty for illegal immigrants who had resided in the country for a number of years and not broken any laws met with a lukewarm reception in the Evening Standard. Then mayor of London Boris Johnson proposed that “those who have lived [in London] for several years…be given citizenship, on condition that they are able to support themselves and have no criminal record” (“Migrant amnesty just won’t work.” 9).
The Evening Standard agreed with Johnson, “on compassionate grounds…Illegal immigrants are routinely exploited by unscrupulous employers and landlords, pay no tax and are fearful of reporting abuse to the police. The case against an amnesty, however, is stronger…It would mean admitting an unknown number of people, and their dependants, to the benefits of citizenship, an open cheque that we cannot afford (“Migrant amnesty just won’t work.” 9).
Where deporting terrorists is concerned, little sympathy exists, except in the case of deporting suspected terrorists to countries where torture is de rigueur. The high court in Britain ruled that “a suspected terrorist can be held as long as deportation proceedings last; however, once the suspect is ordered deported to a torture-state, he must be released in Britain.
Why? European law bars deportation to torture-states; and, since British citizens are not subject to indefinite detention, the court said non-citizens shouldn’t be either” (“Rights, and then what?” A12).
Not all Western democracies follow Britain’s lead however. Canada, for instance, has not yet decided what to do about terrorists up for deportation to so-called torture states. As a result, “suspected foreign terrorists are jailed indefinitely, without criminal charge, pending deportation. The Supreme Court has ruled that deportation to countries where torture is likely should happen only in exceptional circumstances, which have yet to be defined.
Meanwhile, four Arab suspects are in jail, and a fifth is at home after a judge accepted his argument that his 21 months behind bars somehow neutralized the danger he poses” (“Rights, and then what?” A12). Western democracies have a responsibility to protect their citizens from terrorism, however, does that mean they condone and support torture? The jury remains out on this question.
In conclusion, the idea of “illegal” may come under scrutiny in the years to come. In a world that increasingly does away with borders in economic terms, it makes little sense to continue to uphold physical borders. If global citizenship were ever to replace national citizenship however, the question, as always, would become, “Who pays for it?”
Bracken, Amy. “No mercy: Haitian Criminal Deportees.” NACLA Report on the Americas 42.5 (2009): 6-10. Web. 30 Dec. 2010.
Carr, Bridgette A. “Incorporating a ‘Best Interests of the Child’ Approach into Immigration Law and Procedure.” Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal 12 (2009): 120-159. Web. 30 Dec. 2010.
Francis, David R. “Costs Will Rein in Arizona’s Immigration Crackdown.” Christian Science Monitor 30 Aug. 2010. n. pag. Web. 31 Dec. 2010.
Goldberg, Jonah. “For Starters, Build a Wall.” USA Today 23 May 2006: 11A. Web. 31 Dec. 2010.
“Migrant amnesty just won’t work.” Evening Standard [London, England] 9 Mar. 2009: 14. Web. 31 Dec. 2010.
“Rights, and Then What?” Globe & Mail [Toronto, Canada] 18 Apr. 2005: A12. Web. 30 Dec. 2010.
Rodriguez, Tornds Joaquin. “Latino Youth vs. United States Deportation Laws: A Cultural Consideration.” Journal of Gender, Race and Justice Wntr 2009: 439-463. Web. 30 Dec. 2010.