The United States and other developed countries struggle with the problem of illegal immigration, in which persons who are for one reason or another unauthorized to be in the country, are actually residing there. A U.S. immigrant is a person who, having had citizen outside the United States, resides permanently within the country (Hanson 4). The problem exists on several levels, and citizens and immigrants alike are divided as to the severity of the problem. The reason for this division of opinions is that illegal immigration occurs in several ways and different categories of illegal immigrants exist, the members of which in turn affect the economy in different ways. Illegal immigration, therefore, may be classified in a variety of ways which span the spectrum of weighing on the country in a positive, negative or neutral way.
One category of illegal immigrants is made up of those persons who enter the United States without the permission of those in charge of border control (Knickerbocker). The vast majority of persons like these enter via the areas of the United States that border other countries, such as its border with Mexico and with Canada. Such persons do so at much danger and inconvenience to themselves, often operating as hidden cargo being smuggled across the borders (Wikipedia). People of Hispanic origin fill the major part of this category, as it is often these persons, whose countries are much less developed than America, who deem it necessary to brave the odds and attempt to cross the border. Another group of people who fill this category are such persons who enter via sea or air—however, this form of entry is much more difficult to achieve and only a tiny percentage of illegal aliens may be classified in this manner (Hanson 4). The members of this group are often undetected by the Homeland Security Office.
Another category of illegal immigrants is comprised of those persons who are given permission to enter the United States for a given period and who consciously remain in the country beyond the time allotted to them (Kantrowitz). These persons have gone through the proper channels for their initial entry and the crime of violation occurs not at the point of entry but at the point of violating the terms of this entry. Such persons are therefore known to exist within the United States and are more easily detected by the Immigrations Office or the Homeland Security Office.
A third classification of illegal immigrants falls into the category of those who having gained entry to the United States and —(initially) without remaining beyond their allotted time—violate the terms of their admission by engaging in activities that are prohibited by the type of visa they hold (Hanson 19). Those who, for example, acquire a job and begin working formally or informally while they hold a visitor’s visa would be classified an illegal immigrant in this manner. Others who hold a similar visa type and embark on studies are also considered members of this category (Kantrowitz). There also exists a category of persons who engage in business ventures while holding a visa that permits them only to attend school in the United States. Upon violating the terms of their visa in these ways, these persons become illegal immigrants to the country.
Illegal immigrants may also be classified in relation to the degree to which they represent a strain on the United States’ economy (Hanson 4). Many illegal immigrants hold jobs that are taxed and ultimately make a contribution to such funds as social security and unemployment—to which they may not have access in the same way as a citizen does when he or she reaches pension age or becomes unemployed (19). Many of these persons hold such jobs that are considered menial and may be low paid. The extent to which this impacts the economy is two-fold, as it in some ways keeps such wages low (as these immigrants prove more willing than citizens to work for smaller wages) and in another way it makes business owners’ profits higher, leading to greater revenue from taxes. Some immigrants, however, work within the informal economy where taxation does not occur. Examples of these types of immigrants are housekeepers, gardeners, nannies and other forms of domestic helpers that are likely to get paid directly by the persons for whom they work, by cash, money order, personal checks and the like.
Another way in which illegal aliens may be classified is within the group that is made up of persons who have somehow violated the terms of their visas and have remained within the United States longer than they were allowed to (Clark & Scott, 1, 4). However, these persons have also been established within jobs that make them known to the government via their taxes, and have gone one step further to make legal arrangement to have their statuses changed from illegal to legal (Hanson 16). These persons work with legal counsellors and within the parameters of the law to attain the necessary criteria in the steps toward become either a naturalized citizen or a legal resident.
A final category of illegal immigrants is made up of persons who have immigrated somehow to the United States and since their arrival have either taken no form of employment or have lost their jobs. They recourse to criminal activity in order to survive the streets and are a burden on the economy because of the heavy tax dollars that must be spent on law enforcement to quell the crime (Clark & Scott, 1). Such persons also have places in the many Federal and state prisons and jails, and in so doing also drain the economy in its need to keep them fed, clothed, sheltered and monitored. Some of the conviction types faced by these persons are illegal entry, drug trafficking and fraud (3). These persons represent the demographic of illegal immigrants that may be considered the least desirable within the country.
The classification of illegal immigrants places them in a variety of categories that vary in their value to the country and its economy. While some of these immigrants do contribute in a positive way to the country’s tax coffers and also in the performance of menial jobs, others are a strain on the country’s resources in that they cost the country more than they contribute to it. The laws regarding immigration are constantly undergoing changes in order to use this classification information to maximize the benefit that immigration might have to the United States and to minimize its costs.
Clark, Rebecca L. & Scott A. Anderson. “Illegal Aliens in Federal, State and Local Criminal Justice Systems.” Washington: Urban Institute, 2008. http://www.urban.org/
Kantrowitz, Mark. “Financial Aid and Scholarships for Undocumented Students.” The Smart Student Guide to Financial Aid. FinAid, 2008.
Knickerbocker, Brad. “Illegal Immigrants in the U.S.: How Many Are There?” The Christian Science Monitor, 2006. http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0516/p01s02-ussc.html
Hanson, Gordon H. “The Economic Logic of Illegal Immigration.” The Bernard and Irene Schwartz Series on American Competitiveness. Council on Foreign Relations, 2007. http://www.cfr.org/content/publications/attachments/ImmigrationCSR26.pdf
Wikipedia. “Illegal Immigration to the United States.” The Wikimedia Foundation, 2008. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illegal_immigration_to_the_United_States