The Unites States was built by immigration. Almost everyone in the country is the descendant of an immigrant who came to the United States after it achieved independence. For much of its history, the United States was open to immigrants. There had been attempts to limit immigration in the past, but this is now a major political issue for the country today.
There is a major difference between the mass immigration in the past and the immigration taking place today. In the past, let’s say from 1880-1920, a major period of historical immigration, if you came to America, you had to take care of yourself. There were some ethnic based aide societies, but basically, your personal situation as an immigrant was up to you. You had to quickly find work and find ways to integrate into society. Many were unable to do this and returned home. In fact, about a THIRD of the immigrants in this period returned to their country of origin.
Today, if you come to the United States, the government does a lot to help you out. And it is costing the country a fortune to do this. Many say that immigrants pay taxes and are contributing to the country. This is true. Estimates are that immigrants pay about $19 Billion in taxes a year. But Federal and State governments pay a total of $115 Billion in aid and support for immigrants (figures from the “Federation for American Immigration Reform” website. Note that I deducted the $20 Billion spent on Border and Customs enforcement that would have to be spent anyway). The net result is that we pay just a bit under $100 Billion a year to support immigrants. The United States is, and always has been, the land of opportunity. We should continue to welcome those who want to come here, work hard, and get ahead. The key word is “opportunity”. It is NOT a guarantee that the country will take care of you, and your family, as long as you are here.
“Opportunity” also means that those that come must do their best to make changes to be best able to take advantage of them. This means things like learning English, a willingness to work at whatever job is available, and getting education and skills to be even better positioned for future opportunities. We do a BIG disservice to those we try to help by accommodating their foreign languages in schools and government. If you don’t speak English in the United States, you will forever have extremely poor economic opportunities.
The language isn’t the only adjustment immigrants may need to make. They also have to accept American culture. This doesn’t mean changing the food they eat or the holidays they celebrate. But it does mean accepting the critical cultural norms of freedoms of speech, thought, and religion, as well as avoiding criminality and corruption.
Immigrants who are willing to work for themselves want to join mainstream America should always be welcomed with open arms. There is plenty of room, and we all collectively benefit from the increase in economic activity. On the other hand, those who come here looking for a handout or who are unwilling to adopt to American freedoms, or, worse yet, are here with criminal intent, need to be sent back.
What to Do
Building a Wall isn’t going to fix America’s immigration problem. It might be helpful in some high traffic areas for illegal crossings, but more than half of the illegal immigrants in the United States get here on visas that they then overstay. Unfortunately, the only real way to identify and then deport illegal immigrants is to have national identity cards/papers.
Businesses and other employers of illegal immigrants should face SEVERE penalties. Illegals who have entered multiple times should have stronger penalties than just another deportation.
We need to reduce services and government aid to immigrants, especially the illegal ones. Services like hospital emergency rooms are expensive to everyone, and those with no proper claim to these should not be able to use them. Welfare and housing assistance should be reserved for those who were actually invited in (such as legitimate war refugees vetted prior to entry).
On the other hand, we do need to have a viable immigration system. We do want people to come here who want to work hard and build better lives for themselves and their children. That’s exactly why our own ancestors came here. We do need a system of work permits or a guest worker program. Those that prove themselves would then be able to earn the right to stay. Others with desirable skills, such as medical professionals, engineers and so on, should be able to apply to come. And those who are criminals need to be punished and then removed.