The dilemma of illegal immigration

(Illustration by Savannah Thremert | The Collegian)

From cities to the countryside, from California to Texas to Illinois, illegal immigrants reside in many places in the U.S. With the first caucuses around the corner, the topic of illegal immigrants has been an interesting one to say the least; however, is their presence really the apocalyptic scenario that many make it out to be?

There were 11.3 million illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. as of 2014, according to a Pew Research Center poll titled “5 facts about illegal immigration in the U.S.” Even though that number is fairly small compared to the World Bank data center’s report that there are approximately 319 million American residents, the issue of illegal immigration is an explosive one for the current election cycle.

From its foundation, America was and still is considered a land of opportunity for those who seek a better life. As a result, some may not want to wait for an overly long legal procedure to gain citizenship and would rather jump the fence. On the other hand, Americans strive to make opportunities for themselves, and an overloaded workforce of illegal immigrants can deprive them of such work opportunities. This political conundrum is somewhat of a Catch-22, and opinions on the matter can vary quite significantly.

We are well aware of some of the front-running candidates’ opinions. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz want to keep illegal immigrants out altogether. While in 2008, Hillary Clinton suggested surveillance and technology as opposed to a physical fence. Also, Bernie Sanders said he wants to block guest workers without having to put up a border fence, and Marco Rubio suggested that skilled workers be allowed in to contribute to the American economy.

The varying opinions of the candidates are but a microcosm of American citizens’ opinions on the subject, as practically everyone has a thought to give on the matter. What it boils down to is whether or not immigration is a good or bad thing.

First we must ask the question: are there negatives and positives to illegal immigration?

It depends on who you ask. From an economic standpoint, illegal immigrants are mostly good for consumers but bad for producers because they drive down the price of services. Thus, businesses that utilize illegal workers can gain more money due to lower costs.

Businesses and other employers of immigrants make an extra $107 to $128 billion from reduced wage costs, according to the Center for Immigration Studies’ April 2013 article titled “Immigration and the American Worker.”

Let me give you an example. Say there are two lawn service companies that offer to trim hedges and mow the yard for the same house. The owner of the house has to budget his or her costs for the year, so lawn service has to be the best in a bang-for-buck sense.

Statistically, the company that utilizes illegal workers will charge less money for doing the same job as local workers, whereas the local company would provide an earning for American workers. While it would be good to help fellow Americans with work, the company that charges less money will gain more customers due to lower costs for the same job.

This is the same argument that we have with Wal-Mart: cheap goods and services versus helping our fellow Americans make money, albeit being pricier due to production cost. So economically speaking, it benefits businesses to use illegal immigrants as workers because of the fact that they charge less for the same work.

This is capitalism at work, ladies and gentlemen.

The next question we need to ask is: While illegal immigrants are cheaper labor, do they pay their fair share to be a part of this country?

To some of you, as well as me, they do. Illegal immigrants paid more than $11.8 billion in state and local taxes in 2012, according to Eric Pianin’s April 16, 2015, The Fiscal Times article.

So while not all of them are able or willing to pay their share in the U.S., many who can pay want to contribute to America through taxes. If illegal immigrants lower the cost of goods and services in addition to many of them paying taxes, should we just open up our borders?

While I can see the benefits that illegal immigrants provide, I absolutely oppose the idea of opening the borders. Without some form of border control, there would be no filter to keep out possible threats in addition to causing socioeconomic difficulties.

Look to Sweden with the immigration crisis as to why open-admission borders are a bad idea for when mass immigration comes knocking. That being said, I feel the remedy to illegal immigration is reform, not building a wall and having the country on the other side pay for it.

There could be alternatives to the immigration laws we have now so that potential immigrants are more encouraged to come legally rather than hopping the fence in order to avoid a long, drawn-out process. Those with labor or work skills could meet softer requirements to claim a work visa. Or perhaps immigrants seeking a better life can be taken in at the border where they can be temporarily held for examination and background checks. If they pass, then let them begin their path to citizenship.

The topic of illegal immigration is always a hot one because it is often skewed into an us-versus-them argument. While the benefits for either side are up for debate, the future of immigration is a heavy conversation that is being had by both conservatives and liberals. With the presidential election coming up, who knows what will be in store for us as well as those seeking to come to America.