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The United States may be referred to as a nation of immigrants. Almost everyone on the U.S soil may trace their origin from descents that came from another country. Immigration may be described as the movement of people from one country to another. Nevertheless, this meaning has evolved from the historical times; the contemporary meaning may imply a long stay in a native country. Immigration may be attributed to several factors that range from the search for better educational and economic opportunities to personal reasons such as marriage. Immigration may be viewed as a civil right. The federal constitution guarantees freedom of movement. Laws on immigration facilitate this movement. However, this phenomenon may be associated with varied consequences. The effects of immigration range from economic to social-cultural effects. The subject may be associated with exchange of cultures and knowledge sharing; however, the same trend is linked to negative effects in the job market, terrorism, and brain drain. To understand more about this, I have narrowed the topic to areas such as legal immigration, reasons for immigration, sources of immigrants, legislation regarding immigration as well as economic and social impact of the same.
Overview of Immigration in the U.S
Political debates have been stepped up recently following illegal migration. A battle has been in existence over immigration-related vices such as terrorism, drug use, and the national deficit. It is accepted that the national population may grow by a large portion due to immigration with the Hispanic population leading in this margin. Major proposals and subsequent regulations have been fronted to and from the president, most of which address illegal migration; however, exceedingly little emphasis is directed towards legal migration. Is it good to allow legal migration? Should we award more citizenship to immigrants?
I describe legal immigration as the movement of individuals through the required legal procedure. For instance, in the U.S, one has to possess a VISA either for permanent or temporary residence. The legal status must be upheld while one is within the country. In many cases, immigrants stay in the country for longer periods than the stipulated time; this changes to illegal immigration. Although this immigration may not be subject to political debating, I would view it both as a disadvantage and a benefit in terms of the social and economic status of the US.
There are four key flows of the US immigrants, namely lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who may be admitted primarily on the basis of family ties, the humanitarian migrants who include the refugees, legal temporary residents who are mainly students and temporary workers, and unauthorized immigrants. Before moving to the finer details, it is noteworthy that I highlight reasons why immigration occurs.
Immigration may be attributed to different social, political, and economic reasons. Though it may be hard to articulate the real causes of immigration, I would classify the sources into two broad categories: the “push” factors and the “pull” factors. The “push” factors are the forces that initiate emigration from the country of origin. Such may include political, economic, professional, and security factors. The “pull” factors include the attributes that instigate need for emigration to the destination countries such as fertility replacement, ageing population or insufficient skilled and unskilled labor (Rezouni, 2010, p.3). Poverty in the mother country generally drives people to migration in search for better livelihood. In some countries, the war situation may be too harsh to survive; the alternative lies in migrating to safer destinations. Economic reasons that drive people from their home countries include industrialization; here, some people may feel competent enough to move to more sophisticated destinations. On the other hand, people may be attracted to move to countries that need their expertise, for instance, the need for doctors has increasingly led to importation of medical practitioners. All these are reasons that make immigration inevitable. One may ask where all these immigrants come from; there are quite a number of sources of immigration.
Current Immigration Trends
The US is one of the largest destinations for immigrants in the world. Over the recent years, immigration has been on the incline. Particularly, the inflow of immigrants from Mexico and Central America has been declining though the magnitude of the change is not clear. The immigration from South America has also seen a decline since the year 2000. This may be attributed to the tightening of visa-issuing policies by consular officials in South American countries. Immigration rates from Canada and Europe also seem to be decreasing contrary to the upsurge of immigrants of Asian origin. Immigrants from the Middle East seem to be increasing by an extremely tiny margin. The future of the US immigration rates may be unpredictable as the four main flows may respond differently to the current economic trends.
Negative Effects of Immigration
Immigration may be associated with a number of negative effects on the US. These include economic, social, and political effects. Though immigrants affect their mother countries, I will only examine the effects that immigrants have on the USA. Immigrants affect the wage rates in the U.S and the overall standards of living. It is purported that immigration lowers the wage rates of the US by increasing the number of people in the country seeking jobs. It is also believed that immigrants mainly from undeveloped nations increase the number of cheap and unskilled labor therefore lowering the corresponding wage rates. Immigrants are also purported to consume a prodigious amount of government revenues on healthcare, welfare, and education. It may be presumed that many immigrants earn below the stipulated tax levels and may, therefore, exempt from paying taxes. Poor immigrants are also presumed to have no health insurance, backup savings in the event of job loss, or social security; the overall effect is overuse of government resources.
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Immigration may be associated with a couple of social problems such as terrorism, drug abuse, and crime. It is purported that the terrorist events of September 11 were perpetrated by immigrants; it is also widely accepted that most of the drug dealers in the US originate from the South and North America. It may also be argued that immigrants alter the national identity of the US. It is alleged that the great “melting pot” may easily get replaced by multiculturalism. Before the advent of immigrants, the culture, language, and customs of Americans would be upheld. Nowadays, schools and political institutions persistently push for “multiculturalism” according to which immigrants may maintain their customs and language instead of getting assimilated into the American society. This is purported to divide the country.
Immigration has also been mentioned with various political effects such as detention, deportation, and immigration laws. Criminal immigrant groups have always led to political animosity between the US and the country of origin, for instance, the political controversy between Mexico and the US, and the resultant war on terrorism staged against Iraq after the September 11 terrorist attack. The overall situation may be seen as a retrogressive move towards the US. This opinion may be challenged; on the contrary, immigration has a number of benefits to America.
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Benefits of Immigration
The benefits of immigration may go beyond economic, social, and political discourses. From the economic perspective, immigration might enhance the standards of living in the US. Most of the legal immigrants are known to possess unique talents and scientific techniques that ultimately add up to the economy. Secondly, immigrants increase the market size for various industrial products. The third economic advantage of immigration is that people immigrate between the ages of 15 years and 35 years; this implies that their basic schooling is catered for abroad. In most cases, immigrants who have attained the working age readily get jobs meaning that they increase the working population in the US. This may subsequently improve standards of living. It is also vital to consider that even if immigrants benefit from government resources in an area, they pay direct taxes through the purchase of goods and indirect taxes through rental costs.
Immigration enhances professionalism in the US whereby the intelligent minorities of the mother countries strive hard to come and work in the US due to favorable wages and limitless opportunities offered here. People who crave for fame, wealth, and recognition always come to the US to make their dreams come true. As a consequence, the cream of the society in the respective mother countries moves to the US to develop the nation. In fact, the US was built by immigrants from Europe who took a chance to experience life in America.
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Although the opponents of immigration may argue that it causes “multiculturalism”, I would look at it as an avenue for diversity cultural expansion of the country. America is the most diverse nation in terms of religion, culture, and language. Diversity brings unique skills and talents into the US. Regarding the job situation, diversity is crucial in executing certain duties. America is the home of any kind of music, dance, and entertainment; all because we have captivated the abilities of a diverse population and integrated them into the lives of the US people.
Encouraging immigration may help post a positive picture of the US abroad. America would be seen as a country where people from various nations can find solutions to their problems. As a matter of fact, America is posted negatively in the international media. Most favorability opinion polls collect their data from the people who may not have actually been to America. Most of the information presented as facts with the polls is media-based. The only way to alleviate the situation caused by propagandists, socialists, and communists is to allow real people to visit the US. These people would have first-hand experience of the benefits of staying here. As a result, they would take a positive image to their families abroad.
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Immigrants possessing low skill levels have contributed immensely to the growth of the US economy. Workers from other countries have disproportionately concentrated in sectors that experience high growth of economy. For instance, immigrants are said to be the reason of high population growth experienced since 1980’s; a phenomenon that resulted in the growth of the prime-age labor force (Demetrios, et al, 2009, p.07).
Furthermore, immigration contributes to business flexibility and cheap labor. This increases the availability of better quality products. Labor is a significant cost operating a business; unavailability of cheap labor would translate to high product prices. This would mean that we spend more on restaurants, hotels, and factory products. Therefore, whenever there is cheap labor from the immigrants, there come savings in the production costs leading to low product prices in the long run. This lowers the cost of living to a considerable level.
I think that immigration to the US is a better phenomenon than many people may think. For instance, looking at the impact of immigration on the wage rate, the most common opinion is that it lowers wages. However, this only occurs over a short period of time. Over a long period of time though, wages may only fall if the other resources remain constant. On the contrary, immigrants bring along their own capital to the US. Using these resources here only increases the US economic base. Taking immigrants from Europe as an example, the great European immigration in the 19th century resulted in large scale westward expansion of the US. The immigration increased the amount of available land and businesses among other resources; factors that made it impossible to lower wage rates (Hatton & William, 2006, p.176). Even if wages may fall by a tiny margin, immigrants impose unyielding demand for land and housing leading to appreciation in the property value. On the other hand, immigration results in diversity of the US societies. In the current global economic competition, there is an unyielding demand for a diverse and talented working generation. The US boasts of the best talent and entertainment industry including movie and theatre production. It is without a doubt that most of the musicians and movie stars are descents of the immigrant population. Looking at skill levels in relation to salary, immigrants may be well-known for taking jobs that Americans regard as low paying.
Furthermore, those who claim that immigrants cause competition in the job market would better consider the fact that immigrants can only affect lowly skilled employees who have only high school degree. Another reason why I would advocate for immigration is that it acts as a source for cultural exchange, it brings people from different origins together to share ideas and values; this enriches the country morally and socially. Immigration may also be seen as an avenue for developing expertise and academic excellence. When experts come to the US seeking for better jobs, they enrich us in terms of technology and scientific prowess. The broader picture is a nation full of knowledge, expertise, talent, cultural diversity, and globally a leading economy.