I recall boarding an airplane when I was only four years of age in the year nineteen eighty-nine. I had little knowledge as to what was going on. As well as little to no knowledge of any other country other than Cuba. And now I was on my way to the United States through a 45-minute flight. My mother was married to a political prisoner and we were granted a visa to travel to and live in America. The U.S. has had a long history of immigration. Europeans were some of the first people to cross the Atlantic Ocean by ships. They settled in large numbers in North America which we know today as the United States. In 1790, Congress passed the first law concerning U.S. citizenship. The Naturalization Act of 1790, allowed people who had lived in the United States for two years or more, to apply for citizenship. There was a major caveat to this act, it only applied to white people of good character. Those that could not obtain citizenship, were denied essential constitutional protection, voting rights, property ownership and the ability to testify in court. In 1815, the U.S. sees its first wave of immigration.
From the early 1800’s until the early 1900’s, the U.S. had several waves of immigration. In 1907, 15 years after the United States opened its first immigration station in Ellis Island, approximately 1.3 million people entered the country through this location alone. In February, the U.S. and Japan signed a Gentleman’s agreement due to an influx of Japanese workers. They were believed to be costing white workers their farming jobs and reducing wages. At this point in our nation’s history, it was already the second time immigrants were accused of taking away jobs coupled with depressing wages. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed and it bared Chinese immigrants from entering the U.S. In 1924, the U.S. limits the number of immigrants permitted to enter the country and established the U.S. Border Patrol to prevent illegal immigrants from crossing the Canadian and Mexican borders. In 1965 the American immigration system is reconstructed with the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Act ends the national origin quotas enacted in 1924 which was based on racial and ethnic groups. The old quota system is replaced by a seven-category preference system which accentuated on family reunification and immigrants possessing certain skills. President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Simpson-Mazzoli Act in 1986. The Act granted immunity to more than 3 million immigrants living in the United States illegally.
Immigration has been a noteworthy topic in political debates for decades, as lawmakers have considered subsequent issues like the effects on the economic and security concerns. Congress has been unable to reach an agreement on an exhaustive immigration reform for many years. For instance, in 2001 two U.S. Senators proposed the first Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The bill and successive modifications of the it, did not pass. During the first two years in office, President Donald Trump and his administration has worked to raze major aspects of the U.S. immigration system. Pointedly are his attempts to terminate what little protection immigrants had under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). A survey conducted by Global Strategy Group shows that 77 percent of voters’ support legislation that presents avenue to citizenship for people that arrived to the U.S. under the age of 18 (Global Strategy Group, 2019). June of this year the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill is geared towards those that have lived in the United States for at least four years prior to June 2019, enrolled in or have completed high school and have steered away from trouble. This law is estimated to permanently safeguard 2.5 million immigrants from deportation.
Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquín, was a seven-year-old Guatemalan girl who died of septic shock and cardiac arrest at the U.S.-Mexico border in New Mexico while under U.S. border patrol custody. She migrated from Alta Verapaz, in the northern Guatemala highlands, where modest farmers are being forced off their lands to make space for industrialized producing of sugar and biofuels (Borger, 2018). Experts in the region argue that when politicians or activists come forward on behalf of the people dispossessed, the U.S. has sided with the powerful and wealthy to help subdue them. There are reports that the U.S. has even turned a blind eye when they have been slaughtered (Borger, 2018). For some time now, migration from Mexico to the United States has been chiefly driven by low-skilled, illegal workers seeking economic opportunity (Zong, Zong, Batalova, 2018). On average Mexicans are more likely to be Limited English Proficient (LEP), have lower levels of education, experience poverty, and lack health insurance especially when compared to the overall foreign-born population in the United States. Most Mexicans in the U.S. who obtain lawful permanent residence—also known as receiving a green card—do so through family ties (Zong, Zong, Batalova, 2018). In 2017, Mexican immigrants are more likely to be of working age with the median age of 43 years, compared to 45 years for all immigrants and 36 years for those born in the U.S. In the same fashion, newer immigrants from Mexico are more likely to have some college education and have robust English skills than those who migrated in prior decades (Zong, Zong, Batalova, 2018).
Carl Marx, the author of Conflict Theory, describes society as two classes: the capitalists, or bourgeoisie, and the exploited workers, the proletariat. These two classes are believed to be at opposition because Conflict theorist suggest that capitalists own the factories, land, and capital etc. and benefit from the exploitation of the workers. The tension between these two classes was believed by Carl Marx, to be what would bring about change in human history. Additionally, he believed that tension would build until the workers revolted against the capitalists. This revolt would lead to a fierce revolution which a classless society would proceed. From the perspective of a conflict theorist, American consumers and farmers, exploit the efforts of migrant farm laborers. Migrant workers run into the possibility of being further exploited by the human smugglers where they pay roughly four thousand dollars to be smuggled into the U.S. The message from right-wing Americans, is to impose and enforce tough immigration laws. This essentially eliminates the labor pool to work farms and other agricultural jobs resulting in a significant increase to the consumer for produce and dairy products. Since the early nineteenth century, immigration statistical data has been collected to analyze the budgetary effects of immigration on the nation’s economy and its workforces. Arguments about restricting immigration would improve the economic well-being of innate workers. On the other hand, those who oppose immigration, argue that the unemployment rates would increase for native workers because both immigrants and native workers are in competition for jobs and resources. Because hiring an immigrant costs less for employers, jobs will more than likely go to immigrant workers than a native worker. Conversely, those that are in support of immigration assert that the nation’s economy improves as a result of immigration. They believe that the workforce will bring in more individuals, which then leads to generating higher productivity and increased competition in the labor market. Moreover, immigration advocates affirm that the native population benefits from immigration because ‘immigrants increase the demand for goods and services produced by native workers and firms’. Sociologists have studied the conflicts produced from the rise in marketplace competition due to the increase of competition between immigrants and native workers for jobs and social mobility, they suggest that the competition is the essence of the immigration debate because of its relativity to economics.
I understand that everyone in a difficult situation cannot migrate to the U.S. However, those who seek to obtain protection from persecution into the United States should strongly be considered. As of July 2018, the U.S. border has over 733,000 pending immigration cases with an average wait time of 721 days for an immigration hearing (Fact Sheet: U.S. Asylum Process, 2019). One way I think our immigration issue can greatly improve is by reconfiguring and streamlining the current process. Since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, the federal government has spent an estimated $324 billion on immigration related agencies alone (Nowrasteh, 2019). I was once in a budgeting conference and the facilitator said “If you give the warfighter $250 million, you won’t have casualties on the battlefield”. What I took away from that? We must start putting in place the right amount of resources. A huge factor to so many immigrants traveling into the U.S. illegally is because the process is broke and results take too long. Instead of placing so much focus on a boarder wall or border security, why not place that energy into immigration reform? Something ironic that I learned throughout my research is that the U.S. has played a political role in some of the issues that have caused people to flee their countries. We owe it to those people– to provide them with assistance as well as engage their governments in order to achieve desirable outcomes through diplomacy. “The destabilization in the 1980s – which was very much part of the U.S. Cold War effort – was incredibly important in creating the kind of political and economic conditions that exist in those countries today,” said Christy Thornton, a sociologist focused on Latin America at Johns Hopkins University (Borger, 2018).
I comprehend that those opposing immigration are concerned with the increase in criminal activities and the violence and even more so, terrorist attacks. Cato Institute conducted a study which shows that illegal immigrant conviction rates are about half of those of native-born Americans. The illegal immigrant conviction rates for homicide, larceny, and sex crimes are also below those of native-born Americans. The criminal conviction rates for legal immigrants are the lowest of all (The Cost of Immigration Enforcement and Border Security, 2019). A helpful example of this study is the latest terrorist act that occurred in El Paso, Texas. It was committed by a white U.S. citizen male against Hispanics. America is a beautiful country with a rich history of immigration. The statue of liberty specifies, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” We are the land of opportunity and home of the free. We should continue to implement immigration laws that adhere to these values and offer the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses an opportunity to breathe free.