By Rohith Rao
Illegal immigration has lately become the issue of prime importance in mainstream media coverage being debated by news anchors and politicians on almost a daily basis. Given the rhetoric against immigrants in general and the call for stricter enforcement of border control laws, it is important for American citizens to be aware of some basic facts regarding illegal immigration.
Number of Immigrants
According to Pew Research Center, there are approximately 11.2 million illegal immigrants in the United States and the number has been slowly on the decline since 2007 when it was at its peak at 12.2 million.
Illegal Border Crossings
Contrary to popular belief, most illegal immigrants don’t come from across the border. Since 2007, there has been a reduction in the number of people illegally crossing the Mexican border and an increase in people overstaying their U.S. visas.
Net Migration with Mexico
The net migration to the U.S. from Mexico has been at or below zero for most of the 21st century and has been steadily declining ever since the financial crisis of 2007–08. Mexicans in fact might no longer constitute the majority of illegal immigrants in the United States.
Long Term Unauthorized Residents
A rising share of unauthorized immigrants, approximately two-thirds of them, have been in the country for at least a decade. The decline in the number of people who have only recently been living illegally in the U.S is indicative of the decline in illegal immigration.
They Commit Far Less Crime
Despite the constant rhetoric of most illegal immigrants committing serious crimes in the United States, the statistics point to the opposite. According to an article in The New York Times, around 7.5 percent of illegal immigrants have been convicted of a crime, while only 2.7 percent have been convicted of much more serious felonies. In comparison around 6 percent of the overall population of the United States were convicted felons.
The issue today is not whether illegal immigration is right or wrong. Rather, it’s about understanding the level of seriousness with which it is addressed. The statistics are clearly indicative of the decline in the number of immigrants coming to the United States illegally. Therefore, while illegal immigration must be dealt with appropriately, it in no way justifies an unnecessarily strict and cruel policy that separates families at the border. Expanding legal immigration, helping improve the economy of our neighbors to the south and providing a clear pathway to legal residency and citizenship to those who have been in the country for a significant period of time are policies that are far more beneficial to the country in the long run. Ultimately, while statistics and facts can be cited all along to make a strong point, the inhumane and immoral treatment of illegal immigrants is what needs to be the true motivating factor for a fair, kind and just policy to tackle the issue. America has historically been a land of immigrants and the unjustified mistreatment of innocent immigrant families is not reflective of the ideals that the nation claims it stands for.