Political and Economic Issues Along the U.S. and Mexico Border
Jason Reilly is an editor at the Washington Post. He supports immigration when it is done legally. Reilly (2009) stated, `We’re better off reducing pressure on the border by giving economic migrants more legal ways to come’ (p. 202). He feels that immigrants play an important role in our economy, and tend to have a stronger work ethic in comparison to many American citizens. Borjas proved, `that immigration’s overall impact on the U.S. economy is positive’ and, `increases gross domestic product by $22 billion per year’ (as cited in Reilly, 2009, p. 77-78). Reilly’s comments support his stance against the U.S. border buildup. In addition to Reilly, many Mexican citizens do not agree with this border buildup.
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox continually worked toward politically allowing Mexican-Americans to work within the United States. Once these legal workers arrive in the United States they can influence America in a variety of ways. One way to influence American society is by voting in elections. Cieslik et al. (2009) stated, President Fox, `created a representative office’ called, `Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior’ (p. 284). The overall goal of this office is to, `Put pressure on Hispanic voters in elections’ (Cieslik et al., 2009, p. 284). Hispanic voters will be able to use the information provided by this office to significantly impact the outcome of elections.
All of these views by President Fox are valid. His goal to impact political elections that favored candidates that fought for open borders would have bettered Mexican citizens chances to possibly obtain U.S. citizenship. If borders were to open, President Fox would be seen as a hero to many of his fellow citizens. His political thinking is along the lines of many elected officials.
Many political views differ across political parties and borders alike. Some of the political arguments for strengthening our borders due to violence associated with illegal aliens can be seen as a valid point. Not everyone views a U.S.-Mexico border buildup as a positive goal for our nation. One key argument against strengthening our border is the negative trend on our economy as highlighted by Jason Reilly. It is important to understand some of these political views in order to comprehend why immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border is controversial.
The Economic Perspective on the Issue
The cost to secure and maintain the U.S. and Mexico border is very expensive. One of the most expensive portions of the border is referred to as a, `Virtual fence’ (Trevino, 2010, para. 5).
This virtual border cost $1.6 billion. According to Trevino (2010), `The virtual fence is composed of a network of sensors, cameras, towers and radars that are supposed to detect and track movement on the border’ (para. 14). These high-tech devices all gather data which is transmitted back to the U.S. Border Patrol agents. The agents are then able to use the intelligence gathered to track down potential illegal aliens. The cost of this border is extremely high when the total distance equipped with these technologies is only fifty-three miles long (Trevino, 2010, para. 10). The virtual fence is just one part of the costly border between the United States and Mexico.
The entire U.S and Mexico border spans from California to Texas. According to director of the movie The Fence, `One of the most confounding and little-known realities of the fence is that it only covers about one third of the 2,000-mile border’ (as cited in Emmott, 2010, para 4).
The total cost of the actual fence added with the virtual fence is around $3 billion (Emmott, 2010, para. 1). This is quite a large sum of money that the U.S. has already paid. It is estimated by the United States Government Accountability Office that, `Future U.S. administrations are likely to spend $6.5 billion on maintenance of the fence over the next 20 years’ (as cited in Emmott, 2010, para. 17). This future estimate is quite a financial burden to the U.S. taxpayers, and will continue to create many heated debates. The focus of the costly border security is to prevent illegal aliens from entering the U.S.
There are many reasons why illegal aliens try to cross the U.S. and Mexico border. The main reason is to find work that will provide adequate finances to support an individual or possibly a family. Wages for hourly workers in Mexico are extremely low when compared to workers wages in the United States. Chiquiar and Hanson state, `The average hourly wage in Mexico in 2000 was approximately $1.80′ (as cited in Cornelius & Salehyan, 2007, p. 141). Within the same year, the average wages in the U.S. were up to six times more than in Mexico (Cornelius & Salehyan, 2007, p. 141). When you compare the average hourly wages from these two countries it is easy to see why so many illegal immigrants cross the U.S. and Mexico border every year. In fact, Delacroix and Nikiforov (2009) found that, a `Mexican man can work in the United States, legally or illegally, and save $20,000 in little more than two years’ (p. 104).
The employment of illegal immigrants will continue based on the calculation of $10,000 annual pay when it is broken into hourly pay. An employer can hire an illegal immigrant for just over five dollars an hour based on this calculation. This hourly wage is comparable to what I pay my babysitter to watch my kids. With such a low labor cost and no requirement to provide any type of benefits it is obvious why employers hire illegal aliens. All of these reasons lead to the overwhelming cost of creating and maintaining our security along the fence between the United States and Mexico.
An Integrated Perspective on the Issue
Analyzing the issue of illegal immigration across the U.S. and Mexico border is best described from an integrated perspective that combines economic and political views. Using our example of the undocumented worker that receives an annual income of $10,000, and comparing it to existing laws you will understand why this illegal hiring occurs. According to Bray and Lewis (2010), if an employer, `Hires or recruits an alien or who, for a fee, refers an alien to another employer without first verifying the alien’s immigration status, is subject to a fine ranging from $200 to $10,000 for each undocumented alien employed’ (p. 9). Imagine an employer owns a private business that makes more than one-million dollars a year. If they are caught employing five illegal aliens their fine could be as little as one-thousand-dollars, or as large as fifty-thousand-dollars. This example explains how an employer weighs laws against financial losses. Usually the financial losses are viewed as minimal and the illegal hiring or referring will occur. Another example of an integrated perspective is observed with the comments made by Governor Bill Richardson. Governor Richardson declared a state of emergency based on concerns about the well-being of his state. His decision was based on illegal aliens that destroyed property and livestock that ranchers depend on for income. Additionally, Governor Richardson was concerned about the impact that illegal aliens had on crime within New Mexico. Crime is an expensive burden on taxpayers. Once the cost of crime is apparent to voters political action is soon to follow. This example is one of the main reasons that the New Mexico and Mexico border is fenced.
Politicians with concerns similar to Governor Richardson have influenced Americans. This influence can be seen on the border in the form of various U.S. border patrol surveillance vehicles, technologies dedicated to track human movement, and the fence that covers one-third of our land-locked border. Additionally, these politicians have economically impacted the U.S. taxpayers to build this border. When the cost of the physical and virtual fence is added to the cost of maintenance and future repairs the estimated cost is more than ten-billion-dollars.
The fence along the U.S. and Mexico border will likely be a highly debated issue for the foreseeable future. This issue will be fueled by illegal aliens desires to gain employment that can potentially provide an income to support their family. Politicians and U.S. citizens will continue to debate these immigrants intentions. Some debate that jobs are stolen from willing Americans, while others say that immigrants strengthen our economy. As you can see, this border is costly to U.S. taxpayers. To understand this controversial topic you must understand the integrated economic and political viewpoints.
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