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The Social and Economic Problems

Illegal immigration may be defined as the movement of people across national boundaries that infringe immigration laws of host nations. They can be divided into two categories, that is those who come mostly in groups from countries with lower socio-economic status to countries with higher such status, and secondly those who enter the country legally such as tourists, students and qualified workers but stay beyond the expiration of their visas. Illegal immigrants have brought both significant economic and social benefits as well as problems to the United States.

These impacts have been qualified and quantified to varying degrees by a number of studies. I will now discuss the impacts starting with the negative ones. Studies have shown that illegal immigrants can cost more than they contribute in social services such as education, health care and social security One study concluded that five states have eighty per cent of the illegal immigrants in the United States costing taxpayers over ten billion dollars annually by 2002.

Job competition between natives and illegal immigrants because the latter will work for less, has had the effect of displacing poorly educated natives and depressing the wages of skilled ones. This has also widened the income gap between rich and poor, as wealthy business owners tend to hire immigrants at lower pay to cut production costs. There are significant social costs as well from crime, largely stemming from the drug trade. Research indicates that sixty-five per cent of the cocaine and much of the marijuana in the United States is smuggled from Mexico by illegal immigrants, and cartels use them to cultivate it also in American forests.

The drug crime also fuels other criminal activities, for example homicides and gang activities To combat the influx of illegal immigrants costly border control technology is required, along with manpower which otherwise could be deployed elsewhere. There is also the problem of overuse and degradation of resources by illegal immigrants, for example in leaving excessive trash. When an influx of illegal immigrants causes overpopulation, conflict with locals can result, along with economic stagnation.

Remittances from these people to their families in their homeland cost an estimated ninety billion dollars in 2003 to the economy. However illegal immigrants also provide significant benefits. For example they pay over fifty per cent of all the taxes in the United States. They stimulate the economy as a major consumer of goods and services. They fill jobs during labor shortages and particularly unskilled ones refused by natives. Obviously this is a two edge sword as they are often blamed for taking scarce jobs during a recession.

New capital investments take advantage of incoming labor even highly skilled illegal. Finally, when illegal immigrants settle in poorly populated areas with labor shortages they contribute to economic growth. While it is difficult, if not impossible, to measure whether illegal immigration has net positive or negative social and economic effects, I think it is fair to say if illegal immigration in the United States could be significantly reduced, the situation would definitely improve since many of the negative effects would diminish while most of the positive ones would remain.

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