Illegal migration in the United States


Illegalmigration in the United States

Illegalmigration in the United States

Theissue of excess immigrants into the United States has sparked a hotdebate on its benefits/costs and the best approaches of dealing withit. The Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center indicated that UnitedStates hosted at least 10.3 million illegal immigrants in the years2005 with 57% of those immigrants coming from Mexico. The benefitsidentified for such high influx of illegal migrants in the UnitedStates include enhanced American business, availability ofinexpensive labor, and increased cultural diversity. On the otherhand, its costs include overpopulation of United States’ cities,heightened tensions between the immigrants themselves as well as withnative residents, and increased pressure on the available limitedresources in the country (Kane and Johnson, 2006). This has leftpolicy makers grappling to find the best strategies to address thischallenge of influx of illegal immigrants in the region. This paperwill investigate what should be done about the problem of illegalimmigration in the United States. It will explore theories ofmigration to understand what contributes to such migration benefitsand costs of illegal migration to the United States and possiblealternatives to address the situation. Finally, it will put forwardsome suggestions on what ought to be done to effectively handle thesituation.


TheMexican/United States border is approximately 1951 miles stretchingfrom Texas to California, and it is among the most recurrentlytraversed border in the globe (Faist, 2010). Despite a large portionof this border being patrolled by the United States’ federalgovernment, estimated 800,000 illegal migrants from Mexico manage tocross it annually using different tactics such as overstayingacquired United States’ visas, forging documents, and under-bordertunneling. This situation has remained unsettled for a long time, butlately it has received much weight with the Senate and Congressdebating on the Immigration Bill comprising measures such asdeportation and erection of a wall at the border. However, everypolicy adopted from the bill has received criticism. This criticismhas led to contemplations on the best strategy to achieve the desiredeffects of curbing illegal immigration into the country via theMexico/United States border.

Researchquestions to be answered:

Inorder to realize the intended objective of identifying what should bedone on the problem of illegal immigration in the United States thefollowing questions will guide the research process:

  • What are the theories explaining migration of people?

  • What are the benefits and/or costs of illegal cross-border migration?

  • What are the alternatives available for controlling illegal cross-border migration?

Significanceof the research

Illegalimmigration has profound effects on the destination country includingsocial and economic effects. For instance, the increase in populationcauses overcrowding in the area of settlement hence, exerts extrapressure on the available resources that in turn heightens tensionbetween the residents the residents start scrambling for the limitedresources. Nevertheless, increase in population provides a largerpool of workforce to businesses from which they acquire cheap labor.Thus, this research will be helpful for students, scholars and thegovernment in understanding illegal immigration patterns better toequip them with tools to predict future trends. Also, it will helppolicy makers in better designing and implementing immigrationpolicies for the benefit of the whole country and its entirepopulation.


Illegalmigration describes the act of entry, residence and/or exitcontravening the laws enacted by the destination country or countriesof transit and origin, and the phrase illegal applies to theimmigrants’ behavior rather than the immigrants themselves. It isacknowledged that illegal immigrants are not necessarily criminalsdespite the term having its connotation with criminality (Koser,2005). However, the fact that the acts described by the term are asproblematic as crimes cannot be ignored (Schrover, 2008). Illegalmigration assumes several typologies depending on the modes used toreach the destination country. They include overstaying visa, illegalinternational border crossing, and illegal work.

Overstayingthe visa refers to crossing the legal border between two countries,through a transit country or directly from country of origin to thedestination country with relevant documents required by bothdestination country and country of origin. Equally, possessingrelevant documents required by a transit country if the migrantutilizes indirect method, but the person stays in the destinationcountry beyond the period specified and allowed by the relevantdocuments. On the other hand, illegal international border crossinginvolves traversing a legal border between two countries from thecountry of origin to the destination country without the relevantdocuments required by the destination country as well as the countryof origin. It can also be accomplished by crossing the legal borderwith forged documents. Illegal work involves the migrant engaging inactivities other than those permitted by the visa, for example,joining the destination country’s labor market when the visapermits only medical treatment or tourism.

Theoriesof migration

Migrationis a too multifaceted and diverse phenomenon to be explicated by onetheory. It is this assertion that had led to some scholarspostulating that this phenomenon is theorized (Arango, 2004). Indeed,it is right that initial theorizations were inflexible and disjointedfrom each other. However, recent efforts to integrate inductive anddeductive reasoning have presented theories that fairly addresscontemporary international migration phenomenon. Most recent andcurrent international migrations are completed from poor countries torich countries. These theories are broadly classified into fourcategories namely historical-structural, new economics of labormigration, systems, networks and neoclassical economic, and push/pulltheories.

Neoclassicaltheories/models are founded on the uneven spatial distribution offactors of production, especially capital, Vis-a Vis labor betweenthe country of origin. In this case, Mexico is the country of originand the destination country is the United States (Massey et al.,1998). Theories under this category posit that capital in scarcewhile labor is plenty in supply in the country of origin fetching lowwages but the opposite applies to destination countries- that theyhave substantial capital but inadequate supply of labor making wagesin such countries is high. As a result, people move from the countryof origin (Mexico) to destination country (United States) because oflow wages and high wages respectively they move from Mexico toUnited States in search of well paying jobs. The differentialdevelopment statuses between the two countries are the basis formigration. Such argument makes sense because United States has asuperior economy compared to Mexico.

Neweconomics labor movement (NELM) theories integrate neoclassicalorthodoxy with family decision-making. They embody two aspects(Massey et al., 1998). The first aspect is that ration migrationdecision does not only base on income and wage maximization, but alsoon risk aversion and income diversification. The second aspect isthat migration decisions are not made by a single person, but by thehousehold- members of the family. Thus, the movement from country oforigin to the destination country is propelled by theavoidance/minimization of risks in the country of origin and familymembers’ advice.

Systemsand networks category of migration theories is comprehensive inelaborating migration because of its compound analytical focus onprocess, linkage and structure (Faist, 1997). Such comprehensivefocus permits conceptualization of migration beyond unidirectionallinear pull-push movement it visualizes migration as interdependent,multi-causal and circular where upshots in one part of the system aretraceable throughout the entire system. It describes migration asself-modifying, that is, another destination will be identified ifone destination is closed, and self-regulating where other modes ofmigration are established if the prevailing ones are eliminated.According to Arango (2004), viewing migration as a network is crucialfor understanding fully the phenomenon because it presentsmigration’s explanatory factors. These are the features that makethis category of theories more conclusive than any other category inexplaining migration phenomenon, especially in the contemporaryworld.

Historical-structuraltheories are founded on the capitalism concept expounded by Marx andassert that international migration occurs as a result of thedisequilibrating nature and differential macro-structural created bythe global capitalism (Morawska, 2012). They include world systemstheory, dependency theory and dual segmented labor market. Dualsegmented labor market holds that destination country (United States)is highly industrialized thus, offering a primary labor marketcharacterized by well-paying and secure jobs whereas country oforigin (Mexico) are characterized by unpleasant, insecure andlow-paying jobs thus, people move to seek better opportunities.Dependency theory explains migration as stemming from geographicallydivided labor and the subordinate efforts to fit underdevelopedcountries into developed countries (Morawska, 2012). World systemtheory posit that colonialism granted power to some countries whilerendering others powerless hence, leaving the powerless countriesdependent on the powerful ones- migration is an aspect of thisdependency (Morawska, 2007).


Thisresearch will employ exploratory method in collecting the informationrequired for evaluating the suitability of alternatives available intackling the illegal immigration problem in the United States ofAmerica. The researcher will make use of secondary as well as primarydata collection methods such as interviews, questionnaires, focusgroups and exploration of literatures written on the topic understudy of illegal immigration problem in the United States of America.Expansive exploration of the written literature (books, journals,reports and internet) will help identify the stakeholders- peoplesaffected by the issues and the available alternatives to tackle theissue- as well as the elements of such alternatives. Interviews andfocus groups will help in familiarizing with and collectinginformation about the alternatives utilized by the involvedauthorities in addressing illegal immigration issue in United States.Questionnaires will be used in collecting information about thestrategies the illegal immigrants used to enter the United States aswell as the ways they feel should be used in addressing the issue athand.

Atotal of 255 questionnaires will be used targeting illegal immigrantswith Mexican nationality. Owing to the possibility that most of themmight be reluctant to participate in the study because ofincrimination of their acts, they will be promised confidentiality,that is, their details will not be disclosed to any person other thanthe researcher. Questions to be asked include but not limited to:

  • What is your age?

  • How did you cross the border?

  • What reasons contributed to your movement?

Atotal of 25 interviews will be conducted with officers andimmigration and security experts in order to identify best possiblealternatives, both in practice and not in practice, for addressingillegal immigration problem. The researcher will utilize open-endedas well as closed questions to obtain the required informationinformation about the ease of implementing the alternatives, thechallenges experienced in implementing them and the effects ofimplementing them. More so, literature exploration and focus groupdiscussions will be applied in establishing thesuitability/applicability of each of the identified alternatives byconsidering its consequences on the stakeholders. The guidingquestions for these activities include but not limited to:

  • What is the participatory level of the stakeholders in the alternative?

  • How does it affect the immigrants, law enforcement authorities and the country at large?

  • How does it affect the countries relation with other countries across the world?

Thecriteria adopted for the analysis will involve examining the issue athand under four aspects namely social effects, political effects,environmental effects and economic effects. Each of these aspectswill then be further divided into four sub-aspects namely costs,benefits, risks and opportunities. These sub-aspects are discussed inthe following paragraphs along with their constituent considerationelements.


Itwill comprise the disadvantages experienced by the stakeholders ifthe alternative is implemented to control the problem at hand-illegal immigration and/or immigrants. They indicate sufferance ofeither stakeholder in one way or the other. They include loss ofcheap labor by the business and loss of jobs by the native residentsexpenses incurred in monitoring the border and loss of tax revenueincreased crime, national instability and degraded world view andviolation of human rights. For instance, loss of jobs by the nativeresidents is likely to spur tension between the natives and theillegal migrants whereas loss of cheap labor by the business islikely to weigh down their operations.


Itcomprises the advantages enjoyed or to be enjoyed by the stakeholderson implementation of the alternative. They include availability ofcheap labor to the businesses and low consumer costs to residentsincreased economic growth and tax revenue population diversity andimproved relations with the rest of the world and sustenance of theAmerican dream. For instance, accommodation of the illegal immigrantswill make Mexico feel the assistance of United States towards hercitizens hence maintaining of strong relations between the twocountries. More so, the higher population resulting from influx ofillegal migrants creates a larger pool from which business can obtaincheap labor that translates to reduced production costs and prices ofproducts.


Itcomprises the threats manifested on implementation of the alternativechosen in combating illegal migration menace. They include increaseddrug trafficking incidences population shifts depletion ofenvironmental resources increased terrorism outsourcing of jobsand increased environmental pollution. For instance, the perpetratorsof the 9/11 attacks that left more than 3,000 people dead were mainlyillegal immigrants who had entered United States as per thecountry’s laws and regulations but overstayed in the country beyondthe stipulated period (American Legion, 2013, p. 14).


Itincludes the prospects to be reaped once the alternative isimplemented. They include reduced spread of diseases increasedbusiness opportunities reduced insecurity and crimes and reduceddrug trafficking incidences. For instance, an alternative requiringincreased patronage of the border using the latest equipments islikely to benefit United States’ business that will secure thecontract to supply such technology-savvy equipments.


Theexplored theories of migration answer the first research questionwhereas the analyses about alternatives for curbing illegalimmigration and stakeholders conform to the second and third researchquestions. Such analyses provide the impacts (benefits/costs) of thealternatives available in controlling illegal migration on thevarious stakeholders. To answer the main question of the research(what should be done about the problem of illegal immigration in theUnited States), the alternative that provides the highest benefitsand opportunities while using the least cost and causing the leastrisks will be chosen.


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Faist,T. (1997). The crucial meso-level. In T. Hammar, et al. (Eds),InternationalMigration, immobility and development.Oxford: Berg, 187-217.

Faist,T. (2010). Towards Transnational Studies: World Theories,Transnationalisation and Changing Institutions. Journalof Ethnic and Migration Studies, 36(10),1665-1687.

Kane,T., and Johnson, K. A. (2006). The real problem with immigration andthe real solution. TheBackgrounder, 1913,1-7.

Koser,K. (2005). Irregularmigration, state security and human security.Expert paper prepared for the Global Commission on InternationalMigration, Geneva: GCIM

Massey,D. S., et al. (1998). Worldsin Motion: Understanding International Migration at the End of theMillennium.Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Morawska,E. (2007). InternationalMigration: Its Various Mechanisms and Different Theories that Try toExplain it.Malmo: Malmo University, Willy Brandt Series of Working Papers inInternational Migration and Ethnic Relations 1/07.

Morawska,E. (2012). Historical-Structural Models of International Migration,in Martiniello, M. and Rath, J. (eds.). AnIntroduction to International Migration Studies. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 55-75.

Schrover,M., et al. (2008). IllegalMigration and Gender in a Global and Historical Perspective.Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

TheAmerican Legion (2013). Policyon illegal immigration: a strategy to address illegal immigration inthe United States.Indianapolis: National American Commission.