The U.S. may be delaying its actions on immigration because the longer the delay, the longer it can exploit cheap labor, says Jaqueline Arroyo.

If there’s any word that the American people are tired of hearing, it is “immigration.” When we hear the word “immigration,” we often resort to complaining of its overuse: “Not this again!” The issue has become so overworked by politicians that the American people are now simply exhausted, conforming with popular opinion rather than understanding the real implications of the issue. Part of the reality, however, is that the proposed solutions today are the culmination of distrust and frustration of prior unsuccessful actions made by the federal government. So, how can we actually fix this issue… successfully?

The “A-word”: Amnesty

Like reporter and commentator of the Slate, Betsy Woodruff, said in one of her articles, “Asking if a Republican supports amnesty is akin to asking if someone is beating his or her spouse; it’s a loaded term, and the correct answer is always no.” Although amnesty is a big no-no to many conservatives today, it wasn’t always that way. Some of that disagreement arose from the “failure” of several federal and state policies like the ones passed in 1986 and 2011.

The Immigration Reform and Care Act (IRCA) passed in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan outlined three main policy goals to address immigration concerns: to legalize the residency status of 3 million immigrants, to sanction employers who hire undocumented workers, and to increase border security. Altogether, legislators intended for this act to deter immigrants from crossing the now highly secured border and end the ongoing issue of illegal immigration in the country. Unfortunately, these high hopes resulted in failure as not all aliens cross the Mexican-U.S. border. Not all aspects of IRCA were failures, however. IRCA heavily impacted the American economy through empowering the 3 million undocumented immigrants to maximize their contribution to the workforce and increasing the educational attainment for them and their children.

Today, with growing dependency on migrant workers in agriculture, legislators who oppose amnesty find it difficult to enact laws and uphold others that make it illegal to hire undocumented workers. Take for instance Alabama’s economic state after House Bill 56 passed in 2011. The bill required schools to look at the immigration status of their students, employers at the status of their employees, renters at their clients’ status, and police officers at whomever they are suspicious. Prompted by fear, many immigrants fled, and, as a result, Alabama’s economy was declared one of the worst in the Southeast by America’s Voice. The bill was ultimately proclaimed a failure by many.

The Overlooked Factor of Immigration

The platforms on immigration for both political parties hold some truth, yet they exaggerate different sides of it. The Democratic party is seen to be incredibly sympathetic towards hardworking immigrant families, to families that are being separated, and to students who passionately want opportunities to become American doctors or lawyers. On the other hand, Republicans focus on and, in many eyes, exaggerate the flaws of immigrants in the nation. “They’re rapists,” and “They don’t pay taxes,” are just some of the provocative statements used by some Republican politicians and party members today. Yes, there are hard-working families— families that are being separated— and there are undocumented students who desire the opportunity to better themselves. Yes, there is a small percentage of undocumented immigrants who, unfortunately, are criminals, and, yes, some do not pay taxes just like many American citizens. While the parties’ arguments are focused on different aspects of the issue, they have one alarming similarity: they are overlooking the root of the problem.

There’s a point after witnessing a continuous cycle of unsuccessful resolutions that one must stop and ask: why are these solutions not working? Simple. We are only putting a band-aid on the problem and the real problem does not even lie solely in the hands of the United States. It lies also in the hands of the countries from which many migrate. The problem is the internal turmoil cultivated by corrupt governments, poverty, and violence in countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala that precipitate the flow of illegal immigration to the United States. So, I ask again: how do we fix a problem that is no longer exclusively our problem, but the world’s as a whole? Is it the United States’ responsibility to help rebuild the broken infrastructure of these countries so their people do not see fleeing as their best or only option?

Many Americans would answer no to the last question. They would argue that we are not in the business of building nations; however, the United States has intervened in many countries’ internal issues a plethora of times, such as our involvement in Libya and continued the attempt at nation-building in Afghanistan. Each time, the U.S. made sure that they were getting something out of their actions—  they have utilized countries’ poor standing to exploit any resources beneficial to the U.S. government. Nation-building in Afghanistan, Libya, and the Middle East, for example, is intended to benefit us by improving our security and the security of our allies. When U.S. “builds a nation,” like the ones in the Middle East, it receives one benefit: security. When considering Latin America, if the US were to engage in nation building in countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, or Guatemala, our security may improve, however, we also risk losing our biggest source of cheap labor. Ultimately, I am sure that I am not the only person who has recognized the association between one country’s precipitating factors for immigration and our own immigration problem. Hence, why the lack of action by our leaders? Well, why would they “help” a country and exploit their human resources when they are already exploiting them by taking advantage of their broken infrastructure that results in immigrant cheap labor for the United States?

With a larger problem than anticipated, how do you think the United States should approach a better solution to illegal immigration? Should we proceed to help countries rebuild their infrastructure? Tell us what you think!

Jaqueline Villalpa Arroyo

Jaqueline Villalpa Arroyo is a Donaghey Scholar at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock where she is pursuing Systems Engineering, French, and Journalism as possible fields of study. Jaqueline is...