Let's Talk About Real Numbers: A Critical Analysis of Illegal Immigration

What is behind the food that we eat everyday? Does anybody ask about the burgers that fast food chains sell in America? Who knows the broken dreams and consequences of separation of families? Is there any data or statistics based on the moral and psychological effects of being an illegal immigrant? There are many answers, but the only ones that really know the whole truth are the immigrants that stay in the shadows.

Let's talk about numbers! Millions of illegal immigrants work on the American fields, factories, gardening jobs, cleaning houses, fast food restaurants, and other unskilled jobs, at times receiving unfair treatment and wages. However, the American opinion has been invaded with a well-known fallacy, arguing that illegal immigrants are stealing American's jobs. Let's get the facts first. If the American government removed all the undocumented workers from the workforce, Americans would have to be inducted into the labor pool or provided incentives to take jobs below their current education and skill levels. According to the Perryman Group (an economic and financial analysis firm), "The immediate negative effect would include an estimated $1.757 trillion in annual lost spending and $651.511 billion in annual lost output." Are Americans ready to live without illegal immigrants?

Let's review the arguments! Illegal immigrants do not know and care about the rules of the nation is one argument that should be analyzed based on facts. Illegal immigrants, no matter their nationality know the consequences of entering the U.S. illegally. Crossing the border, they risk their lives in the search of a better future. Let us remember the nation's deadliest human smuggling tragedy in Victoria Texas, resulting in the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants due to the irresponsibility of a truck driver, who packed at least 75 people into the airtight tractor-trailer. The number of illegal immigrants who died crossing into the United States from Mexico doubled from 1995 to 2005 and continues everyday in 2009 (Source: The Government Accountability Office-an investigative arm of the US Congress). Most of the deaths occurred from heat exposure, crossing the Gulf of Mexico and Bravo River, and by car accidents. Do Americans know about these deadly statistics? What's more valuable, an illegal immigrant crossing the border or a human being's life? There are no numbers and sometimes no names, but there are bodies that reveal the facts.

More common arguments against illegal immigrants: Saying that illegal immigrants create overpopulation and use the American resources, are based on opinion. Let's review the facts. First of all, overpopulation is an environmental problem that not only concerns to the United States; in fact, this is a global crisis that concerns to all of us in the world. Secondly, illegal immigrants hardly receive federal benefits due to their status in the country. The leading immigrant advocacy organization in the United States known as the National Immigration Forum argues that the vast majority of immigrants are not eligible to receive public benefits such as Medicaid, state and federal children's health insurance programs, supplemental security income (SSI), or even food stamps. So there is not a strong argument to blame illegal immigration for the economic crisis in this country. In fact, this is a political tactic that tries to find a scapegoat for some of the politicians' and financial corporations' failures, causing the actual economic recession in the United States.

Additionally, arguing that Californians desire the eradication of illegal immigrants contradicts to the number of companies hiring illegal immigrants in California. For example, let's ask the fast food chains owners' that tomorrow they won't have more illegal immigrants in their restaurants. Obviously, their business will collapse dramatically. To demonstrate this fact, let's read the New York Times best seller "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser. The author affirms that illegal immigrants are essential for the success of thousands of fast food restaurants in the nation; starting with the immigrants that work behind the counter or even the ones working on the slaughterhouses. As Schlosser points out, "Some of the most dangerous jobs in meatpacking today are performed by the late-night cleaning crews. A large proportion of these workers are illegal immigrants...they earn hourly wages that are about one-third lower than those of regular production employees. And their work is so hard and so horrendous that words seem inadequate to describe it." As a result, does legal residents or even American citizens will work on those conditions? Do anti-illegal supporters ask about the process behind the burgers they eat? Moreover, not only this job produces injuries to millions of immigrants. Dangerous jobs in factories or fields cause extreme physical and psychological damages in the lives of thousands of illegal immigrants in the American nation. As a matter of fact, illegal immigrants do not report their injuries because the fear of losing the job or deportation.

Let's talk about statistics! Anti-illegal immigration supporters argue that undocumented immigrants are causing high rates of crime in the United States. However, the statistics they present do not prove that an illegal immigrant is most likely to commit crimes in the country. Let's review the facts. According to California Counts, (a public institute of California) immigrants are far less likely than the average U.S. natives to commit crimes in California. Even among non-citizen men form Mexico--ages 18-40-the authors find very low rates of institutionalization. To illustrate this point, "in California U.S-born men have an institutionalization rate that is 10 times higher than that of foreign-born men (4.2% vs. 0.42%)." (Source: 2000-2010 Census). Additionally, a portion of mainstream media portray illegal immigrants as criminals or terrorists, but they don't report the fact that illegal immigrants are exposed to unfair treatment by employers and law and order agencies within American society.

Let's describe the reasons why illegal immigrants decide to leave their countries in the search of the American dream. Does anybody know the number of weapons that Americans illegally sold to different countries around the world? Or does someone ask about the number of Americans buying illegal drugs in Latin-American countries? In fact, there are several reasons why immigrants leave their native-countries and families, but the two mentioned above affected the lives of many immigrants in their own countries. Let's talk about the civil wars in Central-America or the wars in the Middle-Eastern countries. American weapons contributed to a raise of violence in countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Iran. Many people were forced to leave their countries due to the horrors of the war, including poverty, destruction, and the loss of thousands of lives. However, only a few people in the U.S. recognize that the creation of wars in other countries was supported in part by weapons from the U.S.

Countries like Mexico and Colombia are dealing with the most violent war on drugs in decades. Many families, especially in Mexico, are facing economic and criminal problems due to war between drug-dealers and the Mexican criminal justice system, including police agencies and Mexican soldiers. As a result, thousands of Mexicans don't have job opportunities or any future in their cities, resulting in a long and risky travel to the United States. Some argue that this problem concerns only the Mexican government. However, what is the American government doing to prevent the sale of illegal drugs in this country? Let's talk about the facts! An article by The New York Times in March 25, 2009 describes the arguments by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in terms of the U.S. responsibility on the war on drugs in Mexico. According to Mrs. Clinton, "Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade," Mrs. Clinton said, using unusually blunt language. "Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm the criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers, and civilians...clearly what we have been doing has not worked." After reviewing the facts, the American opinion should know that buying illegal drugs contribute to the high rate of crime and immigration of Mexicans to the United States. So, who is more responsible about this matter?

Let's talk about real numbers! The American immigration system is broken. A comprehensive immigration reform is necessary. Congress and President Barak Obama know that millions of illegal immigrants live in the shadows. We don't know how many there are, but we know that there are millions of dreamers that just want an opportunity; they deserve one. If not, what happen to all those talent undocumented students that don't have the same opportunities to attend college due to expensive tuitions? According to the Immigration Policy Center, (a division of the American Immigration Law Firm) "Without a means to legalize their status, the 1.8 million undocumented children living in this country are seldom able to go on to college and cannot work legally. This wasted talent imposes economic and emotional costs on undocumented students themselves and on U.S. society as whole." The Dream Act is a necessity and the solution for thousands of undocumented students in the nation.

We are living difficult times in the world due to wars, environmental destruction, and poverty. These three factors are all part of one problem. Illegal immigration should be analyzed from a factual point of view rather than an on emotions. Prejudice and racism is alive in America. The United States is a country of immigrants; immigration no matter legal or illegal contributes to the success of the economy. We should remember that the earth itself is without political or national frontiers, but the man has created them. We should eliminate the stereotypes that enslave our minds and lead us to faulty conclusions. We should sit and talk about facts that will lead to actions that make us more humans and responsible. We live in a time of change which can be based on hope, facts and understanding. A sustainable society for all of us.