The USA and its problem of illegal immigration from Mexico

Pre-University Paper, 2004

34 Pages, Grade: 15 Points


Table of Contents

1. The immigration situation in the United States
1.1 Past.….
1.2 Present
1.3 Future
1.4 How to legally immigrate

2. The Mexican immigrants
2.1 Background information on Mexico
2.2 Reasons for migration
2.2.1 Social issues
2.2.2 Economic issues
2.2.3 Environmental issues
2.3 Expectations of the immigrants.

3.The Tortilla Curtain
3.1 History and facts
3.2 People at the border
3.3 Regions of the border

4. Problems caused by illegal immigration
4.1 Economy
4.1.1 Unemployment and wages
4.1.2 Taxes
4.1.3 Impact of poverty
4.2 Educational system
4.3 Drug trafficking

5. Most important United States government agencies against illegal immigration
5.1 INS
5.2 Border Patrol

6. Possible ways to reduce illegal immigration
6.1 Increasing enforcement
6.1.1 External enforcement
6.1.2 Internal enforcement
6.1.3 Better identification and data on aliens
6.1.4 Tracking visa abusers
6.1.5 Finding overstayers
6.2 Making illegal immigration unprofitable
6.2.1 Paying for better immigration control
6.2.2 Reducing the informal economy
6.2.3 Shared liability between firms and contractors
6.2.4 Partly privatization of INS
6.3 Reforming legal immigration
6.3.1 Preventing family reunifications
6.3.2 Changing asylum policies
6.4 Supporting Mexico’s economy

7. Conclusion

1. The immigration situation in the United States

1.1 Past

In the early days of the country, the borders of the United States were open to everyone. From 1820 to 1930, the United States received about 60% of the world’s immigrants. Many states, in particular the western ones, promoted immigration in a need to tame the North American wilderness. Back in these days, most of the immigrants came from Northern Europe.

Since America was the midst of first agricultural, then industrial expansion, the need for cheap labor was vast. Immigrants at that time had a major impact on the rapid development of the country. Moreover, their high birthrates swell the U.S population. However, they often formed distinct ethnic neighborhoods which left them somewhat isolated from the wider culture. Immigrants were often exploited and accused of lowering wages and living standards. Therefore, anti-immigrant movements were early manifested, such as the Know-Nothing movement or the violent anti-Chinese riots on the West Coast.

When the first series of laws were passed to limit immigration in 1875, the battle against illegal immigration began. These laws excluded lunatics, convicts, all Chinese peoples, beggars, anarchists and carriers of contagious diseases. Immigrants were also charged a 50-cents-per-person tax.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

As seen in Figure 1 on the left, more than one million immigrants per year arrived at the United States at the dawn of the 20th century. Most of them Catholics, Eastern Orthodox or Jews from Eastern and Southern Europe. Many newcomers could not read or speak English.

The laws passed between 1917 and 1924 attempted to limit the number of new immigrants. They expanded the categories of excludable aliens, established the quota system and banned all Asians except Japanese, who had made a “Gentleman’s agreement with the U.S.

This quota system restricted the number of visas to 150.000 per year and favored mainly the Northern Europeans. Furthermore, U.S. Congress decided to ban “Orientals” from America, which meant that Asians, including Japanese, could no longer become U.S. citizens.

By 1924 U.S. immigration law limited the total number of aliens and imposed qualitative restrictions.

The Immigration and Nationality Act passed in 1953 and 1954 brought major changes in immigration law and created the modern immigration system. The new quota system now considered immigrants without regard to the number of persons of particular nationalities currently living in the U.S. Moreover, Asian immigration was now limited, rather than restricted. This Act established furthermore a system with priority to family members and immigrants with special skills.

The amendment in 1965 abolished the national origins quotas and discrimination based on race, place of birth, sex and residence.

As shown in Figure 1, the 1980s brought America the biggest immigration wave since the turn of the century. But this time the immigrants were mainly from Latin America and Asia. Some estimations say, that the number of illegal immigrants was higher than the number of legal immigrants.

In 1986, the new laws passed by Congress intended to tighten up the system and sought to limit the number of undocumented or illegal aliens living in the U.S. Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, who had been living in America for some time were legalized, while a fine for hiring illegal workers was introduced.

The Immigration Act of 1990 was aimed to attract skilled workers for U.S. businesses. It established an annual limit of 675.000 permanent resident visas and 125.000 refugees and smaller groups were authorized to immigrate. The Act furthermore increased the number of employment based visas from 54.000 to 140.000 per year. So basically this Act was passed to reduce unskilled immigrants and to create a wider base of working skilled immigrants. However, none of the quota or limitations have been reached so far. 1

The 1996 Illegal Immigration and Reform Responsibility Act led to the deportation of 850.000 illegal immigrants, but was later softened due to political and legal attack. 2

Even though these Acts were intended to reduce illegal immigration, the numbers did not decline. In fact, only the smugglers charged ten times more for bringing people across the border and the way became more dangerous.

1.2 Present

Nowadays, over eight million illegal immigrants live in the United States, some estimate even more. 3 About 500.000 to 1.000.000 illegal Mexicans enter the United States per year. The 33 million Hispanics are now the largest minority in the United States, including 21.7 million Mexicans as shown in the chart below.4

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Since 1990, more than 12,5 million illegal immigrants have arrived at the United States, including an estimated 3,5 million U.S. born minor children of present and former illegals. More than half do not enter by sneaking across the border, but come as “nonimmigrants” (temporary workers) that stay longer than their visa allows. Also, illegal workers are no longer concentrated in the agricultural field, but everywhere in the economy.

If the immigration numbers do not change, this decade will have the greatest immigration wave in U.S. history, with 45 million immigrants or about 14% of the country’s total projected population in 2010. Demographers say that, without immigration, the U.S. population would not change at all. The foreign born population has grown to more than 33 million in 2002 and is responsible for nearly half the country’s population growth last year.

Immigration has today become a nationwide problem. It affects not only the border states like California and Texas but also the rates of immigration in North Carolina, Colorado, Michigan and a few more states increased by more than 100 percent during the 1990s.5

Furthermore, the past two years prove that the amount of immigrants is totally unrelated to the labor needs and economic conditions in America.

Many experts expected that after the U.S, economy cooled down, immigration rates would decline. But the opposite has been the case.

Politicians do not do anything effective to slow the flow of illegal immigrants, but decided to end various kinds of enforcement. Moreover, they award rewards for illegal aliens like driver’s licenses to gain votes.

President George Bush intended to legalize more than three million illegal Hispanics after his election. But due to fear of terrorism after September 11 and the economic crisis, he did not pursue his plans anymore.

1.3 Future

The future is not hard to forecast. By the year 2050, the majority of the population in America will be of Mexican origin or descent. Experts agree that, if Mexican migration and birth rate continues as shown in the past decade, the United States of America will have a Mexican majority by then.

A good example is California. It now has the second-smallest middle class in the nation, its public schools are in crisis, illegal immigrants have become a powerful political force and middle-class tax payers are leaving the state. Such a scenario could be the case for all the other states in half a century if no effective measures are being taken.

1.4 How to legally immigrate

To live as a “legal” person in the United States, immigrants must qualify under a particular category. Employment-based preference is a category that allows a limited number of people to immigrate if their working skills are needed by the economy. Based on 1998 data, business managers were the largest class for this preference.

The so called Family preference allows immigrants to support a number of relatives, such as children of immigrants and siblings.

The category of Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens permits citizens to support an unlimited number of minor children, spouses and parents.

Diversity is a category that authorizes a limited number of people to immigrate based on past under-representation in the immigrant population.

The last category allows refugees to seek asylum in the United Stats based on political and humanitarian reasons. The maximum number varies each year based on Presidential determinations.

2. The Mexican immigrants

2.1 Background information on Mexico

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten36

Located in Middle America, bordering on the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico is positioned between Belize and the United States. It was under Spanish rule for three centuries, before it became independent in 1810.

Mexico has a total area of 1.972.550 square kilometers and a population of about 100 million. Its capital is Mexico City with a population of 22 million and the official language is Spanish.

62 percent of the inhabitants are between the age of 15 to 64 years and the birth rate is far higher than the death rate. Therefore the growth rate of 1,53 percent. However, due to the poor conditions, the infant mortality rate comes to 2,6 percent and 0,3 percent migrate each year.

The Mestizo and Amerindian represent the two major ethnic groups and about 89 percent of the population are of Roman Catholic belief.

Mexico has a free market economy with a mixture of modern and outmoded industry and agriculture, dominated by the private sector. The devaluation of the peso in 1994 led to the worst recession in over half a century, but a strong export sector and private consumption helped to overcome the crisis. The major export goods are silver, coffee, cotton and manufactured goods.

Now there is an annual economic growth of 0,3 percent but, an inflation rate of 15 percent and an unemployment rate of 10 percent. However, the income distribution is very unequal with the top 20 percent of income earners accounting for 55 percent of the income.

Mexico still needs to overcome many structural problems to raise wages, living standards and to modernize its economy.6

2.2 Reasons for migration

2.2.1 Social issues

Probably the most significant problem Mexicans have to face is poverty. Mexican society is characterized by a sharp class system. The small upper class owns most of the country’s property and wealth, while the majority of Mexicans live in poverty. The poorest receive only four percent of the national income, while the middle 60 percent earn the remaining 35 percent. According to a report of the Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (CEPAL), only six countries outside of Africa have a more unbalanced income distribution than Mexico

To determine the degree of poverty in which most Mexicans are living, a “Basic Basket of Foodstuffs” is used by international organizations. A study in 1996 said that the value of the basket was $5,39 a day and that 51 percent of the families could not afford this basket and were therefore living in extreme poverty. A World Bank report from the same year stated that one-fourth of the population earned less than $2 a day and that 17 percent earned less than $1 a day. Studies show that the volume of illegal immigrants is directly related to economic conditions in Mexico.

Many poor Mexicans have no access to health care and lack basic amenities like electricity, running water or sewage. In the mid 1990s, approximately 12 percent of Mexicans households remained without electricity, 11 percent lacked running water and 26 percent were without sewer facilities. Many children also suffer from malnutrition and leave school early to earn money for their families.7

To flee from those conditions, Mexican citizens keep moving into the bigger cities like Mexico City. This uncontrolled urbanization began to be a major problem in the 1970s when the population growth reached 3,4 percent a year. Between 1940 and 1970, 4,5 million Mexicans moved from rural areas into cities. Therefore unemployment increased and malnutrition became common with over half of the population severely undernourished. Slums began to grew unchecked due to lack of housing.8

This rapid population growth has strained government services, especially education and health care. Government and economy could not cope with the growing need of jobs and economic conditions forced many skilled and also unskilled workers to migrate north to the United States.

These poor economic conditions have drastically increased the levels of urban crime in the country and its cities. Drug abuse and juvenile crime have also increased in major cities in the past years.

Worst, upper income earners continued to benefit from the government’s policies while living conditions declined for poor and middle income citizens.

Furthermore, the cultivation of drugs like opium and cannabis increased drastically despite of laws and restrictions of the government. Mexico is today the biggest supplier of heroine and marihuana for the American market and most of the transports of cocaine from South America to the United States run through the country.

2.2.2 Economic issues

After the “Tequila Crisis” in 1994, Mexico’s economy is now on a good way to recover. However, investors and skilled workers avoid Mexico because of payment problems, indebtedness of private households and companies and the extreme poverty. Those economic problems combined with an unemployment rate of 10 percent are the main reasons for so many citizens to migrate to the promising United States.

2.2.3 Environmental issues

The environmental situation in Mexico is also critical for its inhabitants. Because of the unchecked expansion of urban industrial centers like Mexico City, traffic, waste, sewage and emissions are rapidly growing. Furthermore, poverty in the rural areas is leading to the destruction of natural resources.

Moreover, drinking water shortage and/or pollution in various parts of the country is common because of lacking laws and decrees. In central Mexico and along the American border, thick smog is polluting the air. Mexico City has the world’s highest level of dangerous air pollutants.

2.3 Expectations of the immigrants

The reasons for Mexicans to migrate to the United States are easily found. Most of them were born in poverty, dropped out of school to support their families and had to face poverty throughout their lives. They work hard for a tiny salary just to survive. If they have work at all.

The two major “magnets” which attract illegal immigrants are jobs and family connections. The typical Mexican worker earns only one-tenth of the American. Many U.S. businesses hire the cheap, compliant labor from Mexico and are seldom punished for it. So the migrants risk the dangerous crossing willingly for a better life.

In addition, relatives of recently arrived legal immigrants help to create immigration networks used by illegal aliens. They help the newcomers finding entrée to America, jobs and housing.

Expecting to find better jobs and higher wages, wrong expectations are another reason for Mexicans to leave their country. They see the wealthy, shiny American world on TV and commercials. Believing that houses, cars and higher living standards are waiting blurs their decision.

Probably one of the most important reasons for families to migrate are the better living conditions and educational system provided in the U.S. They do not want to see their children grow up the same way as they did and hope to be able to enjoy the benefits of the American welfare system. It even occurs frequently that a Mexican woman is crossing the boarder just to give birth in an American hospital in one of the states along the border.

All these expectations and dreams make Mexicans the biggest illegal immigration source of the United States, as shown in the chart below

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: INS estimation October 1996

3.The Tortilla Curtain

3.1 History and facts

The U.S. - Mexico border was officially established by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 and the Gadsden Purchase in 1853. By that time, about 75.000 Mexicans were living in the United States. But there was a border long before. Indian communities settled in the areas between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. In the 17th century, Spanish settlers established the same area as the northern frontier of New Spain and then of Mexico.

In the decades after the Mexican-American War (1846 - 1848), U.S. cattle barons and agricultural opportunists from the east and Midwest with substantial capital and extensive mercantile connections came down to dominate the U.S. - Mexican trade across the Rio Grande. Their domination over the earlier Spanish and Mexican settlers created an environment of cultural and economic conflict that characterizes the border to this day.

During the Mexican Revolution, which began in 1910, the border population increased drastically due to many people seeking refugee across the border.

Migration patterns were established between particular states in Mexico and particular regions or towns on the border.

Efforts to push immigrants back to Mexico increased when the economic recession hit the United States. In 1914 - 1915, the U.S. side of the Rio Grande Valley experienced a winter of violence when hundreds of Mexicans in border usage were persecuted and killed by Texas border patrols. The Great Depression in the 1930s brought a new wave of deportations.

As people from different cultural regions of Mexico have settled on the border, they have evolved a complexly layered cultural and social environment that has been created by competition and adaptation for survival. In this struggle, border peoples have developed distinctive styles, social organizations and local economies. 9

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten37

Today, the border between the United States and Mexico stretches over 1.951 miles from the Pacific Gulf to the Gulf of Mexico and is the busiest border in the world. 10 The Rio Grande, the “symbol of separation”, constitutes more than half the length of the border. The border region is home to about ten million people and has an economy of $88 billion. About 9,2 million of those people live in the pairs of sister cites along the boundary. 11

In the 1990s, a 10 foot steel matting barrier has been erected to stop vehicles from driving across the border illegally.12 In 1997, a second, 14 foot high fence north from the first has been built to keep people from crossing the border.13 Another 12 foot high fence extends 14 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. 14

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Those fences now guard about 60 miles of the boundary to keep illegal aliens and drug smugglers out of the United States. The barriers can certainly be crossed, but it means crossing farther east in the desert or in the treacherous mountains. There have been about 2.000 deaths since 1994. 15

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Illegal alien trying to cross one of the fences 16

3.2 People at the border

The region between the Gulf of Mexico and Baja California has been inhabited by many native Americans societies, which first settled and used the land. Spaniards took ownership of these lands, granted by the Spanish king. English speaking citizens, whose land-acquiring skills and –owning practices were informed by principles of commercial capital and manifest destiny also settled there.

In the Gulf coast, Jewish families from central Mexico sought refugee from religious persecution in the 18th century and established business in Matamoros and along the valley. Later in the 19th century, the Mexican government, concerned with the U.S. expansion, encouraged settlement and in some cases granted land in the western region of the borders to groups such as Chinese, Mennonites, Russians and Indians.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Chinese managers and laborers established residence in the towns of Mexicali and Calexico. The damming of the Colorado River converted this area in the Imperial Valley into fertile agricultural land. Anglo landowners leased this land to Chinese entrepreneurs, who smuggled agricultural workers into Mexico from China.

The Bracero Program of 1942 - 1964 encouraged large migrations of Mexican workers to the United States. American enterprises could legally bring Mexican contract laborers for seasonal work. Many did not return in the off-season and settled on the border.

Mexican workers have also been attracted to the border area by the 1961 – 1965 Mexican National Border Economic Development Program followed in 1965 by the Industrialization Program of the Border, which introduced the maquiladora assembly plants to the region.

From the 1980s on, economic and political refugees from Central America have increased populations at the border and migration across it. Individuals, groups and corporate bodies continue to be attracted to the border to exploit niches in an environment created by difference and marginality. 17

3.3 Regions of the border

Old established communities populate the string of small towns on both sides of the river along the Rio Grande Valley to Laredo. Eagle Pass and Del Rio bean as coal mining towns in the 1800s. Here, regional and cultural traditions are shaped by agriculture, cattle ranching and mining as much as by the early conflicts of Mexican land-grant settlements and northern landgrabbers. Labor unions of Mexican farmers, service employees and oil workers now organize maquila workers at the assembly plants that are replacing those older industries on the Mexican side.

The border follows the Rio Grande through the rough terrain of the Big Bend and passes through the mountain ranges, “the border’s fulcrum”, where the river gives way to the fence.

West of the river, a series of straight lines, not the topography, defines the boundary. This part of the border is home to Yaqui and O’odham Indians. In this area, the socioeconomic struggle of the Rio Grande is not as dominate feature of life.

The westernmost border between the Californias is very different. The original Native American populations are surrounded and forgotten by the growing urbanization of the early 20th century. Many have migrated to San Diego and Los Angeles, establishing large communities.

4. Problems caused by illegal immigration

4.1 Economy

4.1.1 Unemployment and wages

An average of 10,000 illegal immigrants cross the American border each day – over 3 million a year. One third will be caught and about half of the remaining will become permanent U.S. citizen, about 3.500 a day.18 The U.S. Census Bureau says that, if the rate of immigration and fertility rate stays the same, there will be 404 million people living in the United States by 2050, causing great concern for the quality of life, pollution, crime, unemployment, poverty and a huge tax burden to fight the effects.19 Experts agree that the United States have one of the largest illegal immigration problems in the entire world. Few other countries have such a large number of undocumented and unauthorized people entering their borders.

Because immigration increases the supply of workers, it reduces wages or makes jobs more rare for Americans. The competition between natives and immigrants is especially fierce in the low income sector of the economy, because most of the immigrants are employed in this region due to a low level of education. Furthermore, immigrants are 60 percent more likely to be employed in low skilled jobs than Americans. In this competition, they are not only using government resources from welfare and other programs, but are also increasing the rate of unemployment.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

As shown in the chart above, 26 percent of the Hispanic population is unemployed, including 7 percent Mexicans.

According to a FAIR research, between 40 and 50 percent of wage loss among low skilled Americans is due to immigration. Some native workers loose not only wages, but their jobs because of the competition.20 Immigration costs U.S. born workers $133 billon a year in job losses.21 About 1.880.000 Americans loose their work per year, producing a cost of over $15 billion a year for their welfare and assistance.22

There are already many under-employed Americans who need to be removed from the welfare system and given employment. The competition by illegal immigrants who work for less money makes this even harder.

Some states like California passed legislations to reduce or prohibit public benefits for immigrants. These laws are supposed to discourage immigrants to come to the United States for the purpose of “looting” American welfare, educational and medical care systems.

4.1.2 Taxes

The U.S. government depends on the taxpayers’ money to finance its programs like welfare, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps as well as law enforcement. An estimated 13 percent of this funding is used to support illegal immigrants. Dozens of hospitals along the border went bankrupt because of free emergency room for illegal aliens. They cost the United States over $24 billion year in taxpayers’ money. Alone half a billion dollars per year are required to incarcerate illegal immigrants and the Center of Immigration Studies in Washington says, that immigrants are 75 percent more likely to use food stamps, medical benefits and housing assistance than natives, producing at a cost of $68 billion per year.23 According to a report of the National Academy of Sciences, the net fiscal drain on American taxpayers is between $166 and $226 a year per native household. It is obvious that there is a large monetary burden for the taxpayer created by illegal immigration. 24

Furthermore, $60 billion are earned by illegal Mexican immigrants each year. Money sent home by illegal immigrants working in the U.S is one of Mexico’s largest revenue streams, after exports and oil sales. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, $10 billion are annually sent back to Mexico. Experts say, that this money helps to reduce the country’s debts and to bolster the peso. This figure equals to the amount of money Mexico earns with tourism each year. That is a massive transfer of wealth from America, especially from the poor working class to Mexico.25

As it is the case in all Western countries, each individual must be able to pay a certain amount of taxes to cover his use of public services. Families with income below the poverty line pay very little taxes. In addition to these very low tax contributions, the poor are the main beneficiaries of welfare programs such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, Food Stamps and subsidized housing. So if immigration further increases the size of the poor population, it is likely that there will be a negative effects on the public system.

4.1.3 Impact of poverty

In addition to the effect that the poor have on the taxpayers and the public system, they also endanger the general stability of society, because the distribution of income clearly matters. According to recent scholarships, a strong correlation between the level of wealth and income enjoyed by society’s members and democratic stability has been found. Furthermore, another expert has found in 1999 that the level of income quality has an impact on how people view each other. With more poverty comes less trust and a greater suspicion of others. It is common sense that greater differences in income create greater social distances between society’s members and will therefore have a negative impact on political and social harmony.

It is also proved that children, that grew up in poverty are more likely to be involved in criminal activity, have higher teenage pregnancy rates, a lower education and suffer from many more social problems, than do children that did not grow up in poverty.

The size of the poor population will also have an impact on American economy. Not only because of missing taxes but also because of the low income level and the lack of skills of immigrants.

The United States government will eventually be forced to start anti-poverty programs, which are often unpopular and demand a large amount of money.

4.2 Educational system

It is also evident that immigrants and their children cause higher educational costs without being able to pay for the them. In Colorado for example, an annual cost of $50 million goes towards educating immigrant children from Mexico and $141 million towards educating illegal aliens. This amount would be enough to buy books, computers and more for every K-12 student in the state. In addition, some Spanish speaking communities along the border demand Spanish speaking schools, causing even higher costs for the state.26

Almost two thirds of the adult Mexican immigrants have not finished high school and Mexicans accounts for about a third of all high school dropouts in the labor force, which is two and a half times that of natives.

The chart below shows the dropout rate of Mexicans compared with the rate of other immigrants of Hispanic origin.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Furthermore, students from Mexico, who are generally lower or not at all educated, lower the learning standards of U.S. schools.

4.3 Drug trafficking

It also appears that illegal immigration is closely linked to the drug trafficking problem. Hundreds of illegal immigrants carrying drugs are weekly attempting to cross the border, supported with vehicles, fraudulent identification papers and information about the best points of entry by Mexican drug lords. In some cases, both U.S. and Mexican Custom’s officials are corrupted to look the other way to ensure an easy crossing of the border.

80 percent of cocaine and 50 percent of heroin reaching America is smuggled across the border by Mexicans, most of them illegal immigrants. Drug cartels spend half a billion dollars per year bribing Mexico’s corrupt military and police officials, which also poses a serious threat to U.S. Border Patrol agents

But not only crime along the border but also inside the country increases due to immigrants that live in poverty. As stated above, the crime rate among poor people and children is far higher than among people that do not live in poverty. 27

5. Most important United States government agencies againstillegal immigration

5.1 INS

As a result of the Immigration Act of 1891, the Office of the Superintendent of Immigration was founded. Located within the Treasury Department, the Superintended controlled a new corps of U.S. immigrant inspectors positioned at the United States’ main ports of entry. The Immigration Services’ first tasks were enforcing the immigration law and to collect arrival manifests from each arriving ship

On January 2, 1892, operations begun at the Federal immigration station at Ellies Island, New York. The largest and busiest station for decades employed 119 of the 180 employees and housed inspection facilities, detention rooms, hospitals and much more. The Service continued building additional stations at other points of arrival like Boston and Philadelphia throughout the 20th century. The Immigration Service was financed by the the immigrants’ head tax until 1909, when Congress replaced the fund with an annual appropriation.

During the first decade, the Service formalized basic immigration procedures such as questioning arrivals about their admissibility and noting their admission or rejection on manifest records.

In March 1895, the Office of Immigration was upgraded to the Bureau of Immigration and the agency’s title was changed from Superintendent to Commissioner-General of Immigration.

Since most immigration laws protected American workers and wages, the Bureau of Immigration was transferred from the Treasury Department to the newly created Department of Commerce and Labor on February 14, 1903.

With the Basic Naturalization Act of 1906, Congress passed the rules for naturalization in effect today. This law also expanded the Bureau of Immigration into the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization. The new

Naturalization Service collected copies of every naturalization record issued by every naturalization court.

When the Department of Commerce and Labor divided in 1913, the two bureaus separated into the Bureau of Immigration and the Bureau of Naturalization and stayed within the Department of Labor until 1933. They were then reunited into one agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, INS.

The entry of the United States into World War II brought additional charges since many personnel enlisted in the Armed Forces and left INS short of experienced staff. The new war related duties led the agency’s rapid growth. Recording and fingerprinting of every alien in the United States, organization and operation of internment camps and detention facilities for enemy aliens required a greater workforce, which was doubled from 4.000 to 8.000 employees.

The Immigration and Reform Control Act of 1986 charged the INS with enforcing sanctions against United States employers who hired undocumented aliens and deporting those found to be working illegally.

Changes in the world migration patters and a growing emphasis on controlling illegal immigration influenced the growth of INS. More than 30.000 employees are working today for the control of illegal immigration. Its main task are now to inspect, examine, legislate, adjudicate, investigate and to patrol. The Immigration and Naturalization Service continues to enforce laws providing for selective immigration and controlled entry of tourists, business travelers and other temporary visitors. It does so by inspecting and admitting arrivals at land, sea and air ports, administering benefits such as naturalization and apprehending and removing aliens who enter illegally or violate the requirements of their stay. Most of these functions have been divided into two Bureaus. The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services handles immigration processing and citizenship services and the Bureau of Immigration and Custom Enforcement handles all border and enforcement activities.12

However, INS officials estimate that they could remove every criminal alien if it had 20.000 more detention spaces and 1.500 more employees. The required $652 million would be easily saved on reduced crime and incarceration and other public services to illegal aliens from Mexico.28

5.2 Border Patrol

About 75 mounted watchmen of the U.S. Immigration Service started to patrol the U.S. Border in 1904 to prevent illegal crossings. However, their efforts to restrict the flow of illegal Chinese immigration were irregular and undertaken only when resources permitted. Aliens discovered were directed to the immigrations inspection stations.

In the early years of the 20th century, customs violations and intercepting communications to the enemy seemed more important than immigration regulations.

Due to the constitutional amendments and numerical limits of immigration by the Immigration Acts of 1921 and 1924, the mission of the Border Patrol became more important to the U.S. government. The U.S. Border Patrol became officially established on May 28, 1924, when Congress passed the Labor Appropriation Act. Its tasks were to secure the borders between inspection stations and to patrol the seacoast. Therefore the Border Patrol expanded to 450 officers.

When the Immigration Service move to the Department of Justice in 1940, an additional 712 officers and 57 auxiliary personnel were employed. During World War II, the Patrol manned alien detention camps, guarded diplomats and helped to search saboteurs. At the end of the war, the Border Patrol counted 1.400 people.

Throughout the early 1950s, a special group of 800 Border Patrol agents was assigned to the United States Attorney General to round up and ship home thousands of illegal immigrants in southern California. Alone 52.000 illegal

Mexican immigrants in 1952 were deported back to their country.

In the early 1960s, the Patrol’s main task was to accompany domestic flights to prevent aircraft-hijacking. It also assisted other agencies in intercepting illegal drug transports from Mexico.

The U.S. Border Patrol had a remarkable record of success. Operation “Hold the Line” in 1993 in El Paso was a immediate success and Operation “Gatekeeper” in 1994 in California reduced illegal entries in San Diego by more than 75 percent.29

Today, the Border Patrol is responsible for patrolling the 6.000 miles of Mexican and Canadian international land border and 2.000 miles of costal waters around the Florida Peninsula and Puerto Rico. 9.500 men and women are in service, supported by sophisticated technology, vehicles, aircraft and other equipment to fulfill their primary mission, to detect and apprehend illegal aliens and smugglers near the land border. 30

Since 1994, the Border Patrol caught more than 11,3 million illegal immigrants nationwide, alone 1,2 million in 2001. Furthermore, its agents seized more than 18.500 pounds of cocaine and more than 1,1 million pounds of marijuana with a street value of more than $1,4 billion.31

6. Possible ways to reduce illegal immigration

6.1 Increasing enforcement

The U.S. government needs to strengthen and expand external and internal enforcement with increased authority and resources, more and tougher penalties, new deterrents and better management in order to stop the flow of illegal immigration from Mexico. It must also get rid of a the confused immigration system and the built-in incentives to illegal immigration.

6.1.1 External enforcement

The most promising external action to reduce illegal immigration will be to build up at the border. The Clinton administration and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 increased the Border Patrol to 9.500 employees. But at least 10.000 men and women are needed to restrict the approximately four to five million Mexicans annually from trying to cross the border. A high concentration of Border Patrol agents at main crossing areas around El Paso, Texas and San Ysidro, California along with new and better barriers and high-tech devices have already shown useful. Furthermore, the Border Patrol is still stretched thin at more isolated Mexican border sectors. Therefore the need of more Border Patrol employees is evident and an increased number of agents would decrease the number of illegal Mexican immigrants that already slipped through and that must be found by INS.32

6.1.2 Internal enforcement

Enforcement at the workplace was the main obstacle of internal enforcement

in the 1990s. 70 percent of deportations were non-criminal illegal aliens. But government’s support weakened in 1998 and 1999 when the Labor Department put limits on the information it will give INS on suspected illegals gained from its own workplace inspections.

So without determined alternate enforcement measures, illegal aliens and their employers will think that “anything goes”. Jobs are the main reason to immigrate and until the U.S. government does not bar ineligible aliens from working in the United States, no victory over illegal immigration will be achieved.

A good point to start would be fraud resistant identification. Illegal immigrants nullify employer sanctions with fraudulent work eligibility documents and employers do not check those papers properly, since they have little to gain and risk penalties for discrimination by examining ID documents more carefully. Therefore the burden of verification must be lifted from employers.

6.1.3 Better identification and data on aliens

The INS must fill the gaps on its existing alien database and expand it to include all recipients of visas and border crossing cards and illegal aliens discovered in the United States. Renewing the in 1981 abandoned requirement that all immigrants must report their whereabouts annually would also strengthen the INS database.

Since 1996, illegal aliens are not eligible to receive a driver’s license, professional and occupational licenses and to purchase or buy real estate. The support of the states and an up-to-date and secure verification system are essential to make these restrictions work.

6.1.4 Tracking visa abusers

An immigrant who wants to temporarily stay at the United States must first convince a U.S Consular officer abroad, that he or she does not intend to overstay. Those receiving visas are checked again on entry by INS officials.

With seven to eight million applicants for visas each year, time available to Consuls for checking on immigrants is shrinking. Consular staffing must be increased and readiness, accuracy and volume of background data on applicants must be improved.

There should also be more use of INS pre-inspection at major international airports. It is far more effective to stop overstayers, terrorists or frivolous asylum seekers before they reach the U.S. The law does not demand visas from visitors from countries with low overstay rates. Suspending issuance of all discretionary, temporary visas for countries whose overstay rates exceed a certain limit would prove effective.

6.1.5 Finding overstayers

The States Department and INS should work together in developing a secure system for tracking nonimmigrant visitors from the receipt of their visa abroad. Case files should include personal data, the visa holder’s declared personal, family, school or business contacts in the United States and travel arrangements.

Automated fingerprinting should be required, especially from travelers of countries with a high incidence of overstaying. Then overstayers could be investigate by matching personal and biometric data on suspected visa recipients against social security rolls, driver’s licenses issuances, tax and criminal records, post office address file and records of gun purchasers. Nonimmigrant aliens should report at least once a year their whereabouts to the Justice Department.

Furthermore INS must improve its work of acting on hints supplied by other agencies and concerned citizens. A 24-hour 1-800 hotline for interested citizens to report suspected immigration violations would be useful. The agency should also provide frequent, widely disseminated reports on the use of these leads.

6.2 Making illegal immigration unprofitable

6.2.1 Paying for better immigration control

The task to accomplish is to maintain the political will to deploy and pay for the people, technology and barriers known to be effective. These are expensive and far more of the rising cost of immigration regulation must borne by its beneficiaries. INS has increasingly applied this in the recent years, for example increasing its fees for immigrants and their sponsors from $20 to $250 for 27 different services such as permits and travel documents.

A border crossing fee to raise $400 million a year, proposed by the White House in 1995, or a fee of $130 to apply for political, unsuccessfully proposed by INS in 1994, would be promising. A tax applied for employers of illegal aliens or a fee on employers for each foreign worker beyond a certain limit would also prove useful. 33

6.2.2 Reducing the informal economy

The so called underground or informal economy harms the U.S. economy in often pernicious ways, for example by producing low cost products of name-brand items, street vending or industrial home work.

To fight this informal economy, more resources and backing for the labor and safety compliance agencies, more cooperation among them with INS and more involvement of state and local agencies in immigration enforcement are essential. State and federal labor agencies should have the power to impose fines on employers of illegal aliens and those fines should be increased and collected more diligently.

6.2.3 Shared liability between firms and contractors

To make firms or farmers share liability for the violations of their employees would be another important improvement. Exposing those firms such as marketers of garments or furniture to fines and to publish their immigration violations would be important deterrents.

Furthermore, since 1986, INS is not allowed to check fields for illegal workers anymore. Since then, arrests on farms have declined and the paid farm workforce that is illegal has risen dramatically. Therefore, INS must be reauthorized to enter fields without warrants and farmers should share the sanctions imposed on their contractors.

6.2.4 Partly privatization of INS

The U.S. government has over time increased INS’s obligations without increase of support. Privatizing some of the record keeping and monitoring aspects of immigration enforcement would transfer work and also costs to illegal immigrants and their patrons. Other government agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service already relies on private agencies.

Privatization here would also allow private supervision of temporary categories if visas such as tourist, students and temporary workers.

6.3 Reforming legal immigration

Family reunifications and human concern have recently created high expectations of immigrants of resettlement. The waiting period of up to 20 years for millions of family members makes them enter illegally and do their waiting in the United States.

Real or prospective amnesties, group waivers of deportation or special temporary protection arrangements for presumably endangered national groups also increase illegal immigration. An estimated 500.000 to 600.000 aliens entered the United States in 1987 and 1988 under the 1986 Immigration Reforms and Control Act to claim fraudulently amnesty. Therefore these regulations must be changed and improved. 34

6.3.1 Preventing family reunifications

To dampen one of the most important reasons for migration for Mexicans, to reunite with their families, certain measurements must be taken. Reducing immigrant and refugee admissions would be the easiest way to do so. But also the listing of family reunification to spouses and minor children citizens or ending immigration lotteries will be effective.

6.3.2 Changing asylum policies

The most idealistic and reckless feature of legal immigration policies is granting asylum, which is also a magnet for illegal immigration. Therefore, the United States need to make asylum temporary only and let it end when the conditions improve in the asylees’ source countries. Furthermore, asylum claims from persons who are citizens or residents of states deemed by the U.S. government to have adequate human rights conditions, must be rejected.

6.4 Supporting Mexico’s economy

Sustained economic growth in Mexico could cause a slowdown in Mexican immigration. If Mexico’s economy continues to grow at 5 percent a year, it will absorb all newcomers to the job market by 2005. Sustained growth will also let Mexico catch up in job creation for unemployed and underemployed workers.35

Therefore, if the United States support Mexico’s economy with money and skilled workers, the advantages will be felt on both sides. This support would also help Mexico to provide a better educational system, which would help its citizens to be better instructed and its economy to be able to compete at the global economy.

7. Conclusion

Well, this paper basically treats, as the title says, the problems of the United States with illegal immigration from Mexico. However, immigration must not be viewed from one side only, since it does not cause only problems but also advantages for the U.S.

The deep social and economic forces that drive illegal immigration need to be acknowledged first. The ready availability of U.S. jobs for hard working Mexicans and the consumer habits and preferences which nurture and reinforce all immigration were both created by Americans. The result is a symbiosis between the goals of Mexican migrant workers and their families, on the one hand, and the interests and expectations of U.S. employers, investors and consumers on the other hand.

There is widespread agreement that, at the aggregate level, Mexican immigration benefits investors, employers, consumers and the country’s international economic position and does not adversely affect the job opportunities of domestic workers.

However, the effect of immigrants on wages is less clear. Some analysts speculate, that the effect might be quite large, but in a world of few trade barriers and weak worker organizations, isolating immigration’s effect on wages does not seem to make sense. The key factor is whether the immigrant workers posses skills that are similar to those of native born workers. Laborers whose jobs are similar to those of immigrants will face lower wages and, in some instances, restricted job opportunities. Even unskilled workers are useful for the U.S. economy since they can be employed at a very low wage, which affects the production costs and therefore prices for the consumer.

A 1997 National Academy of Sciences report finds that the average net economic benefits to the U.S. government of immigration tend to be small, but nevertheless existing. They depend however from the skill, age and family composition of the immigrants and the economic conditions, areas of settlements and economic sector in which immigrants enter.

A National Research Council study estimated that in 1997 immigrants raised the aggregate income of nonimmigrants in the United States by $1 billion to $10 billion.38 Furthermore, immigrants also increase the ranks of entrepreneurs.

The benefits of immigration do not imply that all immigrants improve the general welfare or that more immigration will necessarily prove advantageous. Immigration levels need to be flexible, the impact of immigration needs to be monitored, the demographic effects have to be clearly understood and in line with the goals of the receiving country and undesirable social and economic effects must be recognized and addressed quickly in order to increase the advantages and reduce the disadvantages of immigration.

So after careful research and consideration of the matter, immigration, and in particular illegal immigration, from Mexico, does not prove advantageous for the United States of America in my opinion. The benefits of immigration from Mexico on the economy, welfare state and American society are just too meager and the negative effects too significant to agree that the United States government should support immigration. However, illegal immigrants are humans and no human being is illegal.


Andreas Martinez, Hypocrisy on the U.S.-Mexican border, World and Press, 1st January Issue 2003

Andreas Oldag, Lieblingsname José, Lieblingsbier Corona, Süddeutsche Zeitung Nr. 158, 12./13. Juli 2003

Brook Larmer, Plugging the “Pipeline”, World and Press, January 1997 jobseekers


National Audubon Society’s Population and Habitat Program, Mexico: Facts and Figures



1) =jobseekers Page 1-2


3) Page 1

4) Andreas Oldag, Lieblingsname José, Lieblingsbier Corona, Süddeutsche Zeitung Nr. 158, 12./13. Juli 2003

5) Page 1-2

6) Page 1-10

7) Issues.htm Page 1

8) Problems.htm Page 1

9) Page 5


11) Page 1

12) Page 1

13) ibidem

14) Brook Larmer, Plugging the “Pipeline”, World and Press, January 1997

15) Andreas Martinez, Hypocrisy on the U.S.-Mexican border, World and Press, 1st January Issue 2003


17) Page 3,4

18) ) Page 1

19) Page 4

20) Page 1

21) Page 1

22) Page 1

23) Page 1

24) Page 1

25) ibidem

26) Page 2

27) Page 1

28) Page 1-5

29) Page 1-6

30) Page 1

31) Page 4

32) Page 4

33) Page 7

34) Page 9

35) Page 1



38) Page 5

“Ich erkläre hiermit, dass ich die Facharbeit ohne fremde Hilfe angefertigt und nur die im Literaturverzeichnis angeführten Quellen und Hilfsmittel benützt habe.”..., den ..

Ort Datum Unterschrift des Schülers

Excerpt out of 34 pages


The USA and its problem of illegal immigration from Mexico
15 Points
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
934 KB
Quote paper
Michael Holzgethan (Author), 2004, The USA and its problem of illegal immigration from Mexico, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Look inside the ebook
Title: The USA and its problem of illegal immigration from Mexico

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free