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Pros and Cons of an Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants to the USA

Since completing university in England, Paul has worked as a bookseller, librarian and freelance writer. He currently lives in Florida.

For the main arguments used for and against giving illegal immigrants to the USA an amnesty, please read on...

For the main arguments used for and against giving illegal immigrants to the USA an amnesty, please read on...

The issue of whether there should be a US amnesty for illegal immigrants has been a recurring and controversial source of political debate over recent years. This article looks at the pros and cons of introducing an amnesty and lists the various arguments employed by each side in the debate.

Illegal immigration is an emotive political topic, and is particularly contentious in US states, such as Arizona, where many people want tighter laws and enforcement, as well as an expansion of the border fence that was built to stop illegal immigrants crossing over into the USA from Mexico.

Supporters of an amnesty argue that bringing illegal immigrants out of the shadows would benefit the USA economically, stop immigrant families being split up, and allow resources to be redirected towards more important matters, such as fighting terrorism and serious crime.

Those who are against an amnesty say that it would be unfair on legal immigrants who have often spent a lot of time and money going through the proper channels, and it would cause major problems in terms of jobs and crime. The bill for welfare and health care costs might also escalate considerably for the US government and taxpayers.

Immigration reform is a must, an amnesty. So that's my position. I've been pushing that one since before it was popular.

— Dick Mountjoy

US Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants: Pros

  • The USA was founded on immigration and immigration has always played a major role in making the country so successful.
  • An amnesty will take illegal immigrants out of poorly paid, low quality work, and gave them a chance to be self-sufficient and advance themselves socially and economically.
  • Rather than depressing wages, an amnesty would actually generate increased tax revenues as more jobs and workers come out of the shadows and into the open economy.
  • Easy to talk about but difficult in practice, locating and deporting illegal immigrants uses up resources that could be better used for more urgent and important matters such as fighting terrorism and organized crime.
  • Breaking up families who have made their home in America is cruel and inhumane.
  • Rather than increasing levels of criminality, forgiving illegal immigration would actually lead to a decrease. This is because currently, illegal immigrants feel unable to approach or seek protection from the justice system out of fear that they will be deported, leaving them easy prey for exploitation by criminals.
  • Many immigrants do low paid jobs in the agricultural and service sector, jobs which native-born Americans do not wish to do. An amnesty would allow these immigrants to contribute to the general US economy more fully.

Illegal immigration is crisis for our country. It is an open door for drugs, criminals, and potential terrorists to enter our country. It is straining our economy, adding costs to our judicial, healthcare, and education systems.

— Timothy Murphy

US Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants: Cons

  • An amnesty sends out the wrong message, effectively rewarding people who have broken the law. It is also very unfair to the people who have spent time and money going through all the appropriate legal procedures in order to immigrate legally.
  • It would affect US employment negatively, taking away jobs from American citizens and legal residents and driving down wages.
  • American culture and English language speaking would be further undermined by an amnesty for illegal immigrants.
  • Allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens would lead to a massive increase in welfare recipients, with the additional strain placed on the social security, education, and health care systems creating an enormous financial and logistical burden for the US government and taxpayers.
  • Further overpopulation of US cities would result from an amnesty, leading to an increase in pressures on social, and other problems.
  • It would result in an increase in crime generally—terrorists and criminals, such as drug dealers and human traffickers, would seek to exploit the situation for their own advantage.

My mom told me to stay away from gangs. But if you're asking me about immigration reform, it must accomplish two objectives: Border security must be first, and it must be more than a promise. We have to import workers, not welfare. Anyone who wants to work should, and they should pay taxes, but I don't support amnesty. It's an issue of fairness.

— Matt Salmon

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How Many Illegal Immigrants Are There in the US?

Estimates vary on the number of illegal immigrants in the US. Official estimates put the number at around 11 million. Some unofficial estimates put the figure as high as 20 million, however.

One reason why estimates vary is that the figure depends on how you define illegal immigration.

Most illegal immigrants come to the USA from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Philippines, India, Korea, Ecuador, Brazil, and China.

These illegal aliens are criminals and we need to treat them as such. I'm not in favor of giving amnesty to anybody who has broken the law. I applaud what our Georgia legislature is doing in trying to crack down on this situation.

— Paul Broun

Where Do Illegal Immigrants Live in the US?

California has the biggest proportion of illegal immigrants, with an estimated population of nearly 3 million.

The second-largest population (estimated at 1.6 million) is in Texas, followed by Florida (980,000), Illinois (550,000), New York (540,000), and Arizona (500,000),

There should not be a question of legal or illegal immigration. People came and immigrated to this country from the time of the Indians. No one's illegal. They should just be able to come.

— Linda Ronstadt

The beach at Tijuana viewed from the Mexican side of the border.  The Pacific Ocean can be seen as well as the barrier that marks the border.  Amnesty critics often argue that more preventative means need to be in place to stop illegal immigration.

The beach at Tijuana viewed from the Mexican side of the border. The Pacific Ocean can be seen as well as the barrier that marks the border. Amnesty critics often argue that more preventative means need to be in place to stop illegal immigration.

Secure our borders first. Let us know and let us make sure the American people know that we're taking care of the important business of dealing with the illegal immigration into this country. You cannot begin to address the concerns of the people who are already here unless and until you have made certain that no more are coming in behind them.

— Michael Steele

Your opinion!

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Why shouldn't illegal immigrants be granted amnesty?

Answer: Arguments against granting amnesty to illegal immigrants include: it would be unfair to immigrants who had spent time and expense to achieve legal immigration. It would increase stresses and strains on jobs and education in the US. It would increase the number of welfare recipients; and by sending out the wrong message, an amnesty would increase the future numbers of illegal immigrants.

© 2012 Paul Goodman

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