Immigration is a hot topic in American politics in the early 21st century. The complex cultural issues surrounding immigration reform result from strongly held beliefs on both sides, including cultural constructions about race, the economy, jobs and the law. Almost everybody agrees a problem exists, but practically everyone disagrees about what that problem exactly is or how to solve it. Politicians have been wrestling with immigration reform for decades, but partisan politics on both sides has resulted in only slight progress to date.
The economic impact of illegal immigrants is highly controversial. According to pro-immigration reform advocates such as Francine J. Lipman, professor of law, business and economics at Chapman University, "Every empirical study of illegals' economic impact demonstrates...undocumenteds actually contribute more to public coffers in taxes than they cost in social services. Moreover, undocumented immigrants contribute to the U.S. economy through their investments and consumption of goods and services as well as unrequited contributions to Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance programs." On the other hand, immigration opponents such as the Colorado Initiative for Immigration Reform argue, "The economic and social consequences of illegal immigration...are staggering. Illegal aliens have cost billions of taxpayer-funded dollars for medical services...Immigration is a net drain on the economy; corporate interests reap the benefits of cheap labor, while taxpayers pay the infrastructural cost."
The anti-immigrant side argues that illegal immigrants take jobs from Americans. The pro-immigrant side contends that nearly all illegal immigrants do basic construction and agricultural work that very few Americans are willing to perform and that the American economy would suffer without the labor of illegal immigrants. Academic research generally indicates that illegal aliens aren't taking many jobs from Americans. Giovanni Peri, a professor of economics at the University of California, Davis, has studied immigrant labor patterns for many years and concluded that undocumented workers don't compete with skilled laborers. Peri argues that low-skilled immigrant labor is an important part of our economic system, and without low-paid workers performing routine tasks to support skilled labor, both construction and food, which have significant labor costs, would be more expensive.
According to the anti-immigration side, nearly all of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the US illegally wouldn't be here if we just had good border security, so U.S.-Mexico border security needs to be a very high priority. Some even argue the government should deploy the U.S. military to guard the border. Pro-immigration reform advocates argue that really sealing the border is nearly impossible and that desperate, hungry people are going to sneak across somehow. They also point out that the billions spent on fences, drones, cameras and law enforcement personnel are basically wasted, because thousands of illegal immigrants still still sneak through, and those caught try again later after getting deported.
The idea of offering illegal aliens already in the country some type of amnesty is also highly controversial. Advocates say that hard-working illegal immigrants who have paid taxes and didn't get in trouble deserve to become U.S. citizens after a certain period of time. Those opposing immigration say that any kind of amnesty is rewarding lawbreakers and will only encourage more illegal immigration. Some see a glimmer of hope in a growing but far from universal political consensus that the children of illegal immigrants deserve to have official legal status in the U.S.
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