Term Paper: Illegal Immigration it Has Been Pointed Out

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Illegal Immigration

It has been pointed out many times that the United States is a nation of immigrations, with only the Native American population having been here long enough to lay claim to be native to the land. Immigration has been a contentious issue for some time, long before the current level of concern related to a fear of terrorism and to a concern about economic impact. Economic impact was long raised as something to be considered, but racial, and ethnic attitudes also affected levels of all immigration. As the immigration system has evolved and responded to new situations, so have laws concerning illegal immigration and the nature of proposals offered to solve the problem of illegal immigration.

Between 1820 and 1910, at least 38 million Europeans arrived in the United States, the result of a number of forces including the Napoleonic Wars; political disturbances in Germany, Austria-Hungary, Greece, and Poland; the Potato Famine in Ireland; religious persecutions of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews in Czarist Russia and other parts of Europe; the Industrial Revolution that created thousands of unemployed workers and peasants; and a rigid social structure that supported a closed aristocracy and upper class. Millions of people left their homeland in search of a better life. The United States at the time was expanding into the West and Southwest, all the way to the Pacific Coast. The Louisiana Purchase had more than doubled the size of the country, and the concept of Manifest Destiny pushed the boundary all the way to the other sea. The Industrial Revolution was then shaping life in the United States, and factories, timberlands, and manufacturing plants all needed workers. The masses from Europe were thus more or less welcomed as cheap labor, and the immigrants in turn found cheaper land and higher pay than they had known in Europe (Lewis, 1993, p. 1/3).

This immigration and subsequent waves from Asia did not take place without tensions. The Gold Rush in California after 1849 attracted people from all over America and from China, with many Chinese workers coming before the Civil War to provide cheap labor for the building of the railroads:

By 1882, there were approximately 300,000 low-wage Chinese laborers in America. Because they were taking jobs from U.S. citizens, because they were different in color, in culture, in habits and in looks, these new workers were targeted by Americans for antagonism and racial hatred. As a result, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1882, completely banning non-citizen Chinese from immigrating to the United States. This law remained in effect until 1943 (Lewis, 1993, p. 1/4).

In 1917, an Immigration Act was passed to restrict the entry of immigrants, especially illiterate laborers from central and eastern Europe, and this marked the beginning of a great change in American immigration policy. After World War I, America faced hard times so that the immigrant became the scapegoat for hard times. A tight national-origins policy was instituted in 1921 as a temporary measure, and total immigration was limited to about 350,000 per year, with immigration from each country in a given year limited to 3% of all nationals from the country who were living in the United States during the 1910 census. The system was made permanent with the National Origins Act of 1924, now based on the ethnic composition of the United States as reflected in the 1920 census, with entry limited to 2% of the number of people living in the U.S. The law thus reduced the total number of immigrants each year to 150,000. The object of the law was also to favor certain kinds of immigrants and to keep out others. More immigrants were permitted from western Europe and fewer from southern and eastern Europe, and Asians were totally excluded, primarily to prohibit Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinos from acquiring U.S. citizenship. These restrictions would be relaxed after World War II. A new category of naturalized Americans was admitted, the thousands of alien soldiers who had earned citizenship living with the U.S. Armed Forces overseas during the war. The War Brides Act of 1945 facilitated the reunion of 118,000 alien spouses and children with members of the U.S. armed forces who had fought and married overseas. The Displaced Persons Act of 1948 allowed 400,000 refugees to be admitted in the following two years, most from Poland, Romania, Hungary, the Baltic area, the Ukraine, and Yugoslavia. When the Iron Curtain was dropped on eastern Europe, the Refugee Relief Act of 1953 allowed 214,000 refugees from the Communist countries, and the Freedom Fighters from Hungary were paroled into the United States after the failure of their revolution in 1956 (Lewis, 1993, pp. 1/4-1/5).

With the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, all the immigration laws were brought together into one to form the basic immigration law as continued until today. The racially-based National Origin Quota, however, was not abolished until 1965. There were now two general ways of becoming an immigrant: by family relationship and by the employment needs of the United States. A system of preference was established giving priority to some groups over others. Skilled workers were given higher priority than unskilled workers after 1965. The immigration law was modified again in 1976 and 1978. The separate quotas for the eastern and western hemispheres were abolished, and a worldwide quota of 290,000 was established, with each country given a yearly quota of 20,000, except Hong Kong, which as a colony of Great Britain was given 5,000. With the end of the Vietnam War, there was a flow of refugees from the Indochinese peninsula. In 1980, Congress passed the Refugee Act which removed preferential treatment of refugees from Communist countries and defined a refugee as someone who fears persecution in his or her home country because of religious or political beliefs, race, national origin, or ethnic identity. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, more commonly known as the Amnesty Law, resulted in an increase in the number of alien immigrants by legalizing the status of those already in the United States. The Immigration Act of 1990 was the most comprehensive overhaul of immigration law since 1965. It provided for immigration of 700,000 annually in 1992, 1993, and 1994, and 675,000 in 1995. It was intended to attract immigrants with education, skills, or money to enhance the economic life of the country, thus making it easier for scientists, engineers, inventors, and other highly skilled professionals to enter the United States. Citizens of nations with little immigration for the past five years are allocated 40,000 immigrant visas each year. The spouses and children of illegal immigrants granted amnesty under the 1986 law are also entitled to become residents, and special consideration is given to Irish people, Hong Kong residents, certain groups from Lebanon, Tibetan nationals, and Filipino World War II veterans The refugee policy was expanded to include people fleeing war or natural disasters, such as earthquakes (DeMoss, 1991, 35-36). However, as applied, the refugee policy has been highly controversial, as with the exclusion of Haitian refugees with claims that they are only economic and not political refugees (Foreign Policy, 1994, p. 197).

Brent Ashabranner cites the case of Roberto, who lives in a Los Angeles boardinghouse and who leaves his home each morning to walk to a street where mostly Hispanic men in work clothes gather on the sidewalk and hope for work. Most are illegal immigrants, as is Roberto, and they wait for a labor recruiter to come by and pick them for a day's work on a construction job. Hiring illegal aliens is against the law, but some employers take the risk because these workers do the job for less pay and expect no job benefits. Roberto, like many illegal aliens, lacks much education and could not find work in his native Mexico. He knew he would never be approved as a legal immigrant and so crossed the border illegally. He works two or three times a week and barely makes enough to live on, but that is still more than he could make in Mexico (Ashabranner, 1996, pp. 3-4).

Legal immigration creates problems of its own which are only exacerbated by the influence of illegal immigration. George J. Borjas notes that the typical new immigrant is not a highly skilled worker and that most immigrants now entering the United States are less skilled workers who have little hope of achieving economic parity with native workers. The typical immigrant who arrived in the U.S. In 1970 had 11.1 years of schooling, compared with 11.5 for the native worker. By 1990, the typical immigrant had 11.9 years of schooling compared to 13.2 for native workers. The wage differential between immigrants and native workers rose as well so that the most recent arrivals in 1970 earned 16.6% less than natives, while by 1990 the wage disadvantage stood at 31.7%. One result has been the increasing participation of immigrants in welfare programs, and today immigrants collect a disproportionate share of cash benefits. In 1970,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Illegal Immigration it Has Been Pointed Out.  (2006, December 27).  Retrieved May 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/illegal-immigration-been-pointed-out/2544372

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"Illegal Immigration it Has Been Pointed Out."  Essaytown.com.  December 27, 2006.  Accessed May 19, 2019.