The United States of America is often seen as a melting pot. A metaphor that describes the many different nationalities, cultures, and ethnicities that make up this country. This all started when Europeans and many others fled their countries because of crop failure, land and job shortages, rising taxes, and famine. America was seen as a land of economic opportunity and they were looking for a better life. It was the best choice for anyone seeking political asylum, jobs, or freedom. Immigration continues to be the center of national debate and specifically the center of presidential debates. With the vast amount of immigrants entering the U.S. both legally and illegally come many opinions from Democratic and Republican lawmakers on what to do with immigration policy, whether or not immigration is beneficial or detrimental to the U.S., and possible solutions.
Immigration policy has changed drastically from the 1800s up until the current day. In the 1800s, America encouraged open immigration to settle its empty lands and following the civil war, states started to create immigration laws. However, in 1876 the Supreme Court decided that immigration laws were a matter of federal responsibility. Therefore, the Bureau of Immigration and U.S. Border Patrol was created. From the 1900s to the 1950s, roughly 24 million immigrants arrived in the “Great Wave”. WW1 reduced immigration from Europe although the ending of the war caused mass immigration. In 1924, the national-origins quota system was created to limit immigration by assigning each nationality a quota. This favored mostly Northwestern Europeans. Over the next 20 years, immigration was relatively low following WW2 and the depression. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 was created to protect the Immigration Act of 1924 from its controversy. In the 1960s, Congress changed the national-origins quota system into a different system. It was designed to unite families and attract skilled immigrants. This shifted immigration away from Northwestern Europe and the majority of applicants for immigration visas started coming from Asia and Latin America. At the time there were roughly 320,000 immigrants per year although this would triple to over a million by the 21st century. The system continued to limit the number of immigration visas for many years. Congress created the Refugee Act of 1980 to have a policy for the admission of refugees. Congress then created the Immigration Reform and Control Act to control the alarmingly high rates of illegal immigration. Employers were giving many American jobs to illegal immigrants. In 1990, Congress created an Immigration Act to increase the total level of immigration to 700,000; visa availability increased by 40 percent.
In 2000, the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act was created to help illegal aliens trying to get a green card through marriage, employment or other categories. It was hard for them to get approval due to the long line of people ahead of them. The terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, changed the way people saw immigration. 20 foreign-born terrorists took part in the attack that caused 2,974 civilian deaths. The terrorists had entered the country on tourist or student visas. In response, the House passed the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, which focused on the border. In 2006, the Senate passed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 which gave amnesty (pardon) to a majority of illegal aliens already in the country as well as dramatically increased legal immigration. In 2012, President Obama announced an executive order called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). It would have granted three-year, renewable work permits and exemption from deportation to illegal aliens with children who are American citizens or lawful permanent residents. Approximately 3.6 million aliens would have been eligible. However, multiple states filed lawsuits against the federal government and a temporary injunction blocked DAPA from going into effect while the lawsuits proceeded. However, in 2012 he also initiated an immigration policy called DACA known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA provided a 2-year deferment from deportation actions and provides eligibility for a work permit. The 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump came with a wide range of promises regarding immigration. Among those promises: build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it, deport all illegal aliens, defund sanctuary cities, ban Muslims from entering the United States, limit legal immigration, and triple the number of ICE agents. In 2017, he signed several executive orders. He signed a travel ban which restricted the admission of the citizens from seven countries—Libya, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Venezuela (Chad was included in the final executive order but removed from the list the following year), banning over 135 million potential immigrants and nonimmigrant visitors. Trump also repealed the DAPA order. Lastly, he announced plans to phase out DACA, making the potential recipients eligible for deportation. As of 2018, the fate of DACA remained uncertain. A federal judge ruled that the program must resume processing new applicants, and the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in October 2019 with a decision coming in 2020.
Immigration laws today are very complex. The Immigration and Naturalization Act allows an annual limit of 675,000 permanent immigrants to enter the U.S. There are certain exceptions for close family members. Each year non-citizens can enter temporarily. Congress and the President are able to determine a specific number of refugee admissions. Immigration law can be separated into three major categories. Family-based immigration allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to petition the government to allow family members to migrate to the United States where they are located. There is no limit on the number of spouses, minor children, or parents that citizens can petition for. However, there is a limit of 480,000 family-based visas issued each year. As the world becomes more globalized, employers are able to recognize the importance of diversity and skill sets offered by individuals of different cultures. U.S. immigration law allows workers to stay in the U.S. permanently and temporarily. There are different visas available depending on the type of work that the individual performs and other factors. For example, there is a visa for athletes and skilled performers and a seperate one for religious workers. Immigrants who receive a work visa are often endorsed to get one by a specific employer. Under current immigration law, there are 140,000 visas per year for permanent employment-based immigration. Additionally, U.S. immigration law imposes specific restrictions on the number of immigrants that can be admitted based on their nationality. Last, U.S. immigration law allows individuals who are immigrating for humanitarian reasons to apply for visas. For example, refugees are permitted at times in the U.S. if their homeland is too unstable to return to. Asylum is similar to refugee status, but asylum is sought from individuals who are already in the United States. Immigration law requires you to petition for asylum within 12 months of arriving in the U.S.
The U.S. immigration system and immigration come with several pros and cons. In low-skill employment areas, it is true that a vast amount of immigrant workers may depress wages. From a general labor market standpoint, however, immigration helps to fill in the gaps which can form when there is a low unemployment rate. Immigrants can relieve the risk of under-performance issues occurring in the local economy. When immigrants get an income raise, so do the incomes of every other household. Although illegal immigrants may be here without the proper documentation, that doesn’t mean that they don’t contribute to the economy. Illegal immigrants still have to purchase goods in order to survive, and on all of these goods, they are required to pay taxes. These taxes benefit the entire country. It isn’t about having one group of people trying to take jobs from another. It is the process of a family trying to provide for themselves and contribute to their local community. Even when considering illegal immigration, the average person doesn’t come to a new nation because they’re looking to cause trouble. Most want to contribute, which is why the presence of immigrants is beneficial to virtually everyone. On the contrary, immigration can cause overpopulation issues. As wealthy countries like the U.S. become overpopulated, under-population issues can begin to form in the developing world. In addition, the U.S. immigration system is horrible. There are more than 2,000 children being held in custody without their parents at the southern border daily; migrant adults and children are facing overcrowded facilities; since the start of Donald Trump’s presidency, two dozen migrants have died in custody with US Border Patrol, including six children. There is a backlog of 850,000 asylum cases waiting for a day in court and fewer than 450 judges to handle them. Roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants are living under the fear of deportation; 3.6 million were brought to the United States as children. As of last November, more than 3 million people were waiting for family-based visas, and more are in line for employment-based visas. Trump’s administration has cut the number of refugees the United States admits by 60 percent, even as a global refugee crisis rages on. Under the Trump administration when migrant families illegally cross the border they are charged with a criminal offense. This administration uses Section 1325 of U.S. immigration law to target asylum-seekers.
The U.S. immigration system needs serious reform, which is why we need to elect congressmen and a president who will work diligently to solve this crisis. I agree with presidential candidates Sanders, Harris, and Castro who have publicly said they would pursue legislation to provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States in their first 100 days in office. We should repeal Section 1325 which makes it a criminal and not a civil offense to cross the border between ports of entry. What we need to do is have a sane immigration system that keeps us safe at the border, but does not criminalize the activity of a mother fleeing here for safety with her young children. The Trump administration ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and several lawsuits have been filed against the administration for terminating the program unlawfully and we need to bring it back. Immigrants in the U.S. should be granted citizenship if they are working and are not a burden to society. They make a substantial proportion of the working force. They are indispensable to the U.S. economy. They are more important to the country than some of the other lazy citizens. Building a wall is just stupid because sooner or later someone else will demolish it (look at the Berlin Wall).