Debates on immigration and health care issues are regularly featured in newspapers of the United States. The relationship that seems to exist between the current immigration policy and the state of the health care system cannot merely be coincidental. Every year, the Border Patrol makes at least one million apprehensions of individuals that blatantly violate the immigration laws by crossing the United States borders unlawfully in order to work or to enjoy the benefits of free public services (“Illegal Immigration is a Crime”). No wonder, health care access has become a problem for countless legal citizens and residents of the U.S. to boot.
There remain around 10 to 20 million illegal immigrants in the United States today. There are approximately 12 to 15 million jobs held by these people. So, illegal aliens represent around 8 percent of the U.S. work force. Between 4 to 6 million jobs held by illegal immigrants are serving the underground economy. The United States is foregoing around $35 billion each year in income tax collections because of such jobs.
The government does not seem to be taking very strict action against undocumented immigrants and their means of earning a living because it “is simply hooked on cheap, illegal workers and deferring the costs of providing public services to these quasi-Americans” (Justich and Ng 2). What is most relevant to this discussion, however, is the fact that the United States is paying the consequences of being lenient toward illegal immigrants by suffering serious defects in its health care system. Illegal immigrants continue to add to the population requiring health care but ‘naturally.’
It is clear that immigrants have an effect on the health care system of the country, just as they have an effect on the economy. Therefore, it is correct to take stricter action against increasing flows of immigrants, both legal and illegal. Most of these people come to the United States with great hopes in a world-class system. At the same time, however, the United States believes that it cannot afford a health care system that includes illegal immigrants, when the legal residents and citizens of the country – the naturally born and the naturalized Americans – are complaining that they are finding health care too difficult to access because of high prices.
High prices are, no doubt, led by high demand. Hence, it is obvious that immigrants are raising the demand of goods and services in the United States, thereby raising the prices. Only by checking the immigration policy and trying to control illegal immigration with stricter measures than before could the United States hope to achieve a balance in its health care needs, thereby making the health care system easily accessible to all.
The United States is oft described as an immigrant nation. It was the Europeans who came to inhabit the country, changing the lives of Native Americans forever. So America understands that immigrants must benefit its economy, which is the reason why the United States had opened its doors to huge numbers of foreigners in recent decades.
Masci wrote about the United States in the year 2000: In the last 30 years the United States has absorbed the biggest wave of immigrants since the turn of the century, when millions arrived at Ellis Island in search of a better life. Today, more than 25 million Americans are foreign born – nearly 10 percent of the population. And that’s good for the economy, according to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who says the pools of skilled and unskilled workers created by high levels of immigration have greatly contributed to the nation’s prosperity (571).
Illegal immigrants, in particular, take up less-skilled jobs, and their wages are lower than those of native laborers. They were unemployed in their home countries; if not, they were paid even less than they are paid in the U.S. As they take up jobs for low wages, natives must be rendered jobless if there are too many immigrants taking up their jobs. This is another reason why immigration must be curtailed. All the same, studies have shown that when the United States tightens border control, thereby making it more difficult than before for illegal immigrants to enter the nation, the economic growth of the nation turns into economic sluggishness. As an example, a drop in the number of illegal immigrants from Mexico in early 2001 coincided with the onset of a recession in March 2001 (Orrenius).
Perhaps the current recession is also related to nationwide debates on immigration in recent years and policy changes made through the debates. Now that America is facing a recession, it must be time to reconsider allowing in greater numbers of immigrants. After all, immigrants bring their skills as well (Messerli).
Messerli describes other advantages of refusing to curtail immigration thus: [Immigration] increases the diversity and expands the culture of the country. It improves the overall image of America internationally, as it is seen as an open, welcoming country; and immigrants who return home or maintain contact with family back home have a true image of America, not the one propagandized in much of the international media.
Adding an additional group of cheap labor adds to the flexibility of business, leading to cheaper prices, better quality products, and higher profits. It gives struggling people all over the world an opportunity for a better life. This country was built on immigrants who sought opportunity, political & religious freedom, etc. (Messerli)
However, curtailing immigration is necessary because immigration is also known to destroy diverse cultures. According to an article published by the Library of Congress: “When European settlers arrived on the North American continent at the end of the fifteenth century, they encountered diverse Native American cultures—as many as 900,000 inhabitants with over 300 different languages” (“Destroying the Native American Cultures”). It is known fact that the diverse cultures of the Native Americans were destroyed to a large extent, and most of their languages became extinct. Hence, other reasons for curtailing immigration must also be deliberated.
Messler brings home the truth that immigrants could add to the population of drug dealers, terrorists and other kinds of criminals. Oak writes that immigrants are responsible for crowding. It is not surprising, therefore, that prisons in the United States are overcrowded. Oak also states that immigrants may bring diseases, that is, diseases prevailing in their home countries. Moreover, curtailing immigration is important because home countries are hurt when their most intelligent workers are allowed into America in increasing numbers (Messler).
And, what if their foreign credentials are not recognized? In Canada, even the most intelligent and qualified foreigners may have to take up low-skilled jobs because their foreign qualifications are not recognized (“Canada’s Immigration Problem”). Such people may have to settle for lower standards of living than before.
Then again, it is necessary to consider both the pros and cons of curtailing immigration. The fact that immigrants boost economies is essential for policy makers to bear in mind. After all, America values foreigners for the skills. Now that a worldwide recession has set in, it is even more important to allow increasing numbers of foreigners into the United States. Research has already revealed that recessions may be connected to curtailing immigration.
Increasing flows of immigrants add to the diversity of cultures in America. However, it is also a fact that immigrants may destroy the culture of the natives, as it happened in the case of Native Americans. Furthermore, increasing flows of immigrants seem to have a relationship with health care problems facing the nation.
Immigrants may bring in diseases from their home countries. If they are illegal immigrants, they may add to crime, too. Additionally, immigrants may take up low-paid jobs or bring their high skills to replace native workers. During a period of recession, joblessness is a major problem. Thus, these issues surrounding immigration present a dilemma to policy makers that are presented with the question of whether to curtail immigration.
- “Canada’s Immigration Problem.” Vive Le Canada. 5 Jul 2004. 6 Feb 2009. <http://www.vivelecanada.ca/article/print/163651492>.
- “Destroying the Native American Cultures.” The Library of Congress. 8 Apr 2003. 6 Feb 2009. <http://memory.loc.gov/learn/features/immig/native_american.html>.
- “Illegal Immigration is a Crime.” Fair US. 2006. 6 Feb 2009. <http://www.fairus.org/site/PageServer?pagename=iic_immigrationissuecenters6ce3>.
- Justich, Robert, and Betty Ng. “The Underground Labor Force is Rising to the Surface.” Bear Stearns Asset Management. 3 Jan 2005. 6 Feb 2009. <http://www.bearstearns.com/bscportal/pdfs/underground.pdf>.
- Masci, David. “Does the U.S. Admit Too Many Newcomers?” The CQ Researcher (14 Jul 2000) Vol. 10, No. 25, pp. 569-592.
- Messerli, Joe. “Should America Maintain/Increase the Level of Legal Immigration.” Balanced Politics. 8 Nov 2008. 6 Feb 2009. <http://www.balancedpolitics.org/immigration.htm>.
- Oak, Manali. “Pros and Cons of Immigration.” Buzzle. 2007. 6 Feb 2009. <http://www.buzzle.com/articles/pros-and-cons-of-immigration.html>.
- Orrenius, Pia M. “U.S. Immigration and Economic Growth: Putting Policy on Hold.” Southwest Economy (Nov-Dec 2004), Issue 6.