Illegal immigrants contribute to society

The immigration debate struggles to determine whether the United States should grant amnesty to (or at least allow citizenship of) immigrants who come this way illegally.

Now, the term “illegal” is draped with negative connotation, so I will try to be sensitive when using it. “Illegal” simply means a law has been transgressed. It does not speak much about the character of the person who transgressed the law. Merely because a person broke the law does not entail that the person is malicious.

There could be a great deal of reasons behind why a person decided to come here. I think we must be cautious in how we use the word “illegal.”

There are roughly 11 million “working” illegal immigrants in this country. Now, the question is: should the United States perform naturalized citizenship for these people, considering that many of them have lived in America for a great deal of time?

Additionally, many of them tend to have jobs that are not regarded as high-skill or desirable. What is more, many of them pay taxes and are law-abiding people. Of course, there are those that break the law. But law breakers would still exist if we cut immigration in half. It is erroneous to conclude that a rise in immigration is correlated to a rise in crime.

Not to mention there are many immigrants who contribute strongly to the intellectual and cultural community of the United States. If you go to any great city, you will see the contributions of foreign-born persons (Chinatown, Little Italy, Spanish Harlem, etc.).

I am aware of the rise of terrorism, but restricting all immigrants will not solve this problem. First, when we restrict all immigrants, we are assuming that all immigrants could potentially cause a terrorist act. On the face of it, this claim seems accurate. But don’t we all have the potential to commit a terrorist act? If that is the case, then the government should lock away American citizens who seem threatening. This, of course, is absurd. Therefore, I question arguments that rely on the “potential terrorist” premise.

Before any action is employed, we need to weigh the benefits against the cost of restricting immigration. Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to befriend many “foreigners.” This may seem too personal, but I think one of the problems with our government is we are unwilling to “personalize” matters. There are families out there protesting to stay in America. They want the freedom that our forefathers promised us. They want to be Americans. They are willing to die for it. If that is not American, what the hell is?

Information from – “Immigration Advocates Rally Around U.S.” by Maria Newman, The New York Times, April 10, 2006.