Illegal Immigration, Citizenship, and Why I Feel I’m Unqualified to Participate in this Democracy

By Andrew Randall on November 2, 2012

Earlier today I was talking with a friend and the issue of illegal immigration came up. As a past debater in high school, I know a lot about the topic, so I was ready to enlighten my friend on some of the truths of illegal immigration. I’m no expert on the topic, but I know enough to have a discussion about it, and even though the topic hasn’t been in the news much it’s still relevant. Interestingly enough our conversation led to me concluding that I’m not qualified to participate in this democracy, and I’ll explain why throughout this entry.

Illegal immigration is a touchy topic. The topic lies somewhere in between talking about religion and talking about welfare. People have their opinions on it, and unfortunately a lot of those opinions are unwarranted and cemented into their brain. As a centrist, I try and look to both sides when it comes to anything. In fact, I’m fiscally republican and socially democratic for the most part. Regardless, here are some of my opinions on the issue.

I don’t believe in the principle of jus soli. In my eyes, being born on the soil of a country has absolutely nothing to do with being a citizen. The importance of jus soli is that many argue that it incentivizes illegal immigration. However, I don’t necessarily believe this to be true. What incentivizes illegal immigration is the United States itself. Mexico specifically has severe issues in terms of citizen participation, policy, and national security. The United States is paradise; we’ve built a paradise and are expecting that no one will come to it. But guess what? We were wrong. David Brooks of the New York Times put it perfectly when he wrote that, “The United States is the Harvard of the world. Millions long to get in. Yet has this country set up an admissions system that encourages hard work, responsibility and competition? No. Under our current immigration system, most people get into the U.S. through criminality, nepotism or luck. The current system does almost nothing to encourage good behavior or maximize the nation’s supply of human capital.” What Brooks is stating here is that our current system of jus soli rewards those who make it here illegally and hurts legal immigration. It also doesn’t make sense to me that a student here on a 4-year visa that has a child is now the parent of a United States citizen. Why is it that a family who comes here legally with a newborn are not the parents of a United States citizen. What makes the child that was born here more equipped to be a citizen than the baby that was brought here legally but born a few months earlier?

Let’s look to some arguments against illegal immigration. For one, the most obvious reason, they are not buying into the system. This is a shallow argument, but it’s the most common. However, there is evidence supporting it. Steven A. Camarota, “The High Cost of Cheap Labor: Illegal Immigration and the Federal Budget” 2004 found that Households headed by illegal aliens imposed more than $26.3 billion in costs on the federal government in 2002 and paid only $16 billion in taxes, creating a net fiscal deficit of almost $10.4 billion, or $2,700 per illegal household.” Camarota makes a good point, but illegals actually buy into the system more than we think, and much of the expenses that he is talking about are due to the determination of border patrol to get rid of illegals, the majority of whom pose no threat to national security. Almost all of the 12 million accounted illegals in the United States are here for better job security, filling jobs that would most likely otherwise remain vacant. Border control does nothing, if you build a twenty-foot wall the sales of thirty-foot ladders will go up. Simple as that, if you want to stop immigration you have to fix Mexico’s economy so that the incentive is gone. Of course, easier said than done.

The question is, how do we allow these illegal immigrants to achieve citizenship quicker and easier, and what qualifies someone to be a citizen? In my eyes, we need to do this through education. If the government started investing more in education, we’d not only be investing in human capital, but we’d also foster greater job creation. When the United States releases their overall spending, they bundle Healthcare and Education into one category. This makes spending on education look deceivingly larger than it actually is and I don’t know why they do this. However, if we guaranteed citizenship with the completion of high school, we’d incentivize fewer dropouts. This is because there would be a reason to finish high school, a reward. Let’s be realistic, a GED means little. But full citizenship on the other hand means benefits, the ability to vote, access to welfare, etc.

So why don’t I feel that I am qualified to participate in this democracy? Well, I’m nineteen years old and I don’t understand the system. I have a slight grasp of it, but for the most part I am in complete and utter darkness in terms of what happens in Washington. I think that the majority of the population is in the same boat, which is scary, but it seems to bother me more than it bothers others. How am I supposed to vote for a candidate or a law, when I truly do not understand the how the system operates? The United States is not only a Democratic Republic, but it’s also a mixed system economically. The country we live in and buy into is complex and unique, and even with my thirteen years of education I don’t fully understand what’s going on. So yes, I don’t think being born here qualifies you to vote, and I don’t think a lot of America is qualified to vote. Just saying. 

Raised in Essex, Massachusetts and have lived there for 19 years with my mother, father, and sister Emily. I enjoy reading, writing, music, lacrosse, and playing guitar. Currently a student at The University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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