Every year, millions of people move from the cities and countries where they were born to new places in search of better economic situations. Ideally, all people who move from their countries of birth should seek the permission of the host country, which they intend to make their residence. They can do this by applying for a visa if the needed country requires such documentation from the citizens of the country, from which they wish to emigrate. There is no moral explanation for the deportation of family members and people with no criminal history who as it turns out are contributing significantly to the economy of the host nation.
That decision to move from the region where one was born to another place could turn out to be the most drastic social action a person could undertake in his/her lifetime. Several risks surround this decision either it is undertaken by an individual or a family group. The motives for such drastic actions are not always the result of personal perception or impression about the place where an individual currently resides or area to which he/she intends to migrate.
Rather, they bring to light the effect of several social factors including the push and pull factors of the current residences, economic strategies, family relations, and gender. All the motives for migration can be grouped into three major categories: economic, social, and political ones. In the 21st century, the most common of them all are economic factors. People often leave countries where local conditions demonstrate very little socio-economic mobility. They are motivated:
- by the desire to better their life;
- in order to achieve this goal;
- they seek regions with better economic prospects than those offered in their current countries of residence.
Low standards of living and poor quality of life are other reasons for why people move from one region to another. In addition, natural disasters can damage the economic prospects of people in any place and make earn any sort of living in that particular region impossible (especially if individuals economic means have been destroyed). Lack of economic options is also an important push factor that makes individuals move from one economic area to another (Canudas-Romo, 2004).
Political factors play an important role in international migration. Citizens of failed states or countries governed by oppressive juntas or dictators often strive to relocate from one political area to another. Both intra- and international wars and military confrontations are serious reasons for migration. Other reasons include religious motives, political persecution, outbreaks of ethnic cleansing as in case of Rwanda/Burundi (1995), or the Kosovo genocides.
All this situations are cogent reasons why people emigrate from their countries of birth to other places. After people have taken the decision to move or have been forced to do so under particular circumstances, the choice of the destination place could fall on the closest comfortable area (Why people migrate, n.d.).
Problem of Immigration in the United States
In the United States, the problem of immigration predominates because of the shared border with Mexico. In fact, the movement across this border is reported to be one of the most dynamic international migration movements. Official estimates show that in 2010 over 100,000 Mexicans moved to the United States (the assumption here is that these are all legal immigrants).
Actually, this number represents a downward turn in the number of Mexicans getting into the United States. Such intense migration is attributed to the global economic meltdown, especially the downturn in the construction industry where many of these immigrants are employed. Furthermore, the United Stated was forced to strengthen the post 9/11 border controls and make the immigration laws strict. As a result, the number of Mexicans that come into the United States in the post- 9/11 and global financial-meltdown years reduced significantly (Chiquiar & Salcedo, 2013).
It is crucial to note that the problem of illegal immigrants or undocumented foreigners is not exclusively a Mexican one. The issue concern people of all nationalities and races whose native countrys diplomatic relations with the United States require its citizens to have a visa for entering the territory of the United. On the other hand, employment of Mexicans is simply one of convenient business decisions.
Despite all the negatives that surround the phenomenon of immigrants in the United States, there is a question whether the presence of these immigrants irrespective of their immigration status has any effects on the economy of the United States or not. The clearest answers to this question will come from the labor market sector of the economy where the bulk of the immigrants can be located. The United States repealed the national origins quota system in the 1965 Amendments.
The government introduced quantitative limits for immigrants and changed the visa allocating objectives for the cases of issuing them for the purpose of families reunification. This way, 63% of all legal immigrants into the United States in 2002 used family connections to enter the country. The history of illegal immigration in the United States can be traced back to the Bracero program. It was a guest worker program that was intended to allow a certain number of agricultural workers to come into the United States and find employment in the agricultural industry.
Eventually, this program was scrapped because it was deemed to harm the local economy as it reduced the number of job opportunities available to locals (Borjas, 2006). The government granted amnesty to the immigrant workers at that time and introduced employer sanctions to curb the influx of the farm workers and other immigrant worker groups.
Nevertheless, this step was insufficient as most people from those countries had been already aware of the opportunities that were available and came in using other illegal ways. Recent estimates suggest that in 2004 over 10 million illegal immigrants resided and worked in the United States, and over 60% of them were of Mexican origin (Passel, 2005).
The economy, in spite of the entire negatives surrounding the issue of immigrants and their status, has experienced some benefits from the phenomenon. The presence of the immigrants has affected the GDP positively since the immigrant population has resulted in increased productivity and because of the demand/supply effect on the value of items. Businesses that employ immigrant workers are able to produce more quantity of their goods at a comparatively smaller price because of the low cost of the immigrant work; consequently, they are able to sell the same goods at lower prices (Borjas, 2006).
In this age of increasing political sensitivity and tolerance, the nomenclature used in describing the immigrants in the United States has evolved rather rapidly. The term immigrant had been used for a long time already. Nevertheless, only after the end of the WWI, the term illegal aliens was used to describe all individuals that stayed in the United States without proper documentation.
In his article, Slayton (2010) traced the origins of the two terms back to the immigration laws passed in the early and mid 1920s. These laws limited number of people coming into the United States. It is notable that, at the time of its enactment, these laws targeted immigrants from southern and eastern Europe who moved to the US in large numbers after the end of the war. The term illegal alien was used in the text of these laws in official statements for the first time.
Today, however, the term illegal aliens are considered to be unnecessarily stigmatizing to immigrants, and there has been a sustained push to change the term to undocumented workers to reflect the true legal status of these people. This term was made quasi-official by the democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in his presidential debate in 2012.
Following the laws described above, the Clinton administration in 1996 enacted the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), which strengthened the already existing immigration laws. The acts empowered law enforcement agents to arrest, detain, and deport non-citizens. The Bush administration, in turn, following the tragic incidents of 9/11 signed the Patriot Act into law. This legislation marked the end of the trend to increase rights granted to immigrants and their families, which was a hallmark of the post WWII era.
Two significant points were to be drawn from this legislation. First, the IIRIRA extended the categories of non-citizens who could be deported from the US. Prior to this law, people who arrived at the US ports without proper documentation were given the option to return home voluntarily, with the law in place, they were subjected to an immediate deportation that was made without any judicial consideration.
The second thing changed by this legislation was an extension of the offences that would result in a non-citizen being deported and the inclusion of a clause for retroactive punishment. As noted earlier, these laws made deportation an expedited process that did not require any judicial consideration. Consequently, the immigrants appeared to be at the mercy of law enforcement agents (Hagan, Eschach, & Rodriguez, 2008).
Ethical and Moral Concerns
The enactment and enforcement of these laws raised ethical and moral concerns. First of all, it included the treatment of the deportees during their detention period. Other concerns that emerged concerned the resettlement options available to the deportees and what options were available to them on their arrival at their native places. These and other concerns have caused the morality of the deportations to be questioned. For the most part, the bulk of these immigrants were people who were trying to improve their life, including men, women, and youths.
Another important question touches the effect of these deportations on the families of the people who have been deported, how the family ties of the deportees affect their stay in their home countries, and whether they will attempt to return to the US in the future or not (Hagan et al., 2008). This factor is very important because of the peculiar kind of effect that deportation has on the families bearing in mind the place of the family in the cultural context of the immigrants.
For many of these people, the family members are not just cohabitants, but they represent a source of identity for these people, as well as their social support structure. Therefore, when a member of a settled family is deported back home, for example, a breadwinner, spouse, child, or parent, it means just more than geographical inconvenience; it compromises the age-old social structure.
The disruption of the family structure is not the only effect of deportation. Within specific groups especially the migrant and seasonal farm workers (MSFWs), the threat of deportation is all too real. This specific group of people contribute massively to the sustained growth of the agricultural sector of the US economy by providing a quality service at a price that native Americans will not accept. This way, they create affordable food available to the United States citizens. In spite of the substantial economic contributions of these groups of people, they are severely marginalized both socially and economically.
The fact that they could be sent home without any form of consideration, has made it easy for unscrupulous employers to turn them into slave workers, bound by the threat of deportation. In addition, this threat has made it near impossible for these people to seek for any form of medical or legal help. Studies carried out show that these groups of people have little or no access to medical facilities, and where such facilities are accessible, they are afraid to seek them out for the same reasons (Lopez-Cevallos, Lee, & Donlan, 2013).
Of the 10 million of undocumented workers currently residing in the United States, about 8.4 million are of Mexican origin. In spite of the relative abundance of healthcare facilities in major cities all over America, there is sparse information that concerns the use of such facilities by the Latino American population. There is even less information on the use of these facilities by the undocumented individuals. Employing questionnaires and data received from health facilities, a study (Ortega et al, 2007) showed that the popular notion that immigrants and undocumented individuals put a strain on the health services evidently was unfounded particularly in the California area where the study was carried out.
The threat of deportation is a tangible reality, with which illegal immigrants have to live. It influences their social standing and behavior due to the status of the migrant workers. These people are willing to put up with just about anything in order to avoid any contacts with law enforcement agents/agencies. In the hands of people of questionable morals, this fear is an effective tool for subjugation and oppression of people of indeterminate immigration status. Employers effectively turn immigrants into slaves, and the last cannot apply to the authorities because of their illegal status.
This trend is most evident in sectors of the economy that require low skills and have very low payment. Moreover, these people can be robbed and assaulted in any way imaginable and individuals that abuse them in this way know with full certainty that these people will never apply to the authorities to seek redress. This situation has been aggravated with the enactments of the IIRIRDA and AEDPA laws that allowed immediate deportation without any form of due process.
Nowadays, employers involved in wage theft can rat out the illegal immigrants among their workforce to authorities, who in turn view this as cooperation and can eliminate from their establishments people who are deemed unmanageable (Fussell, 2011).
As stated earlier in this research, deportation presents inherent risk to the family structure of those families that have had one of their members deported. In 2011, nearly 400,000 individuals were deported from the United States. Estimates point out that over 100,000 children, a majority of whom was American citizens, had one of their parents being deported between 1997 and 2007. There exists a scientific proof that the separation of children from their parents causes profound distress to them.
Parents have a significant role to play in the development of children with regards to their social skills, emotional development, as well as self-realization. Other studies have shown that barring deportation, other forms of separation of parents from their children like military service and incarceration increases the risks of emotional and behavioral problems (Allen, Cisneros, & Tellez, 2013)
The effect of separation of any kind or specifically deportation is not exclusive to children. A family is a small system in which every member has a clearly defined role, and when any disruption occurs in that microsystem, the effects can be unpredictable and far-reaching. The social systems of most immigrant families still consider divorce an abhorrent deed; therefore, any form of separation can turn out to be a traumatic experience for the whole family. Questions of fidelity to ones spouse may arise due to the forced separation.
Moreover, many children face the additional burden of having to provide for the rest of the family, especially if they are old enough to work. They have the supplement the income of the parent that was deported. This way, the deportation forces young people into premature adulthood because of the needs of their families. Sometimes these events affect their individual psycho-social development or assimilation process of the children into the culture, in which they have found themselves (Dreby, 2012)
Given all of the issues that the current system exposes on the migrant workers as well undocumented workers, the morality of deportation is brought into question. The knowledge that they can be deported with no questions asked has been exploited by unscrupulous officials to commit various social and economic crimes against such people, and this is simply unconscionable.
There can be no excuse for exposing children to psychological trauma that is seeing a parent sent far away and having their lives altered irreversibly. The consequences of the current immigration policy are that generations of dysfunctional families subjected to various social illnesses will continue to emerge. The authorities must strengthen the borders and create a feasible pathway so that hardworking immigrants who are struggling night and day to feed their families will have an opportunity to get citizenship or some form of legal status that will protect them from the economic exploitation.
- Allen, B., Cisneros, E. M., & Tellez, A. (2013, October 16). The children left behind: The impact of parental deportation on mental health. Journal of Child and Family Studies.
In this work, the authors speak about the effects that deportation has on the lives of the children that are left behind or separated from their parents.
- Borjas, G. (2006, January) The Impact of immigration on the labor market.
The author, a renowned immigration economist, describes the role that immigration plays in the economy, and shows how the presence of immigrants is indeed beneficial to the host countries where they reside.
- Canudas-Romo, V. (2004). Moving north: Different factors influencing male and female Mexican migration to United States. Papeles de Poblacion, 39, 1-11.
This work provides an explanation for the motives of migration from the perspective of migrants, and explains economic and social pressures that lead to migration.
- Chiquiar, D., & Salcedo, A. (2013, July). Mexican immigration to the United States: underlying economic factors and possible scenarios for future flows. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.
The article studies the factors that motivate migration of Mexicans especially to the United States. The authors assert that economic benefits are a result of migration and provide some background for the downward trend observed in the trans-border migration between the US and Mexico.
- Dreby, J. (2012, August 1). The burden of deportation on children in Mexican immigrant families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74 (4), 829-845.
The author of this work describes the psychological and social effects of separation specifically on the children buttressing the point that there is no moral justification for separating families.
- Fussell, E. (December 07, 2011). The deportation threat dynamic and victimization of Latino migrants: Wage theft and robbery. The Sociological Quarterly, 52(4), 593-615.
This work speaks about the assumptions that are made by the society about immigrant workers, and shows how the existing immigration laws presented immigrant workers with the short end of the economic stick, and exposed them to all sorts of economic endangerment.
- Hagan, J., Eschach, K., & Rodriguez, N. (2008). US deportation policy, family separation and circular migration. The International Migration Review, 42(1), 64-88.
This work starts by describing the laws that have influenced the current policy concerning immigration and how the family status of the deportees affects their response to deportation. It also highlights the abuse experienced by such individuals prior to their deportation from the US.
- Lopez-Cevallos, D., Lee. J., & Donlan, W. (2013, June). Fear of deportation is not associated with medical or dental care use among Mexican-origin farmworkers served by a federally-qualified health centerfaith-based partnership: An exploratory study. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health.
This work describes how the fear of deportation precludes migrant agricultural workers from applying for medical services, and how some of their needs are met by churches and NGOs.
- Ortega, A. N., Fang, H., Perez, V. H., Rizzo, J. A., Carter-Pokras, O., Wallace, S. P., & Gelberg, L. (2007, January 1). Health care access, use of services, and experiences among undocumented Mexicans and other Latinos. Archives of Internal Medicine, 167(21), 2354-60.
The study carried out in California studies the allegations that immigrant workers place on existing healthcare facilities.
- Passel, J. S. (2005, March 21). Estimates of the size and characteristics of the undocumented population, PEW Hispanic Center.
This article provides statistics on the number of undocumented individuals residing in the United States.
- Slayton, R. (2010, April). Illegal aliens. Huffington Post.
This article in a popular magazine explains the origins of the terms used to describe immigrants, as well as provides a historical context of the origins of some of the existing immigration laws.
- Why people migrate. (n.d.). Federal Office for Migration.
The article from the Swiss governmental website explains some other reasons why people decide to migrate.