Are illegal aliens a problem of immigration? A purported view is immigration is not the problem, but rather the control and enforcement of immigration. In any country, the unchecked and illicit inflow of people can pose a challenge to that country’s sovereignty.
Rich countries have three major concerns when it comes to immigration. First, there is the belief that it causes wage inequality by a reduction in wages for domestic worker due to competition from immigrants. Next, there is the pressure it puts on facilities like schools and services like healthcare and welfare payments. This pressure is borne by taxpayers. Finally, especially post-911, there is the concern that there could be incidences of enemies hosted in immigrant communities.
Another increasing concern is the amount of money crossing borders by way of remittances to extended family. Worker remittances from the US to Mexico came up to $16.6 billion last year. This amount is second only to petroleum in the US export revenues.
The financial burden that illegal immigrants put on a country cannot be underestimated. The Federation for American Immigration Reform estimated a $7.7 billion spend a year in California to educate illegal immigrants and their children. The State of California also spends yearly $1.4 billion on health care and on illegal immigrants in prison.
The major reason for illegal immigration is that the supply does not meet the demand. In the US, there is provision for 675,000 visas a year for permanent residence. 480,000 of these are available for the family reunification, 140,000 are based on employment. Humanitarian visas awarded to refugees were at a maximum of 70,000 in 2004. The diversity lottery gives out another 50,000 visas to citizens of countries that have sent fewer than 50,000 migrants in the previous five years.
Different countries like Spain, France and the US have varying experiences of illegal aliens.
Spain has its own share of trying to control the entry of illegal aliens onto its shores. Sub-Saharan Africa sees the neighboring country as the closest refuge. 5,000 clandestine immigrants, trying to escape the consequences of a population that far outstrips it economic capability, have crossed the border with about 1,000 drowning as the board fragile fishing boats to make their way to the Canary Islands.
Since France does not have the US advantage of a flexible labor market and stingy welfare state, it has ended up with a resentful immigrant underclass with time on its hands. France today has a low proportion of skilled immigrants.
The French interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, is working on reversing this trend. He is proposing a managed, high-skilled, demand-led immigration policy by introducing a selective immigration policy with quotas for workers, students and families and allowing entry to those who have the means to support a family.
This policy would involve opening up the borders to more skilled workers while clamping down illegal aliens through a closer watch on bogus marriages, increased deportation and scrapping the automatic right to stay after 10 years of being in France illegally.
There are some 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., most of them employed. In the US, most illegal immigrants are day laborers, 50% of whom are employed by homeowners. A lot of these day workers see themselves as victims of unemployment and of a failed immigration system. It is being said that tight legal controls have driven Latinos to illegality and across the U.S., 117,000 undocumented immigrants, the majority from Mexico, gather daily, looking for work.
My personal experience is that illegal immigrants go after the jobs that citizens are not likely to be interested in like agriculture, landscaping, and housekeeping and most people are not averse to hiring them.