There’s a lot of news and talk recently dealing with the migrant caravan making its way to the United States by way of Mexico. Illegal immigration is naturally a polarizing issue. Many claim that these migrants should be able to claim asylum when they reach the border, and that the US should allow entry to these people. It’s being framed as a humanitarian crisis, and with this broad stroke, a lot of details are getting lost and errors being made when thinking critically about this issue. Let’s separate the facts from the emotional arguments dealing with illegal immigration.
Economic migration does not qualify for asylum
Asylum is a specific claim which has nothing to do with disliking the economic conditions in your home country. It specifically deals with persecution based on race, religion, nationality, and social and political affiliations. It’s meant for people who are unfairly targeted and are in danger of their lives in their home country.
Entering a country for the reason that you have poor economic conditions and opportunity in your home country is the reason why ANY typical immigrant comes here. The main motivating factor in immigration is seeking a better job and economic opportunities than what exists in your home country. People want to immigrate for opportunity. This is not asylum.
Claiming asylum for economic migration is unfair to those who qualify for asylum
Those who do not fit the conditions for asylum but claim it anyway are misrepresenting themselves. Everyone who claims asylum needs to be processed and paperwork done, so the more who claim it, the more who need to be processed. This is unfair to the true asylum-seeker who has to wait longer to be processed in the queue.
Illegal immigrants harm legal immigrants
Let’s examine legal vs illegal immigrants. Legal immigrants are disadvantaged by illegal immigration. Legal immigrants have followed all applicable laws and requirements. They have waited for their shot at a limited visa. Or perhaps they are waiting for permanent residence or citizenship. In the United States, often the wait is ten years or more. They have likely paid thousands of dollars in filing and legal fees to do things the right way. They are the people who wait patiently.
Illegal immigration is the opposite. It is those who cut in line and make a mockery of legal immigrants. It’s people who think that they deserve to be in this country for no reason other than that they want it. Why should some be allowed to cut in the line, while others who follow the rules and do as they’re instructed are disadvantaged? Everyone immigrates for better opportunity. Why should anyone be rewarded simply because they think they want it more than others?
A country has a right to enforce its sovereignty
Any country, the United States or any other country, has the right to enforce its laws and to determine who it lets in and who it doesn’t. Try reversing the situation. If an American citizen tried to sneak into Mexico, or China, or India, what do you think would happen? Would they be welcomed with open arms? Or would they more likely be detained and sent back home? If you haven’t been granted entry to a foreign country, you have no business there.
In addition, a country has an obligation to help its own citizens and legal residents first. It is morally superior for a country to take care of its citizens first, analogous to oxygen masks on airplanes. If you don’t secure yourself first, how can you possibly be expected to secure others? Countries have an obligation to manage their population and resources in the ways they see fit. They can decide for themselves who gets allowed entry, how many people, from where and which backgrounds, and with which skills. If a country prefers well educated foreign nationals, that’s its decision. If a country prefers fluent English speakers, that’s also its decision.
Illegal immigration is a crime in itself
Despite all the distinction between illegal immigrants who have and have not committed a crime after entering the country, the simple fact remains that illegal immigration is a crime itself and flaunts the rule of law.
Simply by entering the country, a crime has been committed. Illegal immigration is a deliberate, planned attempt to circumvent the national borders and laws of another country. It is evading law enforcement and military. It is a crime and this must always be remembered to keep the debate in context.
Illegal immigration is a disincentive for legal immigration
If you know that with effort and secrecy that you can enter a country with better economic opportunities, and not suffer any criminal or legal consequences, why would you not do it? Furthermore, if you knew that, and you knew that you might also receive amnesty in that country, again why would you not do it? In the consideration of legal vs. illegal immigration, if illegal immigration is common and the path of least resistance, that distinctly disincentivizes legal immigration.
Illegal immigration is an incentive for other illegal activities
If people are able to enter a country without appropriate documentation, this opens the door to all kinds of illegal activity. It’s much easier to smuggle drugs if you don’t need legitimate paperwork and your identity won’t be checked. It’s much easier to conduct human trafficking if papers and background checks are not required. The act of illegal immigration becomes a hub for abetting criminal activity. Those who want to travel with a low profile are able to do so as “undocumented immigrants.”
If you want to follow the migrant caravan and read about their purpose, you can find it here.
Some supplemental reading on both sides of the issue: