Attitudes Towards Immigration in the USA

Statue of Liberty welcomed immigrants to the USA when the country prospered and enjoyed liberty. Photo courtesy of Video4net via Flickr.

There has always been a raging debate in the USA about how many immigrants should be allowed to legally enter the country, and attitudes towards immigration have become more hostile as the economy has declined.

According to the Wall Street Journal, coyotes charge $5000-7500 to illegally smuggle immigrants into the country, indicating that the border is controlled very strictly and effectively. Nevertheless, legislators are debating changes in immigration policy calling for stricter enforcement of the border, in exchange for granting more permanent residencies (green cards) to people in the country without permission.

One popular blogger writing about the USA economic collapse claims:

The reality is that illegal immigration hurts that U.S. middle class and it is severely damaging to the U.S. economy. Because of illegal immigration, every single day wages are lost, taxes don’t get collected, hospitals provide “free health care” for which they are never paid, huge criminal gangs of foreigners are roaming our streets and the cost of providing social services to illegal aliens is slowly bankrupting state and local governments.

Are illegal immigrants really causing more crime than natives and legal immigrants? According to U.S. News and World Report, the USA cities with the most crime are St. Louis, Atlanta, Birmingham, Orlando, Detroit, Memphis, Miami, Baltimore, Kansas City, Minneapolis, and Cleveland. According to The Daily Beast, the cities with the highest percentage of immigrants are Miami, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, Dallas, Washington DC, Houston, and Las Vegas.

Austrian immigrant Arnold Schwartzenegger forced Californian Gray Davis to look for another job. Photo courtesy of Twinkletoez via Flickr.

Miami is the only city with high crime and a large population of immigrants. The dangerous cities are the poorest cities, especially in the Midwest and Southeast. The cities attracting the most immigrants are the richest and most populous. Are immigrants who arrive illegally more likely to commit crimes than others? I’ve seen many illegal immigrants in San Jose, Redwood City, and Los Angeles, but none of these cities suffers high crime.

The Economic Collapse blogger claims that wages are lost because illegal immigrants compete successfully against natives, and while that’s true, the effect is offset because newcomers also spend money in the USA, thus creating jobs, and some become very successful, such as former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, enriching natives, illegal immigrants, and foreigners who benefit from their creations.

This border fence is a minor obstacle for coyotes who are paid $3000 to guide illegal immigrants across the Mexican border. Photo courtesy of Woblair via Flickr.

The Economic Collapse blogger asserts:

The sad truth is that the U.S. government has absolutely refused to secure the U.S. border with Mexico for decades, and this has allowed millions upon millions of criminals, drug dealers and gang members to cross freely into the United States. In addition, by refusing to secure the border we have allowed new diseases to spread unchecked into this country.

Is it really that easy to cross the border? Why do illegal immigrants pay thousands to “coyotes” to guide them? Are they so flush with cash that they can afford to pay for a worthless service rather than freely cross the border? In reality, there are many sensors that alert the military to intruders, and unmanned blimps with cameras maintain vigilance, too. Most illegal immigrants overstay tourist visas rather than employ coyotes. The border may be difficult or impossible to secure, but attitudes towards immigration are inaccurate when claiming that the government refuses to control the border.

President Obama forces hospitals and local governments to service illegal immigrants. I'm not hopeful that he will change policy. Photo courtesy of John Fischer via Flickr.

The Economic Collapse blogger notes that hospitals and local governments are losing money servicing illegal immigrants, but that is the fault of the federal government, not illegal immigrants. The USA must drastically decentralize, reduce the power of the center in Washington DC, and arrest the economic collapse. Restricting the flow of immigrants will not solve the problem, especially when the economy is anemic and few people want to migrate to the USA.

The USA should sharply cut government spending, boosting the economy, creating a desirable destination for migrants, rather than incurring massive debt that persuades Indians, Chinese, and Europeans that the best opportunities are in their home countries. It’s easy to blame outsiders for problems that you create yourself, and attitudes towards immigration often sour in countries where people fail to understand that overreaching socialist governments, and not money, is the root of all evil.

Some cities in the USA are beginning to welcome immigrants. According to the New York Times, midwestern cities suffering a poor economy such as Dayton, Ohio, are seeking migrants to buy and rehabilitate vacant houses. Even though these cities are in a rich country, real estate is very inexpensive:

The new welcome for immigrants reflects a broader shift in public opinion, polls show, as the country leaves behind the worst of the recession. More Americans agree that immigrants, even some in the country illegally, can help the economy, giving impetus to Congressional efforts to overhaul an immigration system that many say is broken.

Concerns about uncontrolled illegal immigration, which produced strict curbs in Arizona and other parts of the country, have not been an issue in Dayton. Officials here say their goal is to invite legal immigrants.

The newspaper uses “Americans” in this context not to refer to Central Americans, Latin Americans, South Americans, and Canadians; instead, it refers only to Unitedstatesians. In the reporter’s mind, no other country in the Americas is worth mentioning. However, emigrating to Chile is worth considering, especially if you want to enjoy real estate gains from an ascending country and a pleasant climate.

Many people in the USA are hopeful that voting can change political policies, but immigrants know that voting with your feet is more powerful. Photo courtesy of Greg Elin via Flickr.

The border between Nogales Arizona and Mexico, courtesy of Ryan Bavetta via Flickr.

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