Tyler Lewis, UMBC:
In 2012, there were a recorded 11.3 million illegal immigrants in the United States. I said the nasty word that everyone hates: Illegal Immigrant. We don’t like them for all types of reasons. They take American jobs and they don’t pay taxes. They cost us money, because the government is bent on appearing to look like it is controlling something that is quickly becoming uncontrollable.
Many Americans view illegal immigrants as bad weeds. In many cases, the frustration towards illegal immigration is completely valid. That being said, how many times are we going to chop off the top of the weed, before we learn to pull from the root? We continue to spend millions of dollars annually, deporting illegal immigrants out of the country. When, in reality, they are more than likely just going to return. And why do they do that? Are they chasing the glorified American dream, or are they running away from the violence and corruption of their own countries?
A 2013 Global Corruption Study, found that 61% of Mexicans, 57% of Venezuelans, and 52% of Bolivians, reported that they were forced to pay a bribe at some point for a public service. Many of these bribes went to the very people that should be preventing criminal activity. Of the people that paid a bribe in those three countries, over 50% of them claimed it went to the police. In 2012, 180,000 Mexican police officers were given background checks. 65,000 were found unfit to serve. There was no official reason given by the government.
In a 2012 survey of Latin American companies, 52% of them said they lost business to competitors that made illicit payments. Of that 52%, an overwhelming 87.4% did not bother to report their concerns to the authorities (anticorrupcion.gov). That same year, 1 in 3 Latin Americans were a victim of a crime. The majority of these crimes were thefts (worldbank.org). In 2013, Latin America accounted for more than 30% of the world’s homicides (worldbank.org). Similarly, a report from February, 2014, indicated that out of the top 50 murderous cities in the world, 41 of them are situated in Latin America (coha.org).
These statistics tell a different story than the one many Americans believe. It is easy to view illegal immigration as an attack on American privilege. To be privileged, you have to have something that others don’t. The issue is that there is such a drastic difference between what we have, and what people living in Latin America have. While there are many beautiful places and countries in Latin America, the conditions of those in poverty are so deplorable in many cases, their only option is to leave. Mothers and fathers leave their children to work in America, and send money back home. The money provides food, shelter, and schooling, that otherwise wouldn’t be present. Or, they try to bring their whole family here, because it is no longer safe or practical to live in their home country.
In 2012, the government published a report on the allocation of their military and economic foreign aid. On the list, not a single Latin American country reached the top 25 in the amount of aid received. I have no doubt that each one of those 25 countries was deserving of our help. However, when the poverty and crime of our neighboring countries negatively affects the economy of our own country, we should be allocating substantial aid to the right political figures and charities within those countries. Illegal immigration will only cease to be a problem when the cost of someone migrating to the United States, is greater then the benefit they receive from living here. The United States doesn’t have to lower its standards to be less appealing, but should instead make an effort to raise the living conditions of Latin America, to make it more appealing. There is plenty of fat to trim on the federal budget that can be reallocated toward Central American relief.
Illegal immigrants are, often times, a result of an injustice. In many cases they are trying to liberate themselves from the insurmountable problems they face back in their home country. For this reason, it is time we stop hating Latin American immigrants for doing something we might do in their situation. We must move past our superficial bitterness at the people themselves, because they are simply the unfortunate byproduct of a far greater problem. We can only blame them for running for so long, before it becomes time to start looking over their shoulders, and see what they’re running from.