The topic of illegal immigration to the U.S. has been explosive. At issue is whether the U.S. has the right to stop illegal entry or the duty to offer safe haven to those streaming across the border. As far back as the 1920s, the U.S. has had to address illegal entry into this country. Numbers up until the 1970s were relatively small and usually driven by a booming U.S. economy or political upheaval in Latin America.
The issue began to gain steam in the 1980s when President Ronald Reagan decided to allow an estimated 3 million illegals the opportunity to gain legal status. This act was supposed to be tied to border security agenda that would prevent a surge of illegal crossings from happening again. This proposal was never fully addressed, and illegal entries actually increased, spurred on by a potential promise of another amnesty down the road. Reagan often called his amnesty a mistake and a low note of his presidency.
The issues that drive illegal immigration vary from economics, politics and a zeal for multiculturalism from the Left. But does illegal immigration actually benefit the people in the United States? The Hill, a left-leaning news magazine, calls the estimated 12 million plus illegal immigrants a positive for society. They state that the agricultural industry, for one, depends on cheap, readily available labor.
The Hill contends that without this cheap, largely illegal immigrant labor, prices for agriculture and dairy would increase from 30% to 50%. The Hill even addresses the cost of using cheap labor by offering that sales taxes paid by illegals offset public assistance to the illegals and their families. Finally, The Hill concludes that illegal immigrants make lower consumer prices available to all Americans, thus benefiting everyone.
The Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR) contends that illegal immigration has a negative impact on local, state and federal levels. FAIR states that American taxpayers shell out $135 billion each year to cover costs associated with 12 million illegal aliens and their 4 million American-born children.
The illegal immigrants that do pay federal and state taxes do so to the amount of almost $19 billion per year. Costs associated with public assistance, medical expenditures, etc, exceed $135 billion annually. The negative impact, according to FAIR, is a net cost of $116 billion to American taxpayers each year.
The Center for Immigration Studies concludes that legal and illegal immigration represents an 11% increase in total revenue (Gross Domestic Product) for the country each year. This number is somewhat offset by a $402 billion decrease in wages for natives as they compete for lower-paying jobs with immigrants.
Although natives represent the largest increase in population growth yearly, immigrants, legal and illegal, gain the most in employment each year mainly because of their willingness to work cheaper than natives. Thus, American citizens that compete for low-wage jobs find themselves in competition with illegal immigrants and often end up on the losing side.
Finally, there is the societal impact of illegal immigration. Is illegal immigration good for American society? Are the staggering numbers of immigrants from a foreign culture good for our society? Perhaps, but this is a topic for another week…
Murray Cowart is an editorial writer for the George County Times. He can be reached at