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Unrelenting Illegal immigration will force policy changes in the US

By Brendan O'Reilly - posted Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Unauthorised arrivals (peaking at about 20,000 per annum in 2013) were a huge political issue in Australia until the Abbott Government finally managed to "stop the boats". This country, however, has experienced only a small fraction of the illicit immigration currently affecting the US (and the EU for that matter), and our unauthorised flows lasted for a much shorter time period. The social impact in the US is also much bigger, though in theory unauthorised immigration ought to have been easier for officialdom to deal with over there. This is because, in the US, the problem is largely one of illegal economic immigration. Such immigrants generally can be more readily deported than, for example, asylum seekers, who have stronger legal entitlements to stay.

In the US, illegal immigration has become a major issue for the 2016 presidential election campaign, with policy proposals from the outgoing Obama Administration and (more recently) controversial statements by Donald Trump bringing the issue to the fore. Broadly speaking, Republican candidates seem to strongly support a crackdown with Democrats (including President Obama) being more permissive. Hispanic immigration is a divisive issue in the US because of its social impacts and racial divisions on the one hand, and the importance of the Hispanic vote on the other. With President Obama being unpopular, there is a good chance of a Republican President in 2016 and a radical change in immigration policy.

In 2013 a staggering 662,483 unauthorised immigrants were apprehended in the US. Almost two thirds were from Mexico, and most would be considered economic migrants. 438,421 immigrants were actually removed, and approximately 45 per cent of these individuals had prior criminal convictions.


In the US the pace of illegal immigration accelerated over the last 30 years but has probably now plateaued. On average, nearly five times as many illegal immigrants enter the US each year now as did in the 1980s, and people smuggling networks are now much bigger and better organised. Overall, there were about 12 million unauthorised immigrants in the US in 2012, accounting for 3.5 per cent of the nation's resident population. About 40 per cent of illegal immigrants have been in the US for five years or less.

It has been estimatedthat, on current trends, ethnic and racial minorities will comprise a majority of the US population by 2042, with Hispanic population growth being the biggest driver. [Such major structural changes in a nation's population structure ought properly be the result of policy decisions at a high level (e.g. on immigration) or the result of natural demographic changes. It is definitively undesirable than they come about to a substantial degree by default, through lax immigration law enforcement.] A 2012 studyestimated that Hispanic residents (over 50 million persons) already comprise 17.2 percent of the total U.S. population, 15 percent of adults, 11.2 percent of adult citizens, and 8.9 percent of actual voters. Births among Hispanic Americans also now contribute more to population growth than Hispanic immigration.

It is claimed that uncontrolled immigration has driven down the wages of unskilled workers in the US to the disadvantage mainly of low income groups, such as African Americans and legally resident Hispanics. It is also blamed for bringing US immigration laws into disrepute, and increasing crime rates. On the positive side, most illegal immigrants have entered the US in order to better themselves through employment, and flexible US labour markets have been able to absorb them without the high unemployment rates experienced in Europe. Cheap Hispanic labour has also helped US industry to compete internationally, and has allowed middle-class Americans to employ domestic help. In general, Hispanic immigrants (perhaps helped by being overwhelmingly Christian) have also integrated more readily into American society than, for example, some Islamic immigrant groups in Europe.

In the US a big factor facilitating illegal Hispanic immigration is that the US has a land border with Mexicothat extends for 3,145 kilometres. Such a land border is difficult to police and also happens to be the most frequently crossed international boundary in the world, with approximately 350 million legal crossings being made annually. That said, the US also has a number of domestic policy factors in place that have greatly increased the difficulty of enforcing its immigration rules.

In the first instance, the US Constitution itself facilitates illegal immigration.

Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitutionsays that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States." Even the US-born children of persons illegally resident or just visiting the US are automatically entitled to US citizenship. This creates a loophole enabling families to establish themselves in the US without authorisation. Statistics show that a significant, and rising, number of illegal aliens are having children in the United States. Citizen children, however, cannot sponsor parents for entry into the country until they are 21 years of age. Parents of citizen children who have been in the country for ten years or more can, however, apply for relief from deportation. Another unintended result of the Fourteenth Amendment is maternity tourism, with Los Angeles considered the centre of a maternity tourism industry catering to Chinese.


Perhaps the biggest domestic US influence on illegal immigration is the "sanctuary cities" phenomenon. The term, sanctuary city is given to US cities that have policies designed to shelter illegal immigrants. Unbelievably, these cities do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about an individual's immigration status. "Special Order 40," of the City of Los Angeles (for example) states: "Officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person. Officers shall not arrest nor book persons for violation of Title 8, Section 1325 of the United States Immigration code (Illegal Entry)."

In other sanctuary cities, law officers regularly disobey Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer orders for criminal illegal aliens and fail to assist the flow of information to federal immigration agents. The 31 sanctuary cities include Washington D.C., New York City; Los Angeles; Philadelphia, San Francisco; Salt Lake City; El Paso; Houston; Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver, Baltimore, Seattle, and Portland.

The 1 July 2015 shooting of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle in (the sanctuary city of) San Francisco by illegal alien and felon, Juan Lopez-Sanchez, caused a storm of protest in the US. Sanchez's criminal history included seven prior felony convictions, and he had previously been deported five times. He was jailed in March for illicitly selling marijuana. San Francisco police did not inform immigration officials of Sanchez's release in April. Consequently, on release, Sanchez, instead of being deported (yet again), was freed, and allegedly later stole a .40-caliber handgun, which he allegedly used to kill Steinle (a woman randomly shot to death as she walked with her family on a San Francisco pier).

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About the Author

Brendan O’Reilly is a retired commonwealth public servant with a background in economics and accounting. He is currently pursuing private business interests.

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