The Effect of Legal and Illegal Immigrants in the United States

The Effect of Legal and Illegal Immigrants in the United States

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For many years the United States of America has been held by many to be the land of opportunity where everyone can achieve their dreams. Like in any area of the world the immigration and migration of people both legally and illegally shapes our country’s population and the economy. In the United States there are millions of illegal immigrants that struggle to find a way to live and then there are the legal foreign-born individuals that abide by our laws and still struggle to get by. A great deal of the population growth we have seen in the past and will see in the future is due to the immigration of foreign people into this land. As one studies our nation he can see there are many differences between the status and living conditions of natives and foreign-born population. There are many migrant workers that come into this country every year to work in the farms and industries that offer seasonal work with little pay. In light of the recent terrorist acts against this country the immigration laws and border patrols are coming under greater scrutiny.

Immigrants and Their Place in our Population

There are all kinds of immigrants in the United States and they have different
kinds of statuses. First of all there are legal immigrants that were foreign born but have become citizens of the United States. There are also people who come into the country legally and are given permission to live here permanently but are not naturalized citizens because they have either never applied for citizenship or do not meet a requirement for citizenship. We also have those who come here legally to stay for a set amount of time for things such as education, or work. On the other end of the spectrum are the millions of illegal immigrants that sneak into our country hoping to find asylum and a better way of life.

As is apparent in any area that receives immigrants the influx of new people has
an effect on population size and diversity. The Department of Labor expects the
population of the United States to grow by around fifty percent over the next fifty years.
They also say that immigration will have the biggest role in growth through mid-century
and that other changes come only because of birth rate and death rates. We are to expect
around 820,000 immigrants to arrive in our country every year not including those who
come illegally.

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So by the year 2050 immigration will increase our population by over
eighty million people, which will account for around two-thirds of the projected
population growth in this fifty-year period. It has been estimated that in the United States today there are over 5.8 million people eligible to apply for United States citizenship and also 687,000 children who can possibly derive citizenship because of their parent’s naturalization. There have been efforts in the past to encourage these people to go ahead and gain citizenship but sometimes the efforts backfired because the encouragement of these people to become a citizen made in that much more enticing for immigrants to come into our country to be an “American”. (United States Department of Labor) According to the information gathered in the 2000 census there are around 28.4
million foreign-born citizens who live in the United States, which is approximately 10.4
percent of our population. Over half of these people were Latin American, twenty five
percent Asian, fifteen percent European and the other eight percent from other regions.
According the census information foreign born people are more likely than natives to be
concentrated in certain areas for instance the majority of foreign born people at the rate of
about seventy percent of them live in the west or south. Whereas natives of this country
are fairly evenly spread throughout the regions. Most of the legal permanent residents
also live in the west with thirty five percent of them in California alone. A vast majority
of all foreign-born citizens that were born in Latin America reside in the western part of
the United States. Also the census information found that foreign-born people are more
likely to live in cities and or “metropolitan” areas than native-born people. Over one half
of the foreign born people lived in a big city compared to only one quarter of the native
born people. (United States Census Bureau)
Status and Employment Differences
Census information also revealed many differences in the social status and
economics of foreign and native-born people in the United States. First of all it was
revealed that eighty percent of the foreign born population is in the age range of eighteen
to sixty four while only sixty percent of native born citizens are in this age group the big
difference coming in the amount of those less than eighteen. The census found that
foreign-born people live in families that are larger than those of the average native-born
people. In 2000 twenty-six percent of foreign-born people had families of five members
or more and native-born people only had thirteen percent of families this large. Also
among the population that is fifteen years or older foreign-born people are more likely
than natives to be currently married. The foreign born person in the United States over
the age of twenty five is less likely to have graduated from high school than the native
born American. One-fifth of the foreign born’s education level was on below the ninth
grade status. The highest percentage of the foreign- born population that did graduate
high school were those from Asia and Europe at around eighty three percent while the
percentage of those from Latin America was only forty nine percent.
It has also been found that foreign-born people are more likely to be unemployed
than natives of this country. The unemployment rates interestingly were very similar
between the males both foreign and native but differed between women who were foreign
born or native. Foreign workers were also more likely than natives to be in service
occupations but more native-born workers hold the managerial or professional
occupations. Among the foreign born people who did have managerial or professional
jobs only seven percent were from Central America while thirty eight percent were from
Asia. Also on the employment front it has been found that native born people seem to
make more money that foreign born people and once again the foreign born from Central
America made much less money than those from Asia. Obviously because of the afore
mentioned information foreign-born people are more likely to live in poverty than nativeborn
Americans are. Those foreign born who were not naturalized citizens were two
times as likely to live in poverty than citizens and among these foreign born in poverty
Latin American born people were much more prevalent.
It has become apparent in the United States that when a person in foreign-born
even if they become a naturalized citizen there are differences in the way they live. The
addition to our population brought on by foreign-born people adds diversity to our culture
while also seeming to widen the gap between the “rich” and the “poor”. Part of the
reason for the concentration of immigrants in the west and south is due to the seeming
migration of everyone to the so-called “sun-belt” of the United States. As the population
of America is aging a great deal of native born citizens move this way to avoid northern
winters and as so much heavy industry has closed in northern cities people come to the
sun-belt looking for some other area of work. As immigrants come into our society today
they face a different place than immigrants of yester-year. Today’s society is
“…postindustrial society. America’s good paying jobs are increasingly the preserve of
an educated social class. Entry-level and service jobs are the only jobs available for the
unskilled and uneducated, whether they are old settlers or new, and the competition is
often fierce for any job paying more than minimum wage” (Herson…p.482). Some
people believe that Agriculture and industry could not have grown in the United States
without immigrants. Today the United States is one of only a few countries that allow so
many people who do not have native ties to the country to migrate here at one time.
Overall it has been estimated that migration adds about four percent to the United States
population every ten years.
Illegal Immigrants
On the other end of the foreign people in America are those who enter the country
illegally and those considered illegal immigrants for other reasons. It is estimated that
today there are between five and six million illegal immigrants residing in this country,
and the around forty percent of these are visa overstays. These are people who entered
the country legally and were given a visa to stay here for a certain amount of time but did
not leave the country when they were supposed to. When someone comes over on a visa
and is allowed to work and receive other benefits usually reserved for citizens then they
keep the jobs and benefits when the visa runs out and these things are kept away from
law-abiding citizens. Besides the millions of illegal people who live in the United States
there are large amounts of people who sneak across the borders and come in to do
seasonal work and then return to their home countries. There are so many things that are
considered “illegal activity” under the immigration laws of the United States a few of
these are: making a false claim that you are a citizen, failing to report the arrival of
illegal aliens, entering into a marriage to circumvent the immigration laws, and assisting
and alien to enter the United States for prostitution or other immoral purposes. These are
just a few of the numerous things that are listed under immigration laws; unfortunately
there is not enough strict enforcement of these laws to please most people. One of the
biggest sources of illegal immigrants to the United States comes from Mexico. Mexican
people who live in distress and poverty try to sneak across the borders to find jobs that
will hopefully provide them with more. One thing that has brought up recent controversy
about illegal immigrants in the United States is the fact that any children they bear while
in the borders is considered to be a citizen and can take advantage of programs for United
States citizens. One of the major arguments is over the welfare and food stamp system
because parents who are illegal can go into an office and apply for aid for the child
because he or she is a citizen. Some people feel that the parents also benefit from this
because the take the food stamps or cash assistance and support the entire family. Also
the children are allowed to attend public schools and enjoy all the rights of children of
Earlier this year the Mexican government actually proposed giving survival kits
to illegal immigrants to protect them as they try to cross the borders. One of the biggest
supporters of this idea is Mexican Government Minister Juan Hernandez. He one source
says that he feels these people are heroes and that they are only helping to boost the
United State’s economy by coming to this country. The “survival kits” would contain
medicine, bandages, dehydration powder, food, water, and twenty-five condoms for men
and birth control for women. The Mexican government feels that Aids is something they
import into Mexico so providing the condoms will help prevent illegal immigrants from
getting aids and bringing it back to their families. Many feel that giving these kits the
Mexican government would be encouraging its citizens to risk their lives and break
United States laws. There were recently fourteen immigrants died tying to cross the
Arizona desert and four hundred perished while trying to cross the border in the year
2000. (Jeunesse, William La.)
Migrant Work
One thing that causes an influx of people to certain areas for seasonal work both
legally and illegally is migrant work. Migrant workers are especially prevalent in the
areas of the country where there is a great deal of Agriculture where workers are needed
during certain seasons to aid in farm work and other duties. The National Agricultural
Worker Survey defined migrant workers as those who travel seventy-five or more miles
in search of work. This study also revealed that workers receive an average of five
dollars an hour so they make around five thousand dollars a year because they work an
average of 1,000 hours. They also found that most migrant workers are Hispanic and
born in Mexico. They found that about half are married with children and about half
work here without their families. They found that the migrants are around eighty two
percent men and mostly illegal or unauthorized workers. Many migrant workers live in
very bad conditions usually cramming as many people as they can fit into one living
space. There are a great deal of workers who are here without families who send their
wages home so they try to live very cheaply so that they have more to send. Some
farmers provide housing for the migrant workers but when the government tries to order
them to improve the housing some just cut housing altogether so government policy
seems to backfire. Some owners even rent out shabby looking houses at outrageous
prices so once again the workers have to cram as many people as they can into one
building so that they can afford to live. In an article Steve Greenhouse reported that in
Mecca, California more than one hundred immigrants slept in parking lots and along the
road. He also told stories of trailers in the Everglades that are rented out to migrant
workers for nine hundred fifty dollars a month which is the same as sea-side in Naples
and twice what people who live there pay for three-bedroom houses. These trailers are
usually one bedroom and very run down with few electrical outlets and overrun with rats.
One trailer that a young man showed a reporter had two beds in the living room, and
three more in the small bedroom. Some of the people hang their flower and cornmeal
from the ceiling like piñatas to try and keep the rats from getting into it. Owners of these
trailers can afford to keep rent high and conditions poor because the migrant workers
seem to have no other choice in where they are going to live. There are organizations
that are trying to look out for these workers and improve the conditions they work and
live in but there are so many people who sneak here illegally that it is hard to help them
all. (Greenhouse, Steve)
Recent Developments In Immigration
An article special to the Globe and Mail reports that today in the United States
there is a new type of immigrant that will be moving here to work. These new migrants
are mostly from Canada and come here legally to work and earn more money. It seems
that in the United States today there is a shortage of information technology workers that
are skilled enough to do major jobs for leading corporations. In Canada these firms are
having better luck finding skilled workers to come in and fill these positions. Some
companies pay the workers as much as one thousand dollars a day to come and work here
with all expenses paid. Some companies are beginning to set up booths in Canadian job
fairs and recruiting all their new talents from these foreign workers. These workers get better pay and lower taxes with the only drawback being the all expense paid traveling every week to and from their families. (Chu, Showwei)

In light of the terrorist attacks on the United States in September there has been a
newfound interest in immigration and how it is handled. There are new laws and
initiatives being implemented to gain better control over who is allowed into the country and how well their actions are followed once they are allowed to enter the country. One of the things that President Bush is really trying to crack down on is the issuing of student visas to foreign people to attend college in the United States. Six hundred thousand foreigners are allowed into the country every year to study here. At least two of the terrorist hijackers were in our country under these student visas. One of them was Hani Hanjour who was believed to be on the plane that hit the pentagon and was just admitted here in December. He had promised to enroll in Holy Names College in Oakland, California and never showed up. Another was Mohammed Atta who was suspected of
being at the controls of one of the trade center planes and he was allowed into the country
simply because he had an application for a student visa pending. Bush signed some
provision into law and one of them provided around thirty six million dollars to put into
the efforts of a database to track all foreign students that are allowed into the United
States to study here. (Sodieraj, Sandra)

Immigration both legal and illegal has shaped our past and will continue to shape
our future. There are so many people in this world that see the United States as the place
where all your dreams can come true where everyone is happy and living well. So as
time goes on more and more people will leave their home countries and travel to
“America” looking for that Promised Land. In the United States today there are millions
of foreign-born people who are either legal permanent residents or citizens. As their
people come into our country and live among us they shape the face of our diverse lands
and well as add great deal to our population growth. There are still millions more people
who enter our country illegally and many more who try everyday to do the same.

Although some of these foreign born people succeed in becoming naturalized citizens it
is obvious as we study our land that there are still differences. There are differences in
the status, living conditions, and wages of foreign-born people as compared to nativeborn
American citizens. Migrant workers play a major role in our agricultural economy
but since a great deal of them are here illegally and come here only during work season
they are often abused and taken advantage of. There are new laws and regulation put into
effect all the time to try and control immigration and migration and in light of recent
terrorism there has been a newfound interest in upholding and updating these laws and
regulation. All in all immigration and migration whether it be legal or illegal changes to
population and the makeup of a country in many ways.


Chu, Showwei. Special to The Globe and Mail, Thursday, September 24, 1998. New
breed of migrant workers lured south.

Martin, Phillip. ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools. Migrant
Farm workers and Their Children.

Jeunesse, William La. Mexican Government Proposes Survival Kits for Illegal
Immigrants. Monday, June 4,2001.,2933,26198,00.html

Herson, Lawrence J.R. and Bollard, John M. The Urban Web: Politics, Policy, and
Theory, Second edition. Nelson-Hall Publishers/Chicago: 1999 revised. Page
Kessleman, Mark, Krieger, Joel and Joseph, William A. Introduction to Comparative
Politics: Political Challenges and Changing Agendas, Second Edition.
Houghton Mifflin Company/ Boston and New York: 2000.

Jorge Durand, Douglas S. Massey, and Emilio A. Parrado. Rethinking History and the
Nation State: Mexico and the United States. Journal of American History.
September 1999.

Sodieraj, Sandra. Associated Press writer. Bush Announces Student Visa Crackdown.
News at visas

Greenhouse, Steven. As U.S. Economy Booms, Housing for Migrant Workers Worsens.
New York Times, National, Sunday, May 3, 1998.

United States Census Bureau. The Foreign-Born Population in the United States. CPS
March 2000-Report.

United States Department of Justice. Immigration and Naturalization Service. State
Population Estimates: Legal Permanent Residents and Aliens Eligible to apply
for Naturalization.

United States Department of Labor. The U.S. Population is Becoming Larger and More

2000 Hearing on Illegal Aliens in the United States: Before the Sub-committee on
Immigration and Claims. Opening Statement of Chairman, Lamar S. Smith.
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