United States and Immigration
Ever since the coming into existence of humanity, people have been migrating constantly: from Africa to America, Europe, Asia and Australia and everywhere. There has been no point in time that people, and indeed all species, have stopped moving. An ordinary phenomenon as it is, it is quite clear that we are powerless to deal with migration. In most cases, migration has been from the poor lands (which make about 83% of the total world population) to the rich lands. The United States, arguably the biggest product of migration, makes about a third of the total rich population (Sachs, pg. 18- 19). Therefore, it is only natural that it has to bear with the biggest burden of immigration. However, it has been suggested that immigration to the country has led to widespread discrimination, distortion of culture, ethnic violence and fears of terrorism. As a product of immigration, the United States cannot, however, underscore the importance of this phenomenon. So should it restrict immigration or should it embrace it, just like it has always done? This paper argues that it should embrace it.
Why U.S. Should Embrace Immigration
There have been suggestions in many quarters that immigration has been the root cause of increased crime in the country. However, this is simply not the case. Recent crime trends indicate that immigration has a negligible influence on crime. Lee et al have argued that, contrary to popular belief, many immigrants are crime-prone (pg. 560). These researchers examined homicides in El Paso, Miami and San Diego (places that have quickly expanding immigrant population) from 1985 to 1995 and found that there was simply no significant relationship between recent immigration and Latino homicides. What they found, however, was a positive correlation between the homicides and an increase in poverty. In general, Lee et al write that there is simply no significant relationship between recent immigration and homicide (pg. 571).
Their views are supported by recent homicide trends in New York and Los Angeles. Between 1985 and 2005, the homicides rates reduced by 48% while overall violent crime decreased by half. In New York, the rates decreased by 66% and 64% respectively (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2007ae). This decline is despite the fact both cities are perhaps the main attractions for many immigrants. It should not be forgotten that the two have an immigrant population of more than 35% (U.S Census Bureau, 2007ab). Therefore, the assumption that immigration leads to violent crime is false. In the same breath, restricting immigration is not a solution to curbing crime.
As the paper had already mentioned, the United States is arguably the biggest product of immigration. The fact that the country is the world’s biggest economy indicates that immigration has a positive influence on the economy. In his 2006 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Harry J. Holzer argued that a large majority of US economists believe that immigration has a positive influence on the economy. Klein and Stein, in 2006, surveyed American Economic Association members and found that, in general, a majority of them opposed the restriction of immigration. This simply means that they supported the fact that immigration is good for the country’s economy.
In 1989, Moore had also surveyed 38 economists who had either served as president of AEA or as members of the President’s Council of Economists and found that 80% of them believed that immigration had a very positive influence on the economy. The rest believed that it “somewhat” had a positive influence (Simon, section 9). Analyzing these two surveys, it can be seen that the views of economists have not changed in two decades. Considering that immigration has only persisted in that period, it can be concluded that indeed immigration has a positive influence on the economy. Since the country strives to grow economically, it has to embrace immigration. Putting tighter immigration controls will be counterproductive.
Working class natives have always feared being displaced from their jobs by a “hungry” immigrant community. Although this cannot be ignored, there have been many scholars who have argued that immigrants have mostly filled labor market positions that have been abandoned by the natives. Espenshade wrote that most undocumented workers fill job positions that are deemed too unattractive by the natives (p. 209). Capps et al found that the number of non-foreign low-income earners declined by about 1.8 million between 2000 and 2005 while the population of immigrants grew by about 620,000. This simply means that the country faced a net reduction of at least 1.2 million in low-income workers (pg. 2). This decline is probably due to the fact that more and more non-foreign individuals are going for higher education (college degrees and high school diplomas) than before. This has led to an increasing demand for low wage workers. With the native citizens reportedly running away from these low skilled job positions, so who will fill them? At the moment, only the immigrant population is willing to fill them. Since the country cannot do without these workers, it would not be advisable to restrict immigration.
To allay the fears of natives that the immigrants are displacing them from their jobs, let’s analyze the labor participation of natives and immigrants (shown in the tables below). The tables 2 and 3 show that there were very small variations in the labor participation among non foreign citizens without college education. Therefore, the notion that the immigrants are displacing the natives from their jobs is unfounded (otherwise the difference would have been much larger). In the same breath, it can be argued that the immigrants are simply filling a hole in the job market and thus their influence on the earnings of natives is negligible (Holzer, par.4)
Immigration, cultural pluralism and diversity have been wrongfully viewed as weakening the social construct and thus states have to limit or eliminate them altogether. Although these phenomena have been going on for centuries in the United States, this weakening has yet to be realized. On the other hand, the country has only been strengthened. Emile Durkheim argued that modern societies (such as America’s) have the ability to support great cultural diversity. Due to the daily functioning, institutional specialization and differentiation, cultural pluralism can lead to a socially integrated, interdependent and a unified society (Seidman, pg. 40). Therefore, the United States does not need a tradition, a religion or a homogenous culture to maintain the social construct. This simply means that it should embrace, rather than restrict, immigration.
Immigration has been part and parcel of humanity ever since the founding of humanity itself. Therefore, it is simply a natural phenomenon that should not be restricted whatsoever. Although there are some cases where the immigrants have posed a serious threat to the country’s security, it cannot be generalized that all immigrants are a security risk. For instance, when about ten persons (let’s say Islamists immigrants) contrive to terrorize the country, it cannot be concluded that all Muslims are terrorists. This simply means that a few evil-minded immigrants should not negate the gains accrued from overall immigration. Thus, this author believes that only these few evil-minded persons, rather than immigration, should be restricted from getting into the country.