Demystifying the Law: Illegal Immigration

Posted September 23, 2010 in Demystifying the Law by

Over the last few weeks, I’ve written several articles demystifying immigration issues, including immigration basics and citizenship. Today I’m going to write about a topic that’s regularly in the headlines: Illegal immigration.

There are several types of illegal immigrants (also known as illegal aliens). These include:

  • People who enter the country illegally (sometimes known as illegal entry
  • People who enter the country legally, but violate the terms of their visas (typically known as visa overstay
  • People who fraudulently obtain a visa, such as those engaged in so-called green card marriages

People who enter the country illegally may deliberately or inadvertently bypass typical immigration and border control checkpoints, or may enter on falsified passports. People who violate the terms of their visa may stay in the country longer than legally permitted or may work or study in violation of their visa requirements.

According to Wikipedia:

The illegal immigrant population of the United States in 2008 was estimated by the Center for Immigration Studies to be about 11 million people, down from 12.5 million people in 2007. Other estimates range from 7 to 20 million. According to a Pew Hispanic Center report, in 2005, 56% of illegal immigrants were from Mexico; 22% were from other Latin American countries, primarily from Central America; 13% were from Asia; 6% were from Europe and Canada; and 34% were from Africa and the rest of the world.

What Happens to Illegal Immigrants Who Are Discovered?

An illegal alien who is apprehended by government authorities may be detained at an immigration detention center, or in prison or jail. Before the person is deported, or sent back to his home country, the accused’s case will be heard in a removal proceeding, which is an administrative hearing similar to a court case.

During the removal proceeding, U.S. government lawyers have to prove with "clear, unequivocal and convincing evidence" that the person is, in fact, an alien. The government may also need to show that the accused is removable, or there are grounds for deportation. For example, the person would not have been legally admitted to the United States had they gone through the appropriate channels at the time of entry, the person is in the United States illegally or the person fraudulently entered the United States.

If the government proves its case, the illegal immigrant is then deported to his own country.

Illegal Immigration Debate

Illegal immigration has been hotly debated for years, particularly during election cycles.

In the last year it has again come to the forefront with the passing of Arizona’s Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, which attempts to crack down on illegal aliens in Arizona. And this week the issue of illegal immigration again made news with Colin Powell’s comments about illegal immigrants working in his neighborhood. (Powell was initially reported to have said that illegal immigrants did repairs around his home, but then clarified his comments to say that they work in his neighborhood.)

People who take a more hard-line view toward illegal immigration argue that illegal aliens take jobs away from those who are citizens or in the country legally. They also feel that illegal immigrants are a drain on the country’s social services, because they may get free medical treatment and attend public school. Some feel that illegal immigration highlights a national security issue: While many of the people who enter the country illegally are simply looking for a better way of life, potential terrorists could also be exploiting these border weaknesses to gain entry to the United States.

People who favor a more liberal view toward illegal immigration argue that illegal immigrants do essential jobs – such as picking crops or working in janitorial services – that many Americans have little interest in filling. They also argue illegal immigration cannot be eliminated entirely, so the government should instead develop more realistic immigration policies. And many feel that in a country built by immigrants, it’s hypocritical to deny others the American dream.

Related Links: