After three centuries of colonial rule, independence left Latin America with weak institutions that have since struggled to establish effective governance. Taking advantage of this vulnerability, the United States used Latin America to bolster its own interests at the expense of the well-being of millions. Overthrowing governments in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, the U.S. leveraged its imperial power throughout Latin America, protecting its monopolies and propping up authoritarian rulers to suppress progressive movements.
In the wake of this instability, the drug trade, violence, and corruption flourished, forcing millions to flee their homes and seek refuge in the U.S. The American Immigration Council makes clear that for the vast majority of these immigrants, there are no legal pathways to immigrate to the U.S.; gaining asylum is nearly impossible, the courts are severely backlogged, and employment eligibility is extremely limited. Considering past injustices and current dilemmas, we unequivocally oppose deporting undocumented immigrants.
Incidentally, deportation would not solve the migration issue. There is little evidence that stricter immigration policies deter illegal immigration, and The Washington Post finds that areas with high concentrations of deported criminals in Latin America have seen significant rises in crime, which only leads to increased illegal immigration.
Preventing deportation, however, can actually solve the issues causing illegal immigration in the first place. Each year, the undocumented send billions of dollars home to their families abroad due to the relatively high wages in the U.S. These transfers are a crucial lifeline to many Latin Americans, not only helping repay for the U.S.’ past injustices, but also helping reduce crime and poverty and thus the incentive to illegally immigrate. Indeed, a Brookings Institute report found that economic growth from these transfers has actually reduced illegal immigration from Mexico.
The undocumented also are incredibly beneficial to our society. The New York Times reports that undocumented immigrants provide a significant amount of our economy’s low-skill labor, and rather than “stealing our jobs,” the productivity and consumption gains from the undocumented create demand for better, higher paying jobs for native-born workers, increasing wages 10 percent on average.
The undocumented also do not burden taxpayers as The Atlantic writes that they contribute $80,000 more in taxes than the government services they use over their lifetime. Furthermore, while the undocumented are often portrayed as criminals, study from The Cato Institute finds that they are 44 percent less likely to be incarcerated than the average citizen. Incentives to immigrate to the U.S. are rarely criminally motivated; rather, these people desperately want to escape a life of poverty and create a brighter future for their families.
Noelle Lambert and Gaurav Sett
Class of 2019
The United States is a land of opportunity, freedom, and acceptance for so many people. Moreover, the United States can become a home. Immigration is a large factor in the growing U.S. population but according to the Department of Homeland Security, as of 2014, there are approximately 12.1 million illegal immigrants in the United States of America. The thought of accepting all of these people into our country and granting them the opportunities that we, as citizens, have been given would be wonderful, but it is simply not possible.
While many Americans believe that most people who arrive illegally come on foot, the reality is quite different. The Center for Immigration Studies reports that over half of the illegals living in the U.S. have overstayed their visas. While part of the solution to this issue may lie in better screening of the recipients’ intents before offering visas, this process is difficult and can never be 100 percent foolproof. However, once an overstay is caught, he or she may never be allowed reentry into the United States, which makes deportations easier.
Often, the individuals who live in the U.S. without documentation live in the shadows, accepting the small, low paying jobs that are usually not sought after. Many argue that illegal immigration is an advantage that keeps our economy afloat. However, according to a Forbes article written by Tim Worstall, illegal immigrants depress wages, unlike legal immigrants, because they are not protected by labor laws that prevent employers from driving down wages and are not offered welfare which raises wages for workers. This is not only hurting working-class Americans but the nation’s economy as a whole.
Additionally, while many illegal immigrants are lawful citizens, some have committed crimes. The 2017 CBP Border Security Report showed that 20,131 criminal aliens were arrested last year. Initially, the United States Government wouldn’t have known that these individuals were in the country which makes it even more of a security risk. Ultimately, the security of lawful residents must be protected.
While increased numbers of illegal immigrants can decrease the number of legal immigrants allowed, it can also limit the number of refugees allowed. According to the UN Refugee Agency, currently, there are 25.4 million refugees in the world, over half of which are under the age of 18. These individuals should not be limited from the same opportunities just because they are unable to travel to the U.S. themselves. Refugees must wait months to be granted asylum and they are often forced to move multiple times until they can be accepted and offered a path to citizenship in a country.
The solution to our country’s immigration issue though is one that is hard to reach. Over 75 percent of illegal immigrants have resided in the nation for over 10 years. These people have built their lives here and it is arguable that making them leave would be criminal. However, at the same time, the priority of lawful residents’ livelihood and safety must come first in the eyes of the U.S. government.
Class of 2022