Tuesday, November 23, 2004

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION--FRIEND OR FOE?

______


HON. THOMAS G. TANCREDO

of Colorado

in the house of representatives

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Mr. TANCREDO. Mr. Speaker, a friend of mine recently sent me an essay
that his granddaughter drafted for her college English composition
course on the issue of illegal immigration. I was thoroughly impressed
upon reading the article, written by a Ms. Karen Berg--so much so that
I have decided to insert it into the Congressional Record so that other
members might be able to review it. I would encourage them all to do
so, Mr. Speaker, as it appears to me that this 19-year-old woman has a
better grasp of this issue than many people--including opinion leaders
on the subject--that I have met.

Illegal Immigration--Friend or Foe?

America, since its inception, has been viewed as a land of
opportunity for those driven to find freedom from tyrannical
rule, as well as those seeking to expand their wealth and
influence. Today, little has changed with these motivations
but much has changed in regard to the population,
infrastructure, and perception regarding the management of
U.S. borders. This is a new era, where immigration control
needs to be orchestrated more effectively than at any other
time in America's history due to diminishing resources,
threats of terrorism, and the socio-economic imbalance that
can result from unregulated influx. In regard to the later,
it is believed that the immense and continuing immigration
from Mexico is the single most immediate and most serious
challenge to America's national identity. Therefore, the
question arises; what are the true economic, social, and
resultant political impacts of immigration, and in particular
the unique issues and problems posed by contemporary Hispanic
immigration.
When Vicente Fox was elected Mexican President, he ended
the Institutional Revolutionary Party's, or PRI's, seventy-
one year monopoly on executive power, thereby elevating hope
for economic development (Wall 3). Fox promised Mexicans an
employment boost, as well as the eventual opening of the
U.S.-Mexican border. However, if employment opportunities
increased, then the need for migration would decrease (Wall
3). In 1994, the United States, Canada, and Mexico
implemented NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.
NAFTA promised hundreds of thousands of new high-wage jobs,
an increase in living standards, improved environmental
conditions in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and
transformation of Mexico from a poor developing country
into a booming new market for U.S. exports (The Mexican
Economy, Agriculture and Environment 1). Mexicans were
promised that NAFTA would increase trade and investment
inflows which would in return create better jobs, raise
wages, and lift millions out of poverty (The Mexican
Economy, Agriculture and Environment 2). Although NAFTA
did stimulate trade, economic growth did not materialize.
Fox had promised a 7 percent per year economic growth, but
two and a half years after his inauguration, growth
averaged less than 1 percent (Faux 2). From there, NAFTA
concentrated economic growth along Mexico's northern
border by opening factories called maquiladoras, which
processed and assembled goods for the booming U.S.
consumer market, thereby doubling Mexican employment (Faux
3). But after the U.S. economy slowed down in 2000,
employment in maquiladoras decreased (Faux 3). Since then,
hope that NAFTA would enable Mexican prosperity had
vanished. Therefore, Mexican workers who could not support
themselves in Mexico turned to the United States for
greater opportunities. Currently, Fox is trying to
convince U.S. President, George W. Bush, to ``liberalize
migration, create guest-worker programs, and provide
migrants with civil rights and social benefits'' in order
to encourage Mexican immigration to the U.S. (Faux 4).
Debate over Mexican illegal immigration to the United
States consists of two opposing sides. Supporters of illegal
immigration believe it is not fair to prohibit immigrants
from entering the United States, since the U.S. was founded
by immigrants. Second, illegal immigrants take the low-paying
jobs other Americans are not willing to take. They help the
American economy because the amount of skilled and unskilled
workers created by high levels of immigration contributes to
the nation's prosperity (Masci 1). Alan Greenspan,
Federal Reserve Chairman, states, ``As we are creating an
ever more complex, sophisticated, accelerating economy,
the necessity to have the ability to bring in . . . people
from abroad to keep it functioning in the most effective
manner increasingly strikes me as [sound] policy'' (Masci
1). Greenspan reasons that immigrant's work ethic and
motivation make them the cornerstones of America's
economic prosperity. Finally, illegal immigrants provide
cheap labor to employers, thereby lowering the cost of
goods and services.
Opponents of Mexican illegal immigration believe that even
though the United States was founded by immigrants,
immigration of the past is not the same as it is today.
First, Mexican immigrants are not here legally. Second, most
Mexicans do not take the dangerous journey across the border
to become American citizens, but rather to help provide for
their families in Mexico. Also unlike former immigrants,
Mexican illegal immigrants are able to remain in contact with
their home localities because of the close proximity of the
two countries (Huntington 2). Opponents of illegal
immigration also believe the United States doesn't need a
million illegal immigrants each year to ensure a strong
economy. The majority of illegal immigrants are not well
educated entrepreneurs, but rather, ``poorly educated people
who take low-skilled jobs for little money,'' says Dan Stein,
executive director for the Federation for American Immigrant
Reform (Masci 1). Illegal immigration opponents also reject
the argument that illegal immigrants are willing to do the
jobs that most Americans wouldn't do. In parts of the country
where there are small amounts of immigrants, low wage jobs
are filled by native born residents (Masci 1).
After analyzing the history, causes, and contrasting sides
of illegal immigration, one might wonder if Mexican illegal
immigration hurts the United States. The conclusion made,
from extensive research in specific areas, is Mexican illegal
immigration is a detriment to the United States. But, the
reasons why illegal immigration hurts the United States
still need to be addressed.
First, many discussions of immigration fails to take into
account the attitude towards immigration in the sending
countries. For example, the Mexican media and political elite
portray the United States negatively, and therefore
dissention between the two countries in regards to
immigration is amplified. Second, manipulation of American
politics might occur through Mexican immigrants that become
influential in American government. Third, if the United
States continues to allow illegal immigrants to take
advantage of government provided benefits in states like
California, there is a possibility the entire country will
have similar economic misfortunes in the future. Finally,
since Mexican illegal immigrants have monopolized specific
areas of employment, Americans have difficulty pursuing and
acquiring those jobs--especially with the prospect of guest-
worker programs which would intensify their monopoly.
In Mexico, the media and political elite pay close
attention to illegal immigration to the United States, and
have created a one-sided, unfavorable portrayal of the United
States. The United States' attempts to control their borders
are presented as ``racist, xenophobic, and anti Mexican''
(Wall 1). Mexican citizens even blame the U.S. for the deaths
of illegal aliens who die crossing the border, and Mexican
politicians have called the U.S. border a ``slaughterhouse,
or modern Nazi zone'' (Wall 1). In Mexico, all political
parties support immigration to the United States, amnesty,
and government benefits for Mexicans in the United States,
regardless of migratory status (Wall 2). Common slogans
Mexicans use to justify illegal immigration are: ``Mexican
illegal aliens are not criminals, they only do the work the
gringos won't do,'' and ``they are obliged to cross the
border'' (Wall 2). Because the Mexican media and political
elite portray illegal immigration to the United States in
this manner, dissension between the two countries is
amplified.
Throughout history, Mexican-Americans had always been
viewed as an embarrassment. They were a sign of Mexico's
economic failure, or ``exiles who had thrown in the towel''
(Castaneda 2). The last president of the PRI, Ernesto
Zedillo, declared that, ``we will not tolerate foreign forces
dictating laws to Mexicans,'' referring to Mexican immigrants
in the United States (Wall 3). However, towards the end of
the PRI's reign, Mexican-Americans became a sign of
opportunity--an opportunity for the Mexican government to
gain influence in the United States over migration policy,
and therefore keep the gates open for continued immigration
(Wall 3).
After Vicente Fox was elected, he stressed a greater
importance associated with Mexican immigration to the United
States. His intentions are not only to govern Mexicans
resident in the United States, but also American citizens of
Mexican ancestry (Wall 3). In essence, Fox intends to
manipulate American politics through Mexican immigrants that
become influential in the American government. Thereby,
naturalized American

[[Page E2018]]

citizens' political power could possibly be diluted,
resulting in more favorable immigration and trade regulations
for Mexico.
The state of California is already on its way to
bankruptcy, and the inability to control illegal immigration
is doing more than ``some damage'' to the state's weakening
budget (Coleman 1). More than half of the Mexican
undocumented workers do not have taxes withheld from their
wages, and are able to take advantage of expensive taxpayer-
supported government benefits (Izumi 1). The result of this
has escalated economic troubles in California creating a
``welfare and healthcare state'' benefiting non-Californians
(Coleman 1). According to the Auditor General, Mexican
illegal immigration costs California taxpayers $3 billion
annually (Izumi 2). This cost estimate includes benefits like
education, health-care, social services, and criminal
justice.
If the United States allows this situation to propagate to
other states, the entire country will likely have similar
economic misfortunes as California. Evidence of this is
already beginning to show. Harvard Professor George Borjas
claims illegal immigration costs American taxpayers $133
billion annually just in wage depression and job loss
(Wooldridge 1).
Mexican illegal immigrants have monopolized jobs that don't
require skilled labor--through acceptance of low wages and
ethnic camaraderie--preventing unemployed Americans from
pursuing and acquiring those jobs. Even though U.S. employers
hire illegal immigrants for reduced wages, the average
American wage still exceeds the average Mexican wage by a
factor of ten--thereby creating an incentive for Mexicans to
find jobs in the U.S. (``Wages and Poverty'' 1). Also,
communities of legal immigrants create immigration networks
for illegal immigrants so they can conveniently enter the
United States, and find jobs and housing easily (``Illegal
Immigration'' 1). These combined factors result in a
situation where job competition prevents Americans from
obtaining jobs that don't require skilled labor.
However, this monopoly could be intensified if the Bush
administration follows through with the implementation of
guest-worker programs. Under these programs, illegal
immigrants would be granted a three-year renewable permit
allowing them legal rights to work in the United States
(Eccleston 2). Guest-worker programs were proposed in
response to Vicente Fox's request for legalizing Mexican
immigrants in the United States, and the assumed shortage of
unskilled workers--especially in agriculture (Briggs 2).
However, Mark Krikorian of The Washington Post, believes
guest-worker programs cause severe social and economic
problems for the U.S., as well as pose a threat to America's
agricultural competitiveness. ``By artificially inflating the
supply of labor, the government's interference in the
labor market keeps wages low, resulting in slowed
mechanization, and stagnating productivity in fruit and
vegetable production'' (1). Two reasons why guest-worker
programs intensify the monopoly illegal immigrants have on
low paying-employment opportunities are: they increase the
amount of illegal immigrants to the United States because
many of the participants elect to stay in the U.S., and
more illegal immigrants are encouraged to come in the hope
that amnesty programs will be enacted again in the future
(Briggs 2).
Throughout time, legal and illegal immigrants have crossed
America's border in search of opportunity. Recently, however,
Mexican illegal immigrants are migrating to the United States
in increasingly larger numbers in order to take advantage of
the opportunities America has to offer. The economic, social,
and political results of illegal immigration--in particular,
the unique issues and problems posed by contemporary Hispanic
immigration--are detrimental to the United States.


WORKS CITED

Briggs, Vernon and Lawrence Harrison. ``Immigration
Policies Affect Unemployment.'' Pittsburgh Tribune--Review.
28 Mar 2004. 3 May 2004. http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/
tribune-review/opinion/columnists/guests/s_186510.html.
Castaneda, Jorge. ``Both Nations Need to Vault Immigration
Hurdles.'' Los Angeles Times. 7 Apr 2004. 1 May 2004. http://
www.newsday.com/news/opinion/
nyvpcas073743956apr07,0,5700657,print.stor
?coll=nyviewpoints-headlines.
Coleman, Noelle C. ``Illegal Abomination.'' American Daily.
16 Aug 2003. 28 Apr 2004. http://www.americandaily.com/item/
1997.
Eccleston, Roy. ``Bush visa `ploy' to win Latino voters.''
The Australian. 9 Jan 2004. 1 Mar 2004. http://0-web.lexis-
nexis.com.library.lib.asu.edu/universe/printdoc.
Faux, Jeff. ``How NAFTA failed Mexico.'' The American
Prospect. 1 July 2003. 27 Apr 2004. http://www.prospect.org/
print/V14/7/faux-j.html.
Huntington, Samuel P. ``The Hispanic Challenge.'' Foreign
Policy. Mar/Apr 2004. 3 May 2004. http://foreignpolicy.com/
story/cms.php?story_id=2495.
``Illegal Immigration.'' Center for Immigration Studies. 2
May 2004. http://www.cis.org/topics/illegalimmigration.html.
Izumi, Lance, and Alan Nelson. ``How California Can Lead
the Way Against Immigration.'' 20 Oct 1992. 27 Apr 2004.
http://adnetsolfp2.adnetsol.com/ssl_claremont/gsp/gsp18.html.
Krikorian, Mark. ``More Guest Workers? Not What We Should
Pick.'' The Washington Post. 25 Feb 2001. 3 May 2004. http://
www.cis.org/articles/2001msk02-25-01.html.
Masci, David. ``Debate Over Immigration.'' The CQ
Researcher Online. 14 July 2000. 1 Mar 2004. http://0-
library.cgpress.com.library.asu.edu:80/cqresearcher.
``The Mexican Economy, Agriculture and Environment.'' The
Ten Year Track Record of the North American Free Trade
Agreement. 8 Apr 2004. http://www.citizen.org/documents/
NAFTA-10-mexico.pdf.
Wall, Allan. ``Undue Influence--the Government of Mexico
and U.S. Immigration Policies.'' The Social Contract. Winter
2002. 23 Apr 2004. http://www.thesocialcontract.com/cgi-bin/
showarticle.pl?articlelD=1122&terms=.
Wooldridge, Frosty. ``Illegal Immigration Costs to American
Citizens.'' MichNews.com. 5 Dec 2003. 3 May 2004. http://
www.michnews.com/artman/publish/article-1879.shtml.

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