Illegal Immigration Part 1: A Deluge of Illegal Facts

Who gets to be an American?It’s hard to discuss illegal immigration because, once the subject is mentioned, most people are overwhelmed with strong emotional reactions that send logical discussion packing.

Tired of relying on hearsay information when the subject came up, I went looking for facts.

The staggering numbers I found only reaffirmed why feelings are so strong on all sides. Heck, the number of sides itself is an obstacle to coherent discussion: there are those for and against amnesty, mass deportation, slave labor, free medical care and education, and then there’s the billion-dollar 700-mile-long fence.

There’s so many issues within the issue of illegal immigration that what started out as a single post has become a series of posts…posts that will follow this one over the next several weeks.

So where to start? How about some hard-boiled facts…

Illegal Immigration by the Numbers

In 1969, 540,000 of the 202 million people in the United States were illegal immigrants. Do the math — that’s one out of every 400 people.

Today, the U.S. is home to an estimated 20 million illegal immigrants. Given a total population of 304 million, that’s one out of every 17 people in the country. Here illegally, right now.

From Mexico to California

USA - Mexico BorderOver 80% of today’s illegal immigrants come from Mexico, Central America, and South America.

What about North of the border? Yes, there are also illegal immigrants from Canada: 70,000 of them. That means there’s a good chance that one in every 4,500 people you meet may be an illegal Canadian, especially if you’re in Portland.

Where have illegal immigrants settled? As of 2006, California contained 25% of the total illegal immigrant population. Texas had 14%, Florida 8%, New York 5%, and Illinois 5%. Arizona, Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Washington rounded out the top ten states ranked by number of illegal immigrants.

Why Is Illegal Immigration Such a Big Deal?

One facet of illegal immigration that disturbs many Americans is the fact that laws are clearly not being enforced in a country whose government used to be adamant and proud about upholding its laws.

There’s also the realization that slave labor — cheap labor without normal benefits or working conditions — has returned to our country. It’s returned in numbers so large that the sudden removal of that labor could wipe out the U.S. economy, while letting it remain could deflate the living standard of an entire middle class.

And, there’s the additional stress on the already over-stressed infrastructure. Schools, hospitals, roads, the police force, judicial system, water and sanitation systems…these are already being overwhelmed, with or without the burden of supporting people who are in the country illegally.

Maybe most of all, there’s the real and irrational fear of change. And, when 4.7 million children — born-in-the-U.S.A. citizens — are being raised by a mom or a dad that is an illegal immigrant, the underlying culture (language, art, music, literature, lifestyle…even TV!) of the United States is sure to change.

Digging Deeper

ImmigrationAs mentioned at the outset, this topic tends to trigger emotions ahead of logic. It reminds me of airplanes and oxygen masks…

During a mid-air emergency, oxygen masks drop from overhead compartments, and parents are instructed to strap on their own masks before helping their children. On an immediate emotional level, that seems very wrong and uncaring. But, on a logical level airline personnel know that if parents don’t take care of themselves first, they won’t be able to help their children.

In a similar way, even Americans who genuinely want to help illegal immigrants have major disagreements: some want to offer amnesty, open the borders, and even form a North American Union. And others believe that in order to continue being the world’s biggest, if stingiest, giver, we must find a solution to the immigration problem. Otherwise, the U.S. may not be around much longer — as an aid donor or as a destination for immigrants chasing hope.

Coming soon: Illegal Immigration Part 2: Border Patrol.

[tags]illegal immigration, number of illegal immigrants, immigrant population, immigration to the united states, amnesty, mass deportation, border fence, free medical care, California, Mexico[/tags]

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