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I am researching the development and perceptions of the border and immigration between Mexico and America. There are many myths associated with our southern border. These myths focus on immigration primarily from Mexico. They state that the USA’s border is out of control. These myths have been created and perpetuated through our politicians and media outlets. There is evidence of a growing division on how immigration is perceived by American citizens. This division has been created by the growing political division in Washington D.
C., and then presented each day by the news outlets.
Pewresearch.org fact tank about illegal-immigration in the U.S illustrates that many myths we are led to believe today are untrue. For example, there is a small decline in unauthorized immigrants in 2015 compared to 2009. Estimates in 2016 are 11.3 million. Unauthorized immigrants peaked at 12.2 million in 2007 which was more than it is today. The media seldom sites the unauthorized immigrant’s positive contribution to the U.S. economy. There are approximately eight million unauthorized immigrants in the work force which is 5% of the U.S work force. Their 5% share is overrepresented in farming which is 26% and construction which is 15%. These are two very important industries in need of more labor today. (Pew Research)
The United States has always benefited with the influx of immigrants and their willingness to work, often for less money than their American counterparts. Our country was built on the backs of immigrants. We are all descendants of immigrants from around the world. I don’t believe the myth that is perpetuated in the media that Americans are “anti-immigrants”.
Originally, in the 1870’s the U.S. Supreme Court declared that immigration was a federal concern (Rothman). After this, the United States changed their immigration system and policies to require individuals from other countries to apply for permission to enter the United States.
Throughout our border history with Mexico, the labor issue is what has been at the center of all problems. Some programs and laws have worked and others have not. This has fueled debate and led to myths and mistruths that have strained our relationship with each other. In the beginning, the United States accepted all immigrants without requiring visas or paperwork. This became a thing of the past beginning in 1846 with the Mexican American war. It ended in 1848 with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The Mexican American war was the beginning of America’s pursuit of creating and sustaining a reserve labor force. It was also the beginning of America’s current formal system of immigration.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo gave the United States of America over 500,000 square miles of territory that was previously controlled by the Mexican government. This territory included what is now Texas and parts of multiple other states including Utah, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming. This treaty was the beginning of the asymmetrical relationship between the two countries. This power grab gave the United States the upper hand in its dealings with Mexico.
The Bracero program was the beginning of the reserve army of labor. The Bracero program was started on August 4, 1942, because of World War II. America had lost a large portion of its labor force due to deployment. The Bracero program brought Mexican workers to replace American workers who were displaced by the war. The program was viewed as America using its asymmetrical relationship with Mexico to obtain cheap labor and maintain a reserve army of labor.
The Brasero program was followed by the Maquiladoras program in 1964. The Maquiladoras program was created to increase employment in the border areas of Mexico. The Maquiladoras program allowed foreign companies to build factories along the Mexican American border. These factories provided better employment opportunities in these border areas than what was previously available. These factories were allowed by the Mexican government to be completely foreign owned. This program was successful in helping employment rates in the border cities of Mexico. These factories did pay the workers in the Maquiladoras program as well as the companies paid workers in their own countries. The Maquiladoras program worked very well.
America has used Mexico as a backup reserve army of labor for decades. In previous years, there was no resistance to immigration when the labor was required. The creation of this reserve army of labor was to create a temporary workforce that could be used when labor was in short supply in the United States. This labor force could be returned to their country of origin when the labor force was no longer needed. This was unfair to all immigrant workers, because they didn’t get any of the benefits of being a citizen. They were normally paid a lower wage than American workers. America successfully created a reserve army of labor that they could call upon when needed, and then throw away when the situation no longer called for the extra workers. Instead of cutting off immigration, America was able to manipulate immigration to its own advantage. This was unacceptable from a humanitarian standpoint. It was a complete abuse of power.
Immigration and border disputes have been portrayed in the United States by the mainstream media to the detriment of relations between the U.S. and Mexico. This perspective has evolved overtime, and has become more destructive. For example, the myths about drugs, crime, human trafficking and other violence has been overplayed by the media. It has become a big part of the immigration debate. In reading the news, you would think all immigrants that have not filled out the proper paperwork (in other words, they are here illegally) are of criminal minds. The quality and status of the Mexican people that are here have been misrepresented. These are scare tactics reported by the media and used by politicians and their political parties to advance their goals.
Another myth related to our borders, are the reports that most of the problems are the fault of law enforcement. Our border patrol and ICE agents are doing the job they are paid to do. They are following the laws of our convoluted and broken legal system. The fault lies squarely on the shoulders of our law makers.
What has to happen is we need a new comprehensive immigration plan, which has to be implemented by our government. It must include a defined path to citizenship for those immigrants wanting it, and clear temporary visas for temporary workers. This is a job that Congress must tackle and resolve. They have dropped the ball on reform for years for political reasons. Now is the time to act and get the job done. Immigrants have been caught in the middle, and become the pawns of a broken system. They are being held hostage by our Congressional leaders. These are men paid by us to enact the will of the people, but they have become caught up in their personal power plays. Division of the political parties has become so bad that whatever is proposed by the opposing party is rejected by the other even if it is a good idea and in the best interest of the people they represent. Something will have to happen to change the grid lock. Perhaps, it will again be our need for a labor force. Today with our booming economy we have more jobs than we have people. We need immigrants to fill these positions. There could be so much pressure on our economy to remedy our lack of skilled people that it would force Congress to come to the table, and truly reform our immigration laws.
We need a modern immigration bill that benefits the U.S and those wishing to migrate to the United States. The amount of time it takes to become a legal American citizen should be considerably shorter. There must be a strong vetting system to keep out the bad actors. Those with clean backgrounds would easily become legal U.S. citizens in a short period of time. Those with background issues need not apply. Knowing there is a new modern immigration bill in place would greatly reduce the numbers crossing the border illegally. If they do not have any criminal background issues, there would be no reason to cross illegally. It should be a system that welcomes and encourages all DACA immigrants as well. The current White House digs in and won’t go forward with a new immigration plan that does not include the “Wall” The “Wall” would not be needed if a new immigration plan was so friendly and short that all immigrants would apply.
The border myths are mostly wrong regarding the so called “awful” border. Currently, as presented in this paper, there is a decline in the number of illegal border crossings. However, illegal border crossings remain a serious immigration problem. Our immigration bill is not working as it needs to for both the U.S. and those wishing to immigrate to the U.S. It’s caused a greater divide amongst the politicians, media and American voter. We, the voters, must pay attention to the politicians that put their ideology in front of the needs of the American people. They are the myth creators along with the media who influences the American voters every day. We must vote the politicians out of office who have not been working together to create and pass a new modern immigration bill.
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