Illegal Immigration Essay, Research Paper
Throughout the united States of America there is a phenomena occurring in nine specific areas. These areas are known as the Nine Nations of North America. Contrary to what the title says of this phenomena the nine nations are nine different states within the United States of America. These states are California, New York, Texas, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, Illinois, and Arizona but what makes them the nine nations is the amount of immigrants in these states. These immigrants are not just from Mexico and Latin America but from all over the world with the former Soviet Union being the leader in migrants to the U.S. To examine the problem that arises with mass immigration I turn my focus to California. San Diego, California is a first hand look at the effects of interborder commerce as well as the conflicts that have arisen throughout the years. My focus takes a look at Operation gatekeeper and the economic impact of illegal immigration on California and San Diego.
California is home to more than 1.8 million illegal immigrants (nearly 5.6% of our total state population). An additional 125,000 cross the border to settle into California each year. California is mandated by the federal government to provide education and emergency health care to illegal immigrants as well as to provide custody and supervision of illegal immigrant felons (11). Not only is the state and federal government having a difficult time preventing illegal immigrants from entering the country, they are having an even more difficult time dealing with them once they are in the country. The U.S. Constitution designates immigration policy as an exclusive federal responsibility; yet, California tax payers are expected to foot a bill of over $3.5 billion in state costs for services through illegal immigrants for the FY 1995-1996 (3). Of the total, $2.65 billion is for federally mandated activities. These costs come at the expense of the State being able to provide much-needed services to legal residents.
The decreased value of the Mexican Peso is partially to blame for the increase in illegal border crossing. Illegal immigrants come to the Unites States in hopes to find an education for themselves or their children, to find work, and to better their daily lives. By coming to the United States, immigrants are given a chance to attend public schools, receive emergency health care, and other public services. Immigrants know that they will have a greater chance of making a living in America and stand to loose very little for failure, so they migrate north in search of that American Dream (10).
The Clinton administration has taken action to deal with and prevent illegal immigration. One such action was the creation of Operation Gatekeeper. Operation Gatekeeper began in late 1994, and was designed to dramatically reduce the number of successful illegal border crossings. Operation Gatekeeper provided $500 million to border states for the purpose of hiring over 100 new border patrol agents, purchasing new vehicles, and other surveillance equipment. Under Operation Gatekeeper the government directly reduces illegal immigration by placing myriad personnel and equipment on the border with the purpose of detecting and apprehending illegal border crossers (1).
The operation mainly controlled by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and uses the assistance of other federal, state, and local law enforcement and immigration agencies, as well as some military units. Another strategy Operation Gatekeeper uses to reduce illegal immigration indirectly is the use of a new nation wide data base which keeps on record the names and social security numbers of legal workers, so that work eligibility can be more easily obtained. This system makes it much more difficult for undocumented immigrants to find legitimate work. Also, government sanctions are being placed on employers who hire illegal immigrants.
On the state level, the situation is much more complex. It is the federal government who makes immigration policy. However, if the federal government fails to secure our borders and illegal immigrants settle in the state, it is then the responsibility of the state to provide public service to them and to finance those services. This is the situation currently facing California and its residents (6). The federal government is failing to prevent illegal immigration and California has to pay for that failure. In response to the situation, Governor Pete Wilson, along with the lobbyist group Save Our State , wrote the grass roots measure Proposition 187 (7). Proposition 187 was designed to eliminate almost all public services to illegal immigrants such as public education and emergency health care.
Proposition 187 would also require that persons show proof of residence before receiving any public services. Employers and public officials would be required to report people who appear to be suspect of being an illegal immigrant. This initiative has met with much resistance from not the general public, but from the federal government as well. The initiative received 58% approval in the 1994 elections and passed into law, however, Federal Judge Mariana Pfaelzer put a restraining order on the bill claiming that is was unconstitutional. Stated in the case of Decanas vs. Bica (1976), It is perfectly proper for California to pass a law dealing with immigration as long as it is not inconsistent with federal immigration laws (5). It is not clear how long Proposition 187 will remain in the courts before becoming a law, but it is quite possible that it will be there for many years and will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
Governor Wilson says that Proposition 187 will save the state as much as $200 million, offset by $100 million of administrative costs. This is not taking into consideration the possible loss of approximately $15 billion from the federal government which it has threatened to with hold if California passes a law which is inconsistent with a federal law. If the federal government does indeed with hold $15 billion from California, then the initiative would be an utter failure (9).
Not only may Proposition 187 be unconstitutional, but it has several dignity factors which need to be considered (10). If the proposition were to become enforceable, the nearly 300 thousand immigrant children enrolled in our public schools would not only be expelled, but school officials would be required to report the children s parents to the INS. Then the INS would be in the position to detain and deport the parents and the children.
Another factor which needs to be considered has to deal with the health of the children. If the law would make illegal immigrants ineligible for non emergency health care, that would deny children of necessary vaccinations (2). California would then have over half a million children that are vulnerable to illnesses which could lead to an epidemic throughout the state. Basically, Proposition 187 would revoke all the rights illegal immigrants currently have, effectively cutting them off from society. Unable to find legitimate work to support themselves, illegal immigrants would be forced to take desperate measures to ensure their families survival. They may find themselves working in black market sweatshops, committing property and violent crimes, or drawn into some sort of slave labor arena. There is no telling what a desperate person would be forced to do in order to feed his family.
By taking away the illegal immigrants rights and effectively cutting them off from mainstream society is Governor Wilson s idea for dealing with the situation (11). He wants to force the illegals out of California, and he wants to take away the public service which attract them to America in the first place. Instead or preventing more illegal immigrants from entering California, he wants to punish the ones that are already here (8). This type of policy does not sound very fair, however, it may be one of the only ways of dealing with the situation. As I stated earlier, this is a very difficult issue.
I feel that California government should get to the root of the problem and cut it off there. If the problem begins when illegal immigrants cross the border, then lets stop the problem there. House Speaker Gingrich devised his own policy to help California to deal with the problem of illegal border crossings. He has taken into account the extreme success of Operation Hold the Line , now in place in El Paso, Texas. His plan is to give California $100 million for the purpose of hiring thirteen hundred new border patrol agents for the San Diego area, where most of the illegal border crossing takes place (4). Currently there are about fifteen hundred agent patrolling the area, and there is already funds available to hire 200 additional agents before the end of this fiscal year. Also, Gingrich plans to give the California Border Patrol funds to purchase much needed equipment, such as vehicles, infrared surveillance scopes, lights, motion sensors, and patrol aircraft. The plan is to concentrate surveillance and patrols west of the San Ysidrio Port of Entry to the Pacific Ocean, and then work east from there (4). By increasing the amount of Border Patrol agents, and equipping the agents with high technology equipment, illegal border crossings could be nearly eliminated. Then, with the pressure of the illegal immigrant population increase gone, the state may be able to find less harsh ways of dealing with the illegal immigrants that are already here. Not only would this be easier on the illegal immigrants, but the state would not have to jeopardize the $15 billion of federal funds (5).
Illegal immigration has and always will be a problem for California and the United States. The United States already receives more legal immigrants than the rest of the world combined. So the problem of immigration for the United States is not going to go away. We are a nation of immigrants. I feel that the United States is the most powerful country in the world for just that reason (10).
We have to be smart when dealing with immigration. We can not make outcasts of those who are not legal because that will only create more problem.
In conclusion, it is the federal government who is failing to keep our borders secure, and it is our state that pays for this failure. There are many bills, plans, and programs on the drawing board that are being designed to deal with this issue. I personally feel that border control is a major issue that needs to be studied and dealt with intelligently and humanely. It is just not right, humane, or proper to take away what little rights illegal immigrants do have, and is most definitely not the American thing to do.