Is America Closing The ‘Golden Door’?
America has always been a land of immigrants. With the exception of the native American Indian, there is no United States citizen who is not an immigrant or a descendant of an immigrant. Immigration into this continent started in the 1600s and continued nonstop and unrestricted until the late 1800s. To people in Europe and other parts of the world, where governments were often tyrannical, economies unpredictable, and food frequently insufficient, this ‘new world’ offered promise and hope, and thus, millions of them went there. Since the United States was a new nation with a massive frontier and very few people to shape it, immigration was encouraged. Vast amounts of land were available, and opportunities were limitless in the country. By 1882, however, the massive frontiers and open spaces were quickly filling up. A country that had once had room for all was full, or so its citizens thought. Passing restrictive immigration laws was their way of closing the ‘golden door’ on the constant stream of immigrants. With the passage of time, these laws became increasingly stricter, and by 1921, the first US immigration quota system had been brought in to allow only a pre-set number of immigrants to enter the country yearly.
Since the 1960s, the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has been quite successful in controlling the number of ‘legal’ immigrants entering the country each year. However, a rather predictable problem has resulted from the strict quota system: people’s desires and needs to emigrate do not decrease just because a quota is imposed. Since the decision to emigrate is not an easy-one to make, once it is made, people are often persistent in their efforts to reach their destination. If they cannot reach it legally, then they often reach it illegally.
Illegal aliens have been a problem ever since the first immigration restriction was imposed, but the problem has never been as serious as it is now. Estimates of the illegal population range from two million to ten million, and this population is growing. The pressure this huge population of illegals places on the national economy is shocking. The hardest effect of this pressure on the US workforce has been on low-skilled American workers. Illegals often compete for jobs by offering to do the same work for far less pay and fewer benefits than American citizens. The economy is further worsened by illegal immigrants’ use of false identification papers. Illegals are using false IDs at an alarming rate to benefit from services paid for by American taxpayers: Medicare, unemployment compensation, Social Security, etc. Such activities cost American taxpayers millions of dollars a year. In short, illegals are adding extreme pressure to an already over-burdened economy.
Economic problems caused by illegals are only the beginning of the problems. Ironically, the people who have suffered most are the legal immigrants. As the economy gets worse, and unemployment rates rise, it is usually legal immigrants who cannot find employment. Moreover, it is often legal immigrants who are most seriously ridiculed because of the misconduct of illegals. America is quickly becoming an unpleasant place for immigrants to live. According to one congressman, “If necessary precautions are not taken, America may have to shut its doors altogether.”
Solutions to such complex problems are not easy to find, and none are totally satisfactory. Some argue that the best place to attack the problem is at the borders. More intense controls at borders would certainly limit, to some extent, the influx of illegals. More sophisticated night cameras and newer and greater numbers of vehicles would help, but only partially. The United States shares such extensive borders with Canada and Mexico that it is virtually impossible to maintain control over them all.