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OPINION – Illegal Immigrants: Build Bridges, Not Walls

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As President Trump prepares for his re-election campaign, it seems that his focus grows on immigration. Throughout his 2016 campaign, it was by no means a rare occasion to hear the phrase “Build the wall” at a Trump rally. With such policies on illegal immigration, it’s clear that the majority of his supporters are against illegal immigration. In fact, John Gramlich from the Pew Research Center states that three-quarters of registered voters who planned to support the GOP candidate in their congressional district said illegal immigration was a very big problem in the country.

Currently, about 11 million unauthorized immigrants live in the US; Mexico accounts for more than half of these people. People argue that illegal immigrants are problematic for a number of reasons, stating that they steal tax dollars, take jobs, commit crimes, and, most importantly, came here illegally. While these seem like intuitive truths, they are baseless claims in the face of facts and logic.

Immigrants Crossing Over the Wall
Image from America Talks

While data on illegal immigrants isn’t perfect, it’s estimated that illegal immigrants pay billions of dollars in taxes each year. Not only that, but it’s also estimated that unauthorized immigrants pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits. Additionally, because immigrants and U.S.-born workers don’t compete for the same jobs, illegal immigrants complement the work of U.S. employees and increase their productivity. In some cases, they actually create more jobs.

While the narrative of the criminal illegal immigrant is embedded in our minds, it’s actually not the case. A 2018 study concluded that the relationship between immigration and crime is generally negative. It was found that increases in undocumented immigrant population within states were associated with significant decreases in violence. Finally, the penultimate argument made by those who oppose illegal immigration: “they’re breaking the law by coming here illegally”. However, those who make this argument often forget to mention that a majority of those who become illegal immigrants, came to the U.S. legally. During fiscal 2017, the Department of Homeland Security found that the number of immigrants that overstayed their visas was more than double those apprehended at the border during the same time frame. The specific figure is in 2017, 70% of the illegal immigrant population that year came here legally and just overstayed their welcome.

The policies that President Trump flaunted at the beginning of the year have either never been implemented or gone out of effect. The DACA program is up and running and the wall still hasn’t been built. However, the stance on illegal immigration stays the same. Those of whom who are affected by that stance have things to say like this undocumented student who has asked for anonymity. “I mainly just want people to be more understanding and sympathetic of us,” said the student. “It doesn’t matter if your family would have been kidnapped and murdered in your home country, anti-illegal immigration people will show no sympathy and say, ‘The law is the law.’ There are circumstances where ethics and law depart ways like Jim Crow. In these examples, we must choose what is right over what is legal.”

These people have been unfairly vilified and vindicated. They are contributing members of our society. They benefit the economy and industry. They reduce crime rates and, in the end, just want better opportunities. To deny them of that, would be un-American.

 

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