Illegal Immigration (US)

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Illegal immigration (also referred to unauthorized or undocumented immigrants) refers to the migration of people across national borders in a way that violates the immigration laws of the destined country.

Immigration & Trade

The argument over the impacts of U.S. immigration and the freedom or restriction thereof -- often framed as a matter of immigration vs. overconsumption, or the consequences of U.S. population vs. global population growing beyond any measure of sustainability -- generally results in an apparent dynamic that closely resembles the outline of race and class warfare, a fight for scarce resources engaged in by groups battling each other “with such vehemence and violence as to obscure their common position as sharers of leftovers in a very wealthy country.” 1

The primary difficulty has been the focus of the debate on U.S. immigration policy rather than on the nature of immigration itself. Developments of the last 20 years have made it clear that the issue of global migration is contained within a larger issue. The current model of the global industrial economy is “promoted and enforced by international institutions and agreements such as The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas,” and these same policies and institutions have resulted in lost local production for consumption, increased “instability of food supplies, hunger for millions of people, and devastating consequences for farmers, communities, and nature.” 2

The emerging consensus:

  • that “At the turn of the millennium, we are witnessing intense new worldwide migration and refugee flows...largely structured by the intensification of globalization;” 3
  • that “structural adjustment programs [of the International Monetary Fund], imposed as a condition of international loans, have undermined social programs and supports - contributing to out-migration flows from many countries;” 4
  • that “The privileging of rich migrants over poor ones romanticizes globalization as corporate progress and ignores the immense human suffering it entails for the majority of the world's population...[and that] these waves of internal migration also result in the movement of peoples across national borders in order to survive” 5 -- findings affirmed by the “Alternatives for the Americas” statement issued at the Peoples' Summit of the Americas 6

- have underscored this point.

In 2001, the UN World Conference Against Racism condemned the “actions of transnational corporations, international development and financial institutions...[that] heighten inequality among and within states, increase pressure to migrate, and impede efforts to fight racism and racial discrimination" 7. Increasingly, the role of “free trade”-styled corporate globalization has been identified as causative in the increase in global migration.


1Howard Zinn, “A People’s History of the United States, 1492-Present,” Harper Perennial, 1995.

2Debi Barker, International Forum on Globalization, “Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture,” Island Press, 2002.

3Marcelo M. Suarez-Orozco, “Global shifts: U.S. immigration and the cultural impact of demographic change,” Conference Series [Proceedings], 2001.

4Pat Taran, “Redefining Migration in the 21st Century,” Network News, Winter 2000.

5“Past and Present Acts of Exclusion: Immigration and Globalization,” M/C: A Journal of Media and Culture, April 2001

6“International migration has increased over the last number of decades, accelerated by the process of globalization.... However, despite the demands of numerous nongovernmental organizations, officials have refused to address this issue in the negotiation of trade and investment liberalization agreements. Such agreements deal only with the free movement of capital, goods, and their agents, but exclude the mobility of workers. The forces driving people to migrate are many. After political violence, the leading reason is the problem of unemployment.”
— Peoples' Summit of the Americas, Santiago, Chile, April 15-18, 1998.

7Globalization Caucus for the NGO Forum of the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, Sept. 2001.

Related links to the role of "free trade" in immigration

Privatized: Secure Border Initiative Network (SBInet)

On September 30, 2006, the Department of Homeland Security will award the Secure Border Initiative Network (SBInet), an "indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract, estimated at $2.5 billion, for the Secure Border Initiative Network (SBInet) ... to build a seamless web of new surveillance technology and sensors with real time communications systems for Customs and Border Protection (CBP)," Joseph Richey wrote July 15, 2006, for CorpWatch. Included in the plan are "funds for additional personnel, vehicles and physical infrastructure for fencing, and virtual fencing for U.S. borders."

"At each checkpoint along the path to citizenship or deportation—from desert wilderness to urban labyrinth—private contractors are expected to be hired to detect, apprehend, vet, detain, process, and potentially incarcerate or deport people seeking economic and human rights asylum in the U.S.," Richey wrote. "Five major military contractors are competing to design a system to tackle up to two million undocumented immigrants a year in the United States."

Boeing, Ericsson Inc., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon "are working on proposals that focus on high technology rather than high fences, but ignoring some of the fundamental problems of immigration," Richey wrote.

For detailed information on the prospective contractors, see the SBINEt Large Business Directory (June 28, 2006 (112-page pdf)).

Related Links

Double-Layered Fencing along U.S.-Mexico Border

On September 14, 2006, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill "calling for construction of lengthy sections of double-layered fencing along the U.S. border with Mexico." The legislation goes to the U.S. Senate "that appears inclined to approve it and other security measures," Nicole Gaouette reported in the September 15, 2006, Los Angeles Times.

"The bill—which includes 700 miles of double-layered fencing—mandates the construction of fencing around Tecate and Calexico, and in heavily populated areas of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. The nearly 2,000-mile border now has about 75 miles of fencing.

"The bill requires the Department of Homeland Security to prevent 'all unlawful entries into the United States' within 18 months after the bill is enacted, urges the department to allow Border Patrol agents to use greater force against smuggler vehicles and orders a study on security at the northern border with Canada.

"House leaders said they were working with the Senate to determine how to put the measures before President Bush as quickly as possible. House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Congress should finish considering all of them by the end of September," Gaouette wrote.

Related Links

Polling the Electorate on Illegal Immigration

A TIME poll of 1,004 adults, aged 18 and older from across America and conducted March 29-30, 2006, revealed that:

  • 56% disapprove of President George W. Bush's handling of illegal immigration
  • in a head to head question, 72% of agreed that allowing "allow illegal immigrants to get temporary work visas" most closely matched their views; only 25% agreed with the alternative statement that "make illegal immigration a crime and not allow anyone who entered the country illegaly to work or stay in the U.S." most closely matched their views;
  • 68% say illegal immigration is "an extremely/very serious problem in the United States"
  • 82% "believe the U.S. is not doing enough to secure its borders"
  • 56% "favor building a security fence along the U.S.-Mexican border"
  • 71% "support major penalties for employers who hire illegals"

Also see Bush administration approval ratings for more polling data.

Immigration Bureau

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services [1] (USCIS) is new "within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It also provides information about various administrative and management functions and responsibilities now within the DHS that were once in the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)."

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