The United States government has been facing challenges in controlling the illegal immigrants who enter the country through the Southern Border. The Federal government has been tasked with the mandate of protecting the border however due to its wide territory it has been facing several challenges. The States that have been facing the border have enacted laws to assist them to deal with the crisis. The State of Arizona came up with laws that have stirred up high emotions across the country. Statistics show that in the year 2010, 450,000 illegal immigrants managed to enter the country through the Mexican border (Kearney, 2012). The interesting fact is that only 12% of the immigrants were actually Mexican. The others were from poor Latin American countries such as Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Guatemala. The number of immigrants in 2010 was ten times the number of illegal immigrants in the country in 1990.
The immigration situation in Arizona had become such a thorny issue till in April 2010, the State enacted the Arizona SB 1070 laws. These laws have been the broadest and far-reaching immigration laws that the country has witnessed (National Immigration Law Center, 2012). The law is composed of several provisions however there are four provisions that have faced the most opposition by the public. The first provision is known as the “show me your papers” provision where law enforcement officers have been given the authority to request for papers from any persons who are under reasonable suspicion. This could be at the stoppage, arrest or detention stages in law enforcement. This has brought contention in that it will result in racial profiling.
The police will now be demanding documentation from the people of Latin American descent and African Americans. It will be harassment when this blanket system is implemented since there are African Americans and Latin Americans who are indeed citizens of the United States. The second contentious provision declares that it is a misdemeanour for a person to be found without their registration documents. A misdemeanour is less serious than a felony though the individual is punishable by a fine or a short prison term.
The third provision prohibits employers from employing the aliens within the state. It is unlawful for an immigrant to search for and apply for employment within the proper immigration documents. If one is found in direct violation of the law, an individual will have to pay a fine of $2,500 or face a prison sentence of six months. The State of Alabama has a similar law where the employers are held liable for employing illegal immigrants.
There is also a contentious fourth provision where the law enforcement officers are allowed to arrest anyone they perceive as an illegal immigrant without an arrest warrant. The officers have the power to arrest an individual based simply on their judgement or suspicions that the individual is an illegal immigrant. The civil rights groups went to court to oppose the law stating that it would be the first legalization of racial profiling.
The Supreme Court made its decisions in June, 2012 where it threw out three out of the four mentioned provisions. The judge, Justice Kennedy in his speech explained that the first three provisions went against the civil liberties granted by the constitution of the United States. The law enforcement officers would have the right to determine the immigration status of an individual under suspicion however there must be reasonable suspicion.
Strategies and Action Plan to deal with the Immigration Crisis
As a strategic officer in the criminal justice I would advocate for the State to move away from the enforcement-only strategies of dealing with immigration and adopt comprehensive immigration reforms. Throughout the years, the United States has specialized on enforcement-only strategies which have failed to curb illegal immigration and have actually increased the downward pressure on wages across several industries in the State. A comprehensive legal immigration reform that creates a pathway for the millions of undocumented illegal immigrants to be granted legal permanent status and citizenship would be more suitable to deal with the crisis. There are a lot of challenges that would be faced in getting support for the action plan however with the right strategy, it may be implemented.
First of all, I would need to get a lot of economic data on the effects of enforcement-only strategies and comprehensive immigration reforms on the economy of the country. I would form a committee that would investigate and highlight the effects of enforcement-only and comprehensive immigration reforms on the economy. The committee may consist of law enforcement officers and economists.
The 1986 Immigration and Reform Act data clearly shows the effects of comprehensive immigration reforms. Carried out at a time when the country was facing a recession and high unemployment, it showed that the action increased wages, business and home investments (Ojeda, 2012). The IRCA program empowered the illegal immigrants to demand for high wages and improve their English-speaking skills.
The illegal immigrants will earn higher incomes enabling them to pay higher taxes which the Federal government will use in the development of the country. Without the risk of deportation, the illegal immigrants will spend more resources in their own education, buying homes and starting businesses which affect the GDP of the country positively.
In the committee report we will lay out the disadvantages of enforcement only strategies. First of all, the heightened security at the borders has increased the number of deaths among the illegal immigrants. They are forced to enter through the hazardous mountain and desert routes which are hard passages. Statistics show that in 2006, the numbers of cross border deaths doubled in the decade immediately after the border line security operations were enhanced.
With enhanced security features, there is increased business for the people smugglers whose businesses start to boom as the people contract them to be assured of the same passage into the United States. In the past, when individuals choose to use the services of a smuggler, it was the exception rather than the normal occurrence. However, now it has become the norm and their fees tripled in 2006 compared to what they used to earn in 1993.
With the high risks of detection in illegal entry, the immigrants will prefer to extend their stays in the country and may in the end settle in the country permanently. In the employment circles, the immigrants are forced to really hide and stay underground causing their fees to go even lower. They will be more likely to be found in the lower occupation jobs even if they have certain specialized skills.
They will also be more exploited by unscrupulous employers. The depressed wages create an even higher demand for the labor of the illegal immigrants. With increased demand of the unauthorized workers, the citizens of the country are forced to accept lower wages.
Once the committee has presented its data, I would request approval for implementation of the comprehensive immigration reforms for a pilot period of 10 years to implement and assess the effects of the action plan on the State. The comprehensive immigrant reforms will operate under certain guidelines. The illegal immigrants will be given an opportunity to come forward, register their details and do certain actions. They will pay a fine for their illegal entry. A background check will have to be performed on the individual and if there is no record, the individual will be granted legal status which creates a way for the person to get citizenship.
They will be required to learn English and they will be expected to pay back any taxes that they owe to the United States Government. The full labour rights granted to them will enable individuals to get jobs with higher wages. The market for illegal immigrants with low wages will face a depression and decrease gradually. It would be important to plan for the future and there would be need to control the registration of illegal immigrants based on the labor demand in the country.
Critical Stakeholders in the Action Plan
There are different stakeholders who will need to get involved for the action plan to be a success. First of all, the illegal immigrants will be allowed to apply for legal status that will eventually provide a pathway for them to become citizens. The law enforcement officers’ assistance will be required to check and confirm that the immigrants have not previously arrested or incarcerated for crimes in the United States. There will also be need to check for any other offenses that the immigrants may have committed. The immigration department’s assistance will be required to provide manpower in terms of officers who will take down the details of the immigrants during registration.
Arizona has a high number of undocumented illegal immigrants therefore the immigration department may have to set up a special unit or taskforce that will be in charge of the registration of the immigrants. The police department will have to monitor the actions of the immigrants to ensure that as they settle in, buy homes and get employment, their conduct is acceptable in the community. The immigrants will have to pay a fine for their actions and the time they have spent in the country illegally. The courts will have to calculate and determine the amount of fine that each individual will have to pay. It may necessitate entering into a payment plan with the immigrants especially where they may not be able to pay the whole amount at once.
The immigrants usually get low wages and they may have no savings or investments as they are forced to consume all the money that they make. For those that are able to pay in a short period, the money needs to be collected and the payment details recorded. For the ones without money, the law enforcement officers will get into an arrangement with the employers where the immigrant’s salary will be deducted on a monthly basis till the fine is paid off. The immigrants may have to pay taxes that they owe to the United States. The financial burden on the individual immigrants however will need to be assessed and the immigration office may determine whether there is any need for a waiver of a percentage of the fines or taxes.
The immigrants in Arizona are usually Latin Americans therefore there will be need for them to learn English which is the national language of the country. There will be mass English classes conducted throughout the country, there will therefore be need to have the support and backing of the education institutions. The work will be a lot. Once the immigrants have legal status, they will have to serve the country in their employment or other activities for a defined period of time without engaging in criminal activities before being considered for citizenship. The full support of these stakeholders is important as the level of their assistance will decide whether the action plan will be a success or not.
Evaluating the Outcomes of the Comprehensive immigration reform plan
After the test period of a decade of the comprehensive immigration plan, there will be assessments of the effects the action plan has had on the economy. There are certain accepted beliefs in the State that the data collected and the report findings will seek to address. There are certain fears that the people have concerning the illegal immigrants in a country. There are still individuals who believe that the illegal immigrants commit more crimes than the native-born individuals in the country. This argument however has proven to be faulty. Various investigation commissions have found lower reports of arrests and incarcerations in the immigrants. These are people who want to maintain a low profile and still have a way to make money for themselves and their families back at home. They have entered the country searching for greener pastures. They will not want to jeopardize their opportunities to work and raise their living standards or those of their family members.
Research has shown that the crime rates actually decreased in the States that had the highest number of immigrants compared to other States. There is also a misconception that the illegal immigrants come to the country just to enjoy themselves and drain the country’s resources through social welfare. This argument may also be faulty since the immigrants in the United States sacrifice themselves to work hard and take care of their families. They actually end up contributing to the growth of the economy rather than being a drain on the country’s resources.
In a study conducted, it was observed that the immigrants contributed on average $80,000 more in taxes than they actually received in social welfare. Furthermore undocumented immigrants are restricted in terms of the benefits they can obtain from the State. They are only able to receive emergency services and public primary and secondary education. They are not in a position to receive public housing, assistance for needy families, social security and food stamps.
They are also not able to receive supplementary security income, Medicare or Medicaid. Furthermore, only legal residents who have been resident in the country for a period of at least five years will be legible for the benefits that have been outlined above. It has also been established that the labour force participation is higher in the homes of U-S born immigrant children than in the homes of the children of the native-born Americans. This could be attributed to the fact that the immigrant children have grown up in homes where their parents work so hard and it has ended up instilling a working culture in them. It may be therefore in error to assume that immigrants are a drain on the country’s resources and they should be denied legal residency status or citizenship.
There are certain outcomes that would be observed when data on arrests, incarceration, wages, business and residential investments and GDPs during the pilot ten year period is analysed. It could be that a significant percentage of the immigrants would have refused to seek meaningful and legal employment; they have engaged in crime even more and they have become quite expensive for the State to manage. However, the best possible outcome of the action plan would be that there are high economic benefits in agreeing to the comprehensive immigration program. It would be encouraging to find that the wage rates increased and stabilized. There were fewer reports of employee exploitation in terms of poor working conditions and low wages among the immigrants.
It would also be encouraging for the data analysis and findings to indicate that more than 90% of the immigrants were able to secure favourable employment and they are now investing well in the education of their children. They are also buying homes, investing in business initiatives and they are paying their taxes fully and timely.
The After-Action Report
Once the comprehensive immigrant reform program has been implemented for a defined
period and the effects of the program on rates of crime, wage rates and GDP has been determined, the State should choose the best course of action instead of doing the same actions that yield the same results and a lot of opposition from the civil liberties societies. There should now be a plan and policy in place to deal with future inflows of immigrants in the country.
In analysing history, it has been noted that unauthorized immigration in the country only decreased significantly when the United States faced dampened labour demand. The demographic trends in Mexico actually show that in the future, the United States will actually have lesser immigrant employees. The costs of deportation are actually high and the economy’s GDP actually contracts. Since the 1990s, the amount of Federal resources allocated to border enforcement in the budget has increased yet the number of unauthorised immigrants has been increasing. It is evident that no matter how much money is spent on controls at the border, the illegal immigrants always find a way to enter the country and extend their stay as they search for better economic opportunities. The immigrants are resilient and they are not discouraged by their prior failed attempts to enter the country.
They will keep trying till they succeed. They are not afraid of being caught or arrested or being forced to use the hazardous desert terrains. Enforcement-only strategies may therefore not be the best way to handle the immigration crisis. The best action plan may therefore be to adopt comprehensive immigration reforms in the country by enabling immigrants acquire legal status and get a chance to become citizens.
Kearney, K. (2012). Supreme Court unanimously upholds antidemocratic attack on immigrant workers. Retrieved from: www.wsws.org: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/jun2012/ariz-j26.shtml
National Immigration Law Center.(2012). The Supreme Court Decision on SB 1070: WHAT′S AT STAKE. Retrieved from: http://www.nilc.org: http://www.nilc.org/USvAZimplications.html
Ojeda, R. (2012). The Economic Benefits of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Cato Journal, 32(1), 175-199.