Sunday, July 10, 2011

On illegal/undocumented and legal immigration in the United States of America

I am a temporary legal resident of the United States of America. As long as I am employed with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) I am allowed to stay in this country. As such, I will not criticize the actions and policies of the US government and its agencies and the people in the country, unless invited to do so by them. This note is really directed at opening the discussion about legal/illegal/undocumented immigration in the United States and to the many statements both in favor and against, which in many cases are off-base or reflect a perception built by the media and/or political commentators, pundits or activist/grassroots organizations.

The major problem I see with this growing perception about immigration  is attempting to generalize about us immigrants and about the issues at hand. For me as a Honduran citizen, in many cases, illegal/undocumented immigration into the USA it is a matter of shame, as my country could not provide the opportunities to the people who decided to immigrate to the USA and Europe, so that they could prosper in our own country. This is a failure of us as a country, nobody else. This reflects on the motivations behind immigration movements to another country since humanity began.

Most people come to the USA or Europe, to earn a living and to be able to send remittances back to the country. In fact, up to recently, most stayed until they earned enough money to go back home. This was the usual behavior of most immigrants until recently. Some commentators proposed that the change towards “staying until I’m kicked-off” has been due to the crack down on immigration and the subsequent increase in the cost of entering the USA, both legally and illegally.

Certainly, most illegal/undocumented immigrants are not thugs, common criminals, nor members of the MS or other gangs. Most people are hard workers who are routinely underpaid and/or abused by employers as they have very little bargaining power…after all people can always make a call to “the migra”. We are not all maids or yard keepers, although people in those jobs contribute to society, so much so that Texas even considered a bill exempting them from deportation (

I personally do not want to get into the debate of whether legal and illegal/undocumented immigrants into the United States of America have a net positive or negative impact unto this society. Most, if not all, estimates have considerable issues with regard to assumptions used, methods, conflicts of interest, and perhaps the reality that there may not be a conclusive answer, as there are many tangible and intangible benefit from immigration into a country.  

In fact, parts of the polarizing views that have risen in recent years have been the results of such attempts at quantifying immigration into the US. Examining the range of reports can illustrate the fact that the debate needs to move on to a comprehensive immigration policy that will provide net benefits to US society, and for us as Hondurans, to finally come to grips with the failed policies, corruption, mis-management and overall debacle of our economy and our society.

A report produced by the Heritage Foundation (see the their testimony in Congress at , representative of the opinions of conservative and/or so called “nativist” groups opposed to illegal and in some cases even legal immigration, state that each “low-skilled immigrant household” generates a negative fiscal deficit of US$19,588. This is the result of each household paying US$10,573 in taxes (including federal, state, and local income and property taxes as well as sales and excise taxes), while consuming an average of $30,160 of government expenditures in the form of welfare benefits, education and public safety expenses. A really good critique of the assumptions, methods and conclusions of this study is one authored by Harrell and Franklin

The results of the Heritage Foundation study contrasts with those of perhaps organizations with less obvious stated agenda, including one by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the other done by Prof. Hanson of UC-San Diego. The NAS study ( , although a bit dated, showed that In the NAS Study, the net effect of benefits consumed and the taxes paid at both the federal and local levels is that immigrants generate a total fiscal benefit of $23.5 billion (approximately $581 per capita).Although the NAS analysis reveals a net fiscal deficit attributable to immigrants at the state and local level, there is net positive fiscal effect at the federal level. 

On the other hand, Prof. Hanson’s study, a Council of Foreign Relations Special Report, concludes that stemming illegal immigration would likely lead to a net drain on the U.S. economy, a finding that calls into question many of the proposals to increase funding for border protection.


  1. Illegal immigration is not only "illegal," it is a travesty. To some extent, as noted, it reflects failed economic policies of the originating country. More importantly, it destroys the family unit both here in the US and in the home country.

    Families in Honduras (or wherever) cannot survive when one spouse lives in the US for years upon years. I've seen this first-hand. The remitted money is not worth the destruction of the family.

    Families which are begun in the US between two illegals or where both spouses immigrated illegally are in danger, as well. One or both spouses could be deported. Legal children born in the US are constantly in danger of losing one or both parents. The family lives with an undercurrent of fear or even anger. Again, I have seen this first-hand.

    Finally, families formed in the US between a US citizen and an illegal immigrant face similar dangers with similar consequences. Once more, I have a dear friend who is in such a marriage. Her lawyer said in order for her husband to follow the proper path to citizenship, he would have to surrender himself for deportation, then she would have to prove emotional and financial hardship in order for him to even be considered for citizenship. I would imagine that would take years and likely would be denied. I suggest they not even try it.

    So, what? First, completely seal the borders. Build a wall, moat, post guards, whatever works. Second, grant selected amnesty. Third, don't let it get it this mess again.

  2. Excellent, Jose. Most North Americans don't have a clue about the importance of illegal immigrants to the US economy. And well funded special interests, especially unions fund a variety of "hot button" propaganda to keep them out!

  3. I think the cost of illegal immigrants is way over-estimated, too. Most people who are in a country illegally are much too afraid of being caught and deported to even stand up for fair treatment in their jobs, much less apply for benefits. Many illegal immigrants are married to US Americans so their children are citizens and have every right to free schools, etc.

  4. My husband and I know many hard working folks in the U.S. and they do not have papers.They are here to work and send needed money back to their pais.They respect the law and most want their children to stay here and finish high school or more.God Bless them

  5. There are illegal immigration crackdowns occurring in Canada right now too, which I think is good. They are also publishing the photos of suspected "war criminals" for detention and expulsion (also a good thing especially with the infiltration of so many Islamist terrorists, and some Latin American Left extremists in our country which Canada has so blatantly ignored in the past), but boy was I surprised to discover that a Honduran citizen is also on that list!

    His name is Cristobal Gonzalez Ramirez, who apparently was part of a special Honduran Military unit responsible for crimes. Does anybody know anything about this? I can't find any info here in Canada. As a Canadian I have a great deal of respect for Honduras because I lived there for many years and my children were born there, and I'm wondering if this is just a bunch of Commies in my country who have typically pidgeon-holed someone from the Honduran military because Honduras has valiently resisted Hugo Chavez and his crew, for example.

    I could be wrong, as I'm well aware that the Honduran military is far from perfect and there have been crimes in the past from the Right (e.g. Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez when I lived there). But does this allegation of recent "war crimes" or "crimes against humanity" hold any water? What is this "special military unit" anyway? Or is this just another Chavez, Zelaya, Ortega, Castro, etc. Commie smear?

    Here's a link to the news report here in Canada:

    (Any input from my Catracho compadres would be appreciated -- I blog frequently in Canada re: current issues such as immigration)