There are approximately 41 million immigrants in the United States, an all-time high for a nation historically built on immigration. The United States remains a popular destination attracting about 20% of the world’s international migrants. Immigrants accounted for 13% of U.S. residents; adding the U.S.-born children (of all ages) of immigrants means that approximately 80 million people, or 25% of the overall U.S. population, is either of the first or second generation.
20% of the current U.S. Catholic population was born outside of the United States — up from 7% in 1980.
There are about 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US — about 3.5% of the total population.
There are about 5 million children living in the U.S. with at least 1 undocumented parent.
Since 1998 approximately 4,500 people, mostly young poor Latin Americans, have died of thirst and hunger in the American desert looking for a better life or seeking to reunite with family members in the US.
$11 billion has been identified to construct 576 miles of a new “border wall system.”
In 1961 it cost approximately $200 million to build the Berlin Wall (96 miles), separating the East Bloc countries from the West. It had 65 miles of anti-vehicle trenches, 302 watch towers and 20 bunkers. At least 140 people were killed trying to cross it.
Immigrants fill gaps in low and high skilled jobs left by American born workers. Many start their own businesses, employing others and collectively add billions of dollars to the US economy.
The percentage of Americans without a high school diploma has fallen from 50% in the 1960’s to 7% today—and immigrants are filling the jobs vacated by increasingly educated Americans.
Unemployment in border states has remained below the national average despite high levels of immigration.
Studies show that legalization would likely improve wages for all workers.
Job openings are expanding at educational levels where demographic data show too few native-born students, so we can expect these shortfalls to persist in the future. Moreover, relative to other economic indicators, wages are increasing in Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs requiring higher education.
Removing the approximately 8 million unauthorized workers in the United States would not automatically create 8 million job openings for unemployed Americans for 2 reasons. First, removing millions of undocumented workers from the economy would also remove millions of entrepreneurs, consumers and taxpayers. The economy would actually lose jobs. Second, native-born workers and immigrant workers tend to possess different skills that often complement one another.
Immigrants, regardless of status, fill the growing gap between expanding low-skilled jobs and the shrinking pool of native-born Americans who are willing to take such jobs. By facilitating the growth of such sectors as retail, agriculture, landscaping, restaurants, and hotels, low-skilled immigrants have enabled those sectors to expand, attract investment, and create middle-class jobs in management, design and engineering, bookkeeping, marketing and other areas that employ U.S. citizens.
The AFL-CIO, one of America’s largest unions, supports the immigration reform. Its website states, For far too long, our broken immigration system has allowed employers to drive down wages and working conditions in our country. The brunt of the impact has been born by immigrant workers, who face the highest rates of wage theft, sexual harassment, and death and injury on the job.
Immigrants give a slight boost to the average wages of Americans by increasing their productivity and stimulating investment.
Immigrants will replenish the US labor force as millions of “Baby Boomers” retire.
Undocumented immigrants have not committed a crime and are not criminals. They have violated civil code such as when a person ignores a traffic ordinance. Migrants and their families enter the US for jobs and to survive. Visas and legal channels to work or to reunite with family members are severely limited. The conundrum is that they are given jobs but not legal status. Human beings are not illegal.
Many Americans want immigrants to enter the country legally. But under current immigration laws, there are very few options for legal immigration, the costs are increasingly prohibitive and the wait for any kind of status can be long and frustrating. According to the State Department, that imaginary “immigration line” is already over 4 million people long and depending on the type of visa sought and the country of origin, the wait can be years to decades long. In some countries, such as the Philippines and Mexico people have been waiting over 20 years for approval of a family-sponsored visa.
Immigrants can legally get to the U.S by being sponsored by an employer or a family member, they can enter the country as refugees, or they could receive one of the selectively distributed professional or diversity visas. The Diversity Visa Program makes 55,000 green cards available to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. According to the State Department, the fees to obtain permanent U.S. visas can range from $200 to over $700, excluding legal fees. Plus, there are visa quotas which limits immigration from any given country.
In many poor, violence-ridden countries, or in cases where parents are separated from their children, immigrants say the wait is unbearable, leaving many to resort to illegal border crossing. That journey can be expensive and deadly. Smugglers charge anywhere from $3,000 to upwards of $70,000 depending on country of origin, mode of transport and distance traveled according to the Mexican Migration Project, a multidisciplinary research effort between investigators in Mexico and the U.S.
U.S. undocumented residents face crime, exploitation, and abuse. Anti-immigrant measures deprive them of housing and basic services. Increased police enforcement of federal immigration laws effectively denies them access to police protection. In short, the undocumented do not receive the law’s protections, only its sanctions.
Many undocumented workers are taken advantage of by unscrupulous employers who underpay them for their time.
37% have experienced minimum wage violations
84 % have experienced overtime violations
76 % have experienced working “off the clock”
Of those who made complaints, 62% experienced one or more forms of illegal retaliation such as threatening to contact immigration authorities, firing or suspending worker or threatening to cut pay.
The U.S. Department of State reported that 3.5 million persons who had been approved for family-based visas had not yet received them. Most of those approved remain in the United States with their families, waiting for years for their visas to become available. When they leave the country to pick up their visas, they will be barred from re-entering for years based on their past “unlawful presence.”
The relatively open U.S. job market accommodates more than 8 million, or 5% undocumented workers. However, the United States provides visas for no more than 10,000 unskilled workers each year. The lack of coherence between U.S. labor needs and its immigration system is inconsistent with the “rule of law.”
About 7% of U.S. children in grades K-12 had at least 1 parent without legal status. 79% of these children were born in the U.S. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees citizenship to those born or naturalized in the United States and “subject to its jurisdiction.” In 2007, 96 members of Congress co-sponsored legislation interpreting the phrase “subject to its jurisdiction” to exclude the children of undocumented persons.
Repeated studies have affirmed that the outcome of deportation cases, which can lead to death, torture, and permanent banishment from the country, turn more on legal representation, detention, and the individual judge than on the merits of an underlying claim.
An immigration system that honored the “rule of law” would protect those fleeing persecution and violence; it would encourage immigrants to cooperate with the police; its court decisions would turn on the strength of an underlying claim; its admission policies would expedite family reunification and serve the nation’s need for both high-end and less skilled workers; and it would provide millions of hardworking immigrants with a path to legal status.
Immigration reform would enable our U.S immigration system to honor the “rule of law.”
For immigrants that are also refugees, the “credible fear” test is the key that unlocks the gate to asylum and permanent residence in the US. 92% of asylums applicants pass this test. The number of individuals passing this critical test has increased 600% since 2007.
The immigrant community is a net benefit to the US economy. The average immigrant, in a lifetime, pays more in taxes than they collect in government services. Without guest workers, the US economy would lose billions of dollars a year in agricultural production and much of the current production would go overseas.
Many unauthorized immigrants are low-wage employees whose hard work helps produce more affordable goods for all U.S. consumers. Deporting these workers will lead to labor shortages that will increase the costs of U.S. goods.
Immigrants are also consumers themselves, which increases demand for the goods and services of U.S. industries.
Immigrant workers are just as vulnerable during recessions as native workers due to their lower levels of skill and education, their relative youth, and their over-representation in the most vulnerable U.S. industries.
Scholars have suggested for decades that migrants’ (particularly undocumented migrants’) decisions to return to their home country depends more on the conditions in the home country than those of the receiving country. This is one reason that development of sending countries is a critical pillar of comprehensive immigration reform.
Between 50-75% of undocumented immigrants pay between $90 and $140 billion in federal, state and local & sales taxes each year.
Undocumented workers pay sales taxes where applicable and property taxes – directly if they own and indirectly if they rent.
Collectively, undocumented workers pay over $10 billion to state and local taxes each year. Contributions vary by state. In Montana they contribute about $2 million. In California, more than $2 billion. On average they pay more than 6% of their income in state and local taxes.
Immigrants are needed to grow the tax base for an aging workforce to support the retiring generation.
Increasing legal immigration would increase government spending on refundable tax credits, Medicaid and health insurance subsidies, among other federal benefits. But it would also create even more tax revenue by way of income and payroll taxes.
Allowing certain immigrants to stay in the country and work legally would boost state and local tax contributions by billions of dollars a year.
Reports from several states such as Texas show that unauthorized immigrants contribute as much as $1.5 billion to state revenues. Legalization would force unscrupulous employers to contribute payroll taxes for their immigrant workers and thus further increase state revenues.
Unauthorized immigrants are paying billions of dollars a year into Social Security, with no ability of ever collecting benefits. Without the 3 million undocumented immigrants paying into the system, Social Security would have entered persistent shortfall of tax revenue to cover payouts starting in 2009.
The Social Security Administration also credits undocumented workers for paying an additional $520 billion under mismatching Social Security numbers. Because they are unable to collect social security due to their unauthorized status, this money helps to ensure the funds long term viability for future generations of retirees.
Without immigrants, the Social Security Board of Trustees projects that the system will no longer be able to pay the full promised benefits by 2037.
On a federal level, with very few exceptions (i.e. prenatal care), unauthorized migrants are ineligible to receive welfare, benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or “food stamps”), Medicaid, and most other public benefits. Most of these programs require proof of legal immigration status. On a state level, individual states have to make an affirmative legislative decision to provide services to the unauthorized populations. The default position is such that the unauthorized population is prohibited from receiving such benefits. Even legal immigrants face stringent eligibility restrictions until they have been in the United States for more than 5 years.
Non-citizen immigrant adults and children are about 25% less likely to be signed up for Medicaid than their poor native-born equivalents and are also 37% less likely to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or “food stamps”).
Citizen children of illegal immigrants — often derogatorily referred to as “anchor babies” — do qualify for social benefits. Also, undocumented immigrants are eligible for schooling and emergency medical care. Currently, the average unlawful immigrant household costs taxpayers thousands of dollars per household. However most economists see providing these benefits as an investment for the future, when these children become workers and taxpayers.
A path to legalization for immigrants would increase federal revenues by billions of dollars. Such a plan would have seen increased costs from the use of public services, but ultimately, it would produce a surplus for government coffers.
The United States allocates less than 1% of the Federal budget for migration & refugee assistance.
Immigrants have economically revitalized many communities throughout the country.
Today’s immigrants are buying homes, becoming US citizens and learning English.
Immigration does not cause crime rates to rise, and immigrants are actually less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than native born Americans.
Immigration reform is an integral part of any effective border security strategy.
Bias & Unequal Treatment
Throughout American history, Catholic immigrants have been opposed by “nativist” groups, primarily in response to a surge of Irish Catholic immigration. 2 of the most well know of these groups were the “Know Nothings” and the “American Party.” The goal of these groups was to preserve the status for some of the established inhabitants of this country. Much of the opposition to Catholics came from earlier immigrant groups who were not actually “native” themselves. Today many of those who hold these views do not consider themselves “nativists” but “patriots.”
Of the 19 hijackers that attacked the U.S. on 9-11, 18 came entered the country on tourist or business visas and 1 on a student visa – none as immigrants or refugees.
15 of the 19 hijackers on 9-11 came from Saudi Arabia. None of them came from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen.
The potential threat of terrorists crossing from Canada into the U.S. is greater than that from Mexico, in part due to the northern border’s greater length. However there are hundreds of miles of fencing along the US-Mexico border (with proposals to add more) and many times more U.S. Border Patrol along the US-Mexican border as there are along the US-Canadian border.
Every week in immigration courts around the country, thousands of children act as their own lawyers, pleading for asylum or other type of relief in a legal system they do not understand.
In the United States, suspected killers, kidnappers and others facing federal felony charges are entitled to court-appointed lawyers if they cannot afford them. But children accused of violating immigration laws, a civil offense, do not have the same right.
Having a lawyer makes a difference. More than 50% of the children who do not have legal representation are deported. Only 10% of the children who do have an attorney suffer the same fate.
The US maintains the largest immigration detention infrastructure in the world, detaining thousands of persons per year. Legal permanent residents with longstanding family and community ties, asylum-seekers, and victims of human trafficking–are detained for weeks, months, and sometimes years. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) often detains women, men and children in county jails and for-profit prisons.
The last few decades have witnessed the rising involvement and influence of the private prison industry in U.S. immigration enforcement, alongside the expansion of the immigration detention system. Approximately 350,000 immigrants have been identified for detention or removal by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and passed through one of more than 200 immigration detention facilities.
The U.S. immigration detention system is a relatively recent phenomenon. Prior to the 1980s, there were only approximately 30-3,000 people in immigration detention each day. In addition the federal government announced a new detention policy aiming to punish and deter Latin American migration, including the detention of asylum seekers. In 1996, federal laws were passed which doubled the number of people in immigration detention from 8,500 each day in 1996 to 16,000 in 1998.
The 1980s gave rise to two major prison corporations, GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (now CoreCivic), that lobbied the government for laws that expanded detention and other forms of incarceration. These companies have a financial interest in building and filling as many detention centers as possible.
Immigrant detention centers cost a lot of money and Congress has appropriated a large budget for them. It costs the government over $12,000 to deport each individual, but when the costs of apprehension, detention, legal processing, and transportation are combined, the government spends more than $23,000 to deport each person. Detention alone cost taxpayers approximately $2 billion each year.
Immigration detention is a civil form of confinement, and thus, detained migrants lack many of the safeguards of the criminal justice system. They have no right to a court-appointed attorney, a free phone call, or a speedy trial.
There are no formally binding regulations or statutory provisions governing the standards of care at ICE detention facilities. Some immigration jails are not contractually governed by any standards at all. Advocates have found ICE’s system of inspections insufficient to address the abuses and health and safety concerns endemic to the detention system.
- 45% of the adults in the U.S. believe the majority of immigrants are here legally (In fact, 75% of immigrants are in the U.S. legally)
- 72% of Americans oppose separating families who cross the border illegally
- 60% of Americans oppose building a wall across the entire US Mexico border
- 60% support legal status for “Dreamers”
- 47% of adults in the US view Immigration and Customs Enforcement unfavorably — the worst of 9 federal agencies. (for example, 36% view the IRS unfavorably)
- 71% of adults in the US say undocumented immigrants mostly fill jobs citizens do not want
- 67% disagree that giving people who are in the US illegally a way to gain legal status is rewarding them for breaking the law
- 65% say undocumented immigrants are not more likely than US citizens to commit serious crimes