Essays on Illegal Immigration

Essay Introduction

Desolation and death often await undocumented immigrants crossing the Southwestern border. Despite many dangers, thousands of people from Mexico and Central America are compelled to traverse treacherous desert terrain every year in order to find better opportunities and safety in the United States. Recently, the topic of immigration has become a heated sociopolitical and economic issue. During the Trump Administration, stricter policies have been implemented to prevent the entry of undocumented immigrations to the United States. This paper examines aspects of illegal immigration as well as provides recommendations for immigration reform. The analysis of existing research supports the notion that zero-tolerance policies are not effective in reducing the rate of illegal immigration. Rather, common-sense immigration reform may adequately address the issue.

Research Paper on Illegal Immigration

Migrants encounter various adverse situations during their journey to the United States. Foremost, they must travel through one of the country’s most dangerous regions in blistering heat. Heat exhaustion and dehydration are the most frequent causes of death (Urrea, 2004). In addition, immigrants are at risk of being abused and exploited by the coyotes, or human smugglers, who guide them into the United States. For instance, smugglers have been known to “borrow” or steal their clients’ money before abandoning them in the desert, leaving them to die (Urrea, 2004). Many migrants also suffer assaults, robberies, and abductions by criminal gangs and drug cartels along the border.

In the United States, major concerns exist about the economic and social consequences of illegal immigration. Proponents of tougher immigration enforcement contend that illegal immigration costs American taxpayers billions of dollars even if undocumented persons pay taxes. Moreover, some Americans believe that undocumented workers are taking away employment opportunities from American citizens. Lastly, many believe that weak border control may pose a threat to the United States’ national security, potentially allowing for an influx of criminals to be let into the country.

Argumentative Essay Examples on Illegal Immigration

Although the number of undocumented persons entering the country annually is difficult to determine, the U.S. Census and other data sources provide rough estimates. According to the Pew Research Center (Krogstad et al., 2018), there was an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2015. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (2018) reported that 355,106 migrants were apprehended at the Southwestern Border in 2018 so far, which included 90,563 family units and 45,704 unaccompanied minors. Moreover, the U.S. Border Patrol reported 294 deaths at the border during the 2017 fiscal year, with the Rio Grande Valley sector in Texas having the highest number of fatalities (2018).

Several studies have investigated the extent to which illegal immigration impacts the American economy, though there have been contrasting results. According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a public interest organization that calls for stricter immigration policies, taxpayers pay approximately $116 billion to cover the costs incurred by undocumented immigrants and their children (2017). Moreover, FAIR (2017) found that taxpayers are paying more than what undocumented immigrants contribute in taxes by a ratio of 7 to 1. FAIR’s study concluded that the total cost of illegal immigration is an economic burden on American taxpayers.

On the other hand, numerous studies posit that undocumented immigrants play an integral and positive role in the American economy. In 2014, the Pew Research Center (Krogstad et al., 2018) estimated that 8 million undocumented immigrants were employed in the U.S., representing 5 percent of the labor force. Certain parts of the U.S. economy, like agriculture, significantly depend on the labor of undocumented immigrants. For instance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (Hernandez et al., (2016) reported that 21% of hired crop farmworkers employed in U.S. crop agriculture were unauthorized during 2012-2014. Thus, proponents of immigration argue that undocumented workers fill jobs in agriculture and other labor-intensive jobs that few American citizens would otherwise want.

Thesis Statement for Illegal Immigration

Over the years, there have been changes in the trends of unauthorized immigration to the United States. Foremost, despite public perception, the current number of unauthorized immigrants in the country is lower than it was at the end of the recession in 2009 (Krogstad et al., 2018). The rate of border apprehensions on the Southwestern border has also significantly decreased since the mid-2000s (U.S. Customs and Border Patrol [CBP], 2018). In 2017, the number of border apprehensions was the lowest it had been since 1971. However, rates have slightly increased during this past summer of 2018 (CBP, 2018). With respect to fatalities, the current number of deaths at the Southwestern border has also decreased since the mid-2000s (CBP, 2018).

While individuals from Mexico have historically comprised the majority of undocumented immigrants, there has been an increasing number of migrants from Central America within the past decade. According to the Pew Research Center (Krogstad et al., 2018), the number of immigrants in the United States from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras rose by 25% from 2007 to 2015. In contrast, the numbers of undocumented Mexican immigrants have been declining in recent years. It was reported that there were 5.6 million Mexican undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. in 2015 and 2016, down from 6.4 million in 2009 (Krogstad et al., 2018).

Research Papers: Ideas and Insights on Immigration

There are a myriad of factors that contribute to migrants’ decision to cross the border. The Northern Triangle, which is comprised of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, suffers high levels of violence committed by drug traffickers, organized criminal groups, and gangs (United et al. on Refugees [UNHCR], 2015). According to a study by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) (2012), the estimated total of MS-13 and M-18 gang membership in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras was 54,000. As a result, many families and children from this region flee their homes out of fear of persecution. Poverty is another driving force for unauthorized migration. While many believe that globalization helps less economically advantaged countries, trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) may have instead contributed to poverty in Latin America. For instance, the enactment of NAFTA caused thousands of Mexican small businesses to close because they couldn’t compete with transnational corporations (Jimenez et al., 2014). Consequently, it led to 8 million Mexicans dropping out of the middle class into poverty between 1994 and 2000 (Jimenez et al., 2014).

Titles: How The Devil’s Highway Contributed to My Knowledge

Luis Urrea’s The Devil’s Highway provided an in-depth, investigative account of the Yuma 14 tragedy of 2002, which significantly contributed to my understanding of the issue of immigration. The book describes the background of 26 Mexican men who attempted to cross the border and gives insight into their reasons for doing so. Fourteen of the men died while crossing the Devil’s Highway, a dangerous region of southern Arizona, after their coyote abandoned them. Urrea examined the incident from all viewpoints of all involved parties, such as the migrants, coyotes, and the Border Patrol.

Before reading this book, I had no knowledge of the negative impact that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had on certain areas of Mexico. Urrea explains how NAFTA affected the agricultural sector of the southern Mexican region of Veracruz in 2002. For instance, small farming businesses couldn’t get enough prices to cover the costs of planting and harvesting their coffee (Urrea, 2004). Urrea also stated that the prices rose in the area, causing the natives to struggle to afford food and other necessities. Large Mexican bean-growing industrial farms were selling much of their crop to the United States. According to Urrea, the Americanized prices for their beans and the spike in the price of tortillas made it difficult for Veracruzano families to feed their families (Urrea, 2004, p. 45). The extreme poverty in Veracruz led the men from the Yuma 14 incident to travel to the U.S. in search of better employment opportunities. Therefore, this book added helpful context to the information on immigration and NAFTA in our textbook.

The Devil’s Highway also challenged my preconceived perceptions of Border Patrol agents. I had always held a negative image of Border Patrol agents due to the several reports of inhumane treatment and abuse perpetuated towards migrants. While the book mentioned instances where Border Patrol was dehumanizing, it also showed how many agents treat migrants with sympathy. For instance, in response to the Yuma 14 incident, Border Patrol agents from the Wellton, Arizona, sector decided to build life-saving towers with their own money. Urrea described those Border Patrol agents as “‘bleeding-heart liberals’ who paid out of their own pockets for life-saving towers in the desert. Towers that save the lives of failed illegal crossovers, without any taxpayer dollars” (Urrea, 2004, p. 214).

The Shortcomings of Strict Immigration Policies

Despite the Trump administration’s implementation of strict immigration policies, minimal change to ameliorate the issue will likely occur. Trump’s zero-tolerance policy was created to criminally prosecute all migrants who crossed the border illegally. However, a report by the United States Customs and Border Patrol (2018) showed that less than a third of those apprehended were referred to the Department of Justice for prosecution in May 2018. This controversial policy also led to the mass separation of children from their families. There is also no sign that the zero-tolerance policy is effectively deterring migrants from crossing the border. Data from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (2018) suggests that the number of apprehensions at the border during the summer of 2018 was higher than at the same time last year. Therefore, common sense and more humane immigration reform are needed.

Given that many migrants from Central America are forced to flee their home countries due to gang violence and civil unrest, changes in asylum laws should be looked at as a possible solution. It is important to note that a large portion of migrants crossing the border are women and children, particularly unaccompanied minors. Reform should consist of extending asylum to these particular groups, especially victims of domestic and gang violence. In addition, these individuals should be allowed to present their claims to an immigration judge instead of being immediately prosecuted and deported. A major issue with the asylum process is the immense backlog of applications. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Mossaad & Baugh, 2018), the number of asylum applications by migrants from Central America increased from 7,723 to 25,801 between 2013 and 2016. Therefore, more efforts must be made to expedite the asylum process. Reducing the barriers for women and unaccompanied minors to successfully apply for and receive asylum may be beneficial.

Recommendations for Immigration Reform

Immigration reform could also include expanding agricultural employment-based programs in the U.S., such as the H-2A program. Better employment opportunities have often driven migrants to cross the Southwestern Border, especially those from Mexico, as Urrea posited in The Devil’s Highway. Therefore, providing migrants with legal avenues for work in the United States could help meet their needs. Canada has a seasonal guest-worker program that brings roughly 16,000 workers to the country each year (Miroff, 2013). Canadian government officials work with Mexican liaison-service officers “to recruit workers, expedite visas, guarantee health and safety standards, and coordinate travel arrangements and pay” (Miroff, 2013).

These liaison-service officers act as mediators between employers and workers. Despite many benefits, Canada’s seasonal guest worker program has its flaws. The Canadian government strictly regulates workers to make sure they don’t stay in Canada after the program is done. Many criticize the alienating contractual agreements that prohibit workers from drinking alcohol, having female visitors, and socializing with other workers from different farms (Miroff, 2013). The United States could model Canada’s seasonal guest-worker program. However, revisions should be made to allow for better labor rights. Moreover, a pathway to residency or citizenship could be offered to exceptional workers.

Lastly, a pathway to legal citizenship for undocumented immigrants that already reside in the United States could occur through the creation of sponsorship programs. Large corporations currently sponsor workers through the H-1B visa program (United States Department of Labor, 2018). Perhaps the average U.S. citizen could sponsor an undocumented immigrant living in the U.S. through a program that would allow both parties to benefit. However, regulations should be made with respect to how the undocumented worker must complete the program. Such regulations could include keeping a clean criminal record and obtaining English language proficiency.


This analysis of current immigration policies suggests that a zero-tolerance approach in addressing illegal immigration may not effectively lower the rates of migrants entering the United States. Thus, more tolerant and humane policies are needed to deal with the influx of individuals with credible fears, particularly women and unaccompanied minors from Central America. Changes to asylum policies and employment-based programs, as well as the creation of sponsorship programs, have the potential to mitigate the root causes of this issue in an adequate manner. Historically, the United States has been a refuge for immigrants seeking a better life; therefore, it is crucial that policymakers view immigration as a potential contribution to the Unites States’ economic and cultural growth.

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