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Immigration Op-Ed

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Immigration is the story of the United States. Immigration defined its fundamental moral foundation. Immigration continues to shape American identity and the future of the United States. Currently, immigration policies cause contentious economic and political debate. It is important to have ethical, but also economically conscious regulations in regard to immigration. Historically, the United States has experimented with both concepts. In 1924, Congress passed legislation to close its borders in an attempt to choke the growing immigrant population. The Johnson-Reed Act limited the immigrant acceptance rate for each country to 2% of the number of people who were already residing in the United States. This act was mostly targeted toward Southern and Eastern Europeans. But forty-one years later, in response to the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement, the US opened its doors again. The purpose of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was to reunite families, accept talented immigrants, and abolish many numerical limits that were placed on each country. Both acts represented two different approaches to controlling the flow of immigrants into our country: The Johnson–Reed Act closed the United States’ borders with caps and limits, while the Immigration and Nationality Act reprioritized, and made American citizenship more accessible. Neither act fixed the problem. Today, the United States is again thrown into the snares of the immigration dilemma. Who should be allowed in? Who should have access to American privileges?
Currently, there are many policies attempting to answer these questions. The first suggests that the United States should completely open its borders. Though this concept strongly conforms to early American ideals of letting the poor and huddled masses in, it is not a plausible option today. American privileges and citizenship cannot be given to everyone because that would be economically impossible. If all of the immigrants came looking for a job, there would not be enough jobs available to support citizens and immigrants. In addition, the United States would become over-crowded and social cohesion would fall apart; it would lose attractive qualities that drew immigrants to its shores originally. Another option is to restrict immigration completely. This is not possible nor is it in America’s best interest. Illegal immigrants will always be penetrating the US borders, but more importantly, some immigration energizes the United States’ economy and social structure. The final two options are to only accept immigrants who would contribute to the economy or to eliminate the need for foreigners to immigrate. Only accepting certain people will not stop illegal immigration. Trying to eliminate the need to emigrate is not possible. Singularly, these plans are not feasible. If the American government coupled these two ideas, the United States would decrease detrimental and unwanted immigration, but also attain the positive effects of selective immigration.
To appropriately address the immigration issue, the government must strike a balance between protecting the US from unwanted immigrants and ending the need for masses to immigrate. In 1924, Congressman Clarence F. Lea tried to shed light on the illusive solutions to these questions when he said, “We should require physical, moral, and mental qualities, capable of contributing to the welfare and advancement of our citizenship.” However, the American government still needs to address the source of immigration which lies in the home countries of immigrants. The government needs to be selective about the immigrants accepted. Immigrants, who advance the economy and culture, will increase economic profits that can be invested back into foreign programs to improve their own economies.
As recently observed over the past few years, excessive, unscreened immigration has had a negative effect on the American economy; therefore, the American government needs to restrict the flow of immigrants. Currently, US immigration policy is too lenient. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) notes immigrants displace 1,800,000 Americans a year, costing the government 15.2 billion dollars. Excessive immigration not only damages the economy, but can also damage American culture. In the same article, FAIR attributes the high school dropout rates to immigrants. In addition to disrupting the education of youths, immigration can irrevocably change the culture of towns. In a New York Times article, ‘Our Town’, citizens of a small town in Illinois feel as if their town is not their home anymore; the culture has changed. Immigrants should not deteriorate the economy or have a negative effect on the social structure. The US must selectively admit immigrants into the country. Immigrants must be educated and already value education.
Immigrants need to build the American economy and not take away jobs from other Americans. Skilled, talented immigrants can be a resource for expanding the economy and contributing to the cultural development of the nation. Accepting immigrants for school in the US is very important in keeping a capable, industrious work force. Currently, FAIR records that 50% of immigrants who graduated from graduate school will stay in the US. As an example, Ronald Takaki speaks to the importance of education as a mode of assimilation: “the education of the second generation was another way for Jewish immigrants to make their claim on America.” Unfortunately the median skill level for an immigrant is below a 9th grade education, cites FAIR; the US needs to be more selective about who is let into the country. Moreover, California has the 8th biggest economy in the world, and 30% of its population are immigrants, as depicted in Going to the Source. Immigrants are more than capable of contributing to the economy; immigrants are valuable. If the American government is more selective about which foreigners are allowed into the US, this country can reap more benefits and suffer fewer negative effects of immigration.
Educated people are the world’s best resource, regardless of nationality. With the increased economic stimulus from skilled immigrants, who have been accepted thoughtfully and carefully, the American government can then invest more money into international aid, decreasing the influx of immigrants. Mexico is a prime example. According to graphical data in the New York Times, when Former President Fox was elected after a seventy-one year party rule, Mexican immigration (legal and illegal) decreased. When Mexican politics improved, immigration to the United States declined. As a powerful country, the US can influence this type of positive change that mutually benefits the United States and other countries. This does not necessarily mean overthrowing political parties, but more money can be invested into ethical and educational programs in other countries to improve their living conditions. The same article noted that better education might encourage people to stay, because they identify with their country and are willing to invest in own their country’s future. One student, Angel Orozco, wants to stay in Mexico instead of immigrating to the United States because he can pursue a higher education at home. Indeed, as a Solutions Abroad article says, “One of the most important issues for families relocating to a new country is that of the education of their kids.” They specifically weigh “educational standards in the new host country in comparison to those of the home country”. To slow immigration to the US, good educational opportunities must be available in all countries. If the US can be a benefactor for non-profits or certain government programs, especially those that work toward the advancement of educational services in foreign countries, then fewer people will be inclined to leave their country of origin.
The reality is that, by investing some money back into the world community, the US might lose talented immigrants. However, the global economy will be strengthened by international trade in a world community populated by more educated leaders and workers, which benefits all countries. Selectively accepting immigrants and investing more money in education in foreign countries would not be a magical fix, but progress, but an investment, toward a safer United States and world. If one fact from this debate can emerge, it is, as shown in Going to the Source, that immigration is very dynamic. It is an ongoing current; its ripples are sometimes positive and sometimes negative.



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