Illegal Immigration: Freedom for Some Is Hard To Achieve

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The United States has long been a symbol of freedom and democracy, yet some people find it so hard to gain access and eventually citizenship. Immigration into the United States is not hard for most people, buying property, learning English, and gaining a green card. For others it can be hard, not having the money or the resources to enter the country legally is usually the main issue. People from Central and South America have their own problems that they wish to get away from; corruption and crime run rapid through many of their countries, and for some the only answer is to come to the United States. Nearly 3,300 attempt to find refuge in the United States illegally each day, but only 800 of those actually make it to “freedom” Obama has put immigration as his priority, but fails to take the reins on reform. Over the past decade illegal immigration from the southern United States has been growing at exponential rate, creating new and ever difficult problems. Congress has been attempting to solve this problem of illegal immigrants, but the U.S. conference of Catholic Bishops has begun to show an interest in the topic as well.

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In a report released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on January 30th, they forecast that nearly 60,000 unaccompanied minors from South and Central America will be entering the United States this year from the southern border. This has escalated from less than 25,000 the year before, and an even larger leap from a decade ago of just 5,800. Many of the minors who are caught, are released to their relatives already within the United States, who in many cases are themselves illegal immigrants (Millman). Many critics of immigration see this as a way for more and more illegal immigrants to flow in to the United States without and worry of deportation. Sadly, to some, many of the minors who cross over the border illegally are mashed through a mix of government agencies all with the soul goal of supervising the children and teens before deporting them back to their home country. Even with this, some manage to find legal refuge within the United States.

While some American’s only see the UACs (unaccompanied children) as people who wish to find a better place to live and “steal” the jobs away from true American’s. They fail to see where the UACs came from, what hardships they faced before deciding to venture to the United States. “Data compiled by that agency show that 95% of what authorities refer to as UACs come from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, Central American republics” (Millman). Within all these countries crime has sky rocketed, they drug trade plays a major role in escalating the problem to it heightened level. The report from the Catholic bishops stated the main reasons why these UACs choose to come to the United States: poverty, opportunity for an education or the urge to join family members already residing within the United States. The absolute main reason for UACs for crossing into the United States would be the growing amount of crime and violence within their home countries. “According to a 2011 report by the United Nations, homicide rates increased — in some cases more than doubling — in five out of eight countries in Central America over the previous five years” (Millman). The breakdown of law and the blurred line of government and crime have and are causing many UACs to flee their home countries.

In one case a young girl attending high school in El Salvador was being harassed by gang member to join their group. She declined to join the gang, which lead to many death threats being sent to her and her family staying with her. Her grandmother, who was taking care of her at the time, contacted a relative living the Los Angeles area, who agreed to share the $6,000 it costs to transport her granddaughter (Millman). During her voyage to the United States she and the group of people that she was traveling with were spotted by U.S. Border Patrol agents in Texas last September. She was placed in to a youth shelter, where she lived for nearly a month before being released to her relatives within the United States. The process of finding, sheltering, and then releasing of illegal minors was carried out nearly 20,000 times in 2013. (Millman)

This change treatment of children and young adults who have come over the border illegally has changed dramatically over the past decade. New
legislature has made it so that these youngsters can have a new life, one without any, or I shouldn’t say any, but one with mush less fear and corruption as in their home country.

The Minors who cross into the United Sates are treated very differently than those who are above the age of 18, those seen as adults. President Obama has made this very clear in his resent years in office, coordinating what some would say an “aggressive and sharp-elbowed campaign” (Hennessey). Advocates for immigration have urged President Obama to ease the deportation of illegal immigrants.

President Obama claimed immigration reform as his priority while running for his second term, but some would argue that he has taken the wrong steps to work towards his goal of reforming the process. .Illinois Representative Luis Gutierrez pointed out that “President Obama has detained more immigrants in jails, prisons and detention facilities than any other president” (Hennessey). Luis stated this while pointing to Obamas predecessors, former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The accusations against Obama are not new; Obama has faced much criticism for his unprecedented number of deportations, nearly two million since his oath in to office (Hennessey). For the time being the administration and Democrats in general have chosen not to strike back at the criticism it is receiving for its stance on immigration. The Democratic Party is choosing not to upset the Latino voters, for they care a lot about immigration reform because it can affect them and their families. President Obama says that he is not the reason for the vast amounts of deportations but it is just that he is at the head of a stalled immigration reform effort. While speaking at a White House town hall meeting, president Obama argued that the constraints on him by the law do not allow him to do the right thing for immigrants, but reform needs to come first. Many advocates for immigration do not take Obamas statements as “face value”. President Obama has made similar remarks on his administrations work towards immigration reform, by stating the limits of his executive power during 2012 (Hennessey). Fortunately not to long after Obama made that statement did he issue his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order, which allows illegal immigrants brought
into the United States as children to apply for work permits in order to avoid deportation. Advocates for immigration want Obama to expand on his executive order to also include those who have strong ties to the United States (basically those who have been in the United States a number of years) and with no criminal background (Hennessey). Advocates for immigration have asked Obama to put an end to the Secure Communities program, which checks the legal status of people fingerprinted at state and local jails. If someone is found to be here illegally then it also gives them the right to notify immigration authorities. They are also asking to cancel the partnership between local law enforcement and immigration officials so that it is easier for people crossing the border to make it safely into the United States. They also want to stop Operation Streamline, which criminally charges people who have crossed in to the United States illegally (Hennessey). The administration does acknowledge these remarks for reform, but defends its stance on the immigration policy. The administration does not want it to just be anyone any time can come on into the United States, but to just make it a little easier for them to gain legal access to the United States. It has tried to address the issues brought to it by making sure immigration agents focus on the deportation of people with criminal backgrounds first, before those with strong family ties in the United States who don’t pose a threat to public safety (Hennessey). President Obama does have the executive power to do something about immigration reform, but he is cautious to do so. “President Obama has the right to stop deportations, he just don’t want to do it,” said Molina, an owner of and American tortilla company, who’s husband was recently deported back to Mexico (Hennessey). Many people would argue that president Obama needs to not worry about what his party wants of him, but what the people and citizens of America want of him. One of the largest advocates for deportation among the states would have to be Arizona. In 2010, Arizona sought to stop the illegal immigration of immigrants traveling over the Arizona-Mexico border with the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, commonly referred to as S.B. 1070 (Arizona). This took the Federal law against illegal smuggling and the requirement to have papers on an individual at all times and wrote them into State law. Arizona law makers have taken that one step further by allowing police to arrest anyone
suspected of a criminal charge that could lead to deportation. This in turn allows them to hold individuals in custody until they have done a complete check through the federal government to make sure he/she is not in the country illegally. People who support S.B. 1070 argue that the Federal Government has failed to regulate immigration law, resulting in Border States, such as Arizona, to be overwhelmed by illegal immigrants (Arizona). Brining increased levels of crime and applying pressure on the States social services (police, hospitals, etc.). People opposed to the law say that it would only lead to further racial discrimination against people of Hispanic descent and would have many of them being detained for no reason. After much debate and what seemed like a never ending war of supports and the Hispanic people, the Federal Government finally stepped in. (Arizona). In July 2010, a preliminary injunction issued by a Federal district court prevented major issues of S.B. 1070 from going into effect. “These included State penalties for failure to carry documentation and applying for or gaining employment as an undocumented worker, granting the power to police to arrest those they suspect are deportable, and the requirement that police conduct immigration status checks on anyone they arrested, detained, or lawfully stopped whom they suspect is in the country illegally” (Arizona). Arizona appealed this injunction and was granted certiorari by the United States Supreme Court. Arizona’s lawyer argued for S.B. 1070, stating that the law didn’t make any new criminal charges. It just simply allowed Arizona State law Enforcement to enforce the Federal Laws already set in place. In addition, he said that state and federal law enforcement official s already coordinate on issues of immigration, and that the detaining of suspected illegal immigrants in order to check their legal status is a process that usually only takes about an hour, seemly not an inconvenience (Arizona). In June 2012, in a 3 to 5 ruling, the Supreme Court chose to affirm almost all of the circuit court’s decision against S.B. 1070 (Arizona). In an opinion written by the Supreme Court Justices stated that, “Federal law preempted the portions of Arizona’s immigration law that made it a State crime for aliens to be in Arizona without legal papers or to apply for or obtain work in Arizona as an undocumented alien, and that allowed police to arrest anyone they suspected was deportable” (Arizona). This means that Arizona’s law would violate Federal Immigration laws, along with other constitutional rights. The
decision made by the Supreme Court is generally considered as a win for those opposed to S.B. 1070 and the Obama Administration. Justice Scalia issued a counter argument to the ruling, which he argued that they were not respecting the sovereignty of the State of Arizona, and that the Obama administration was ignoring the problem at the Nation’s borders (Arizona). The Supreme Court’s decision to forbid portions of Arizona’s law will most likely affect similar states and their immigration policies. The decision will also set the stage for any future constitutional arguments involving immigration, consequently causing the United States to be more lenient with illegal immigration (Arizona). The United States is gradually moving towards a more lenient state of mind of immigration. One policy issued as President Obamas DREAM Act. It was first suggested in 2001, legislation named the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act. This would help undocumented students who attend United States schools by qualifying them for in-States aid, leading them on to a path to citizenship. The DREAM Act would encompass all immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors, who have lived within the United States for at least five consecutive years, and who are of good morals (not convicted of any crimes). A student would receive temporary residency for six years, in that time they would need to complete at least two years of a college degree, or serve two years in the United States armed forced. Supporters of the DREAM Act say that the minors who enter the country illegally do so without any consent, or knowingness of what they are doing. They also say that instead of the minors growing up and working day jobs, they could be getting an education to obtain a better job and ultimately paying taxes. “They note that the Defense Department has listed passage of the legislation as one of its official goals for helping to maintain a mission-ready, all-volunteer force” (DREAM). People who oppose the DREAM Act argue that this would only increase the problem of illegal immigration, stating that it would provoke more to venture in to the United States to seek refuge. Opponents of the Dream Act want strict legislation passed on immigration, stronger border protections, and cooperation from Mexico on human and drug trafficking across the border (DREAM). The DREAM Act was sent to the Senate where it failed to pass by a vote of 56 to 43, only eight short needed to bring the Act to a vote. Supporters for the Act will continue to try and get it passed so that
millions of people residing within the United State scan have a hope for a better more sustainable life. With the recent War in Iraq and Afghanistan, complimented with the recession taking place, it seems as though the DREAM Act has been set aside for now so that the administration can focus on greater matters concerning the United States (DREAM). Illegal immigrants, in many cases, who come to the United States, are fleeing form oppression in their home country. Immigrants attempting to gain asylum within the United States must demonstrate that if they are to be returned home, “they will be persecuted based upon one of five characteristics: race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” (Asylum). immigrants seeking asylum must first go through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Bureau, where they determine if their documentation is fraud or not, and if they have a plausible case for asylum. If they are found to be carrying fraudulent documents, they are placed into immediate deportation. This is unless there are uncommon circumstances. Once that step is completed they head to the Executive Office for Immigration Review, where they are placed before a judge who determines whether or not the United States will grant them asylum (Asylum). The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states that the Attorney General can exercise his/her power in granting or rejecting asylum into the United States. Anyone who is found to have torchers or persecuted others while in their home country, are denied access to asylum (Asylum). The Act lists many other reasons for instant denial of asylum in to the United States, “including when the alien has been convicted of a serious crime and is a danger to the community; the alien has been firmly resettled in another country; or there are reasonable grounds for regarding the alien as a danger to national security” (Asylum). The strict guidelines for asylum make it so that the United States does not accidentally let in someone who could harm its citizens, property, or anyone/anything residing within the United States (Asylum).

Immigration in the United States has become a “hot topic”; it seems that the country is split on how we should go about our immigration policy. Some people wish to have reforms to make it easier on immigrants trying to gain access to the country. Supporter of this support their standing by describing the harsh conditions of crime and corruption that many people
face, causing them to at least try to make it to the United States, to make it to freedom. Much of the illegal immigration that flows into the United States comes across the southern border with Mexico. Poverty, limited human rights, and a very low, or no minimum wage in South American countries drives people to come to the United States. People who are for strict legislation on immigration and stronger border protection choose to support it because they say it is allowing people a “free ride”. People who manage to enter the country illegally do not have to pay taxes, do not have insurance, are undocumented, and take away from the working men and women of America. Over 70% of all farm hands in the US are undocumented workers. Companies in the US also tend to hire illegal immigrants because they will work for less than the minimum wage, and cannot form a union since they are undocumented. Even with this the majority of Americans right now feel that we need to close off our border to illegal immigrants, but this view is heavily influence by the current recession. America is still a beacon of freedom to the world, and its citizens need to recognize that many people around the world have a much harder life. Freedom is meant to be shared, not kept in a capsule of capitalism.

Works Cited
Millman, Joel, and Miriam Jordan. “Flow of Minors Tests Border.” Wall Street Journal. 30 Jan. 2014: A.3. SIRS Issues Researcher.Web. 17 Mar. 2014. (Millman)

Hennessey, Kathleen, and Brian Bennett. “Obama Urged to Reduce Deportations.” Los Angeles Times. 08 Mar. 2014: A.7.SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. (Hennessey)

“Arizona’s Immigration Law,” Congressional Digest 15, no.6 (September 2012) (Arizona)

“The DREAM Act,” Congressional Digest 89, no.9 (November 2010) (DREAM)

“Asylum in America,” congressional Digest 12, no.3 (March 2009) (Asylum)