Anti-Immigration Laws Do More Harm Than Good
The illegalization of immigration has generated significant global media attention in the United States. Over the last decade, the U.S. administration has been in the headlines for the introduction of harsh anti-immigration legislation, the most recent case witnessed in the State of Arizona. America is determined to stop immigration at all costs, including separating children from their parents due to their migration status, continued calls for building a wall along the US-Mexico border, and sending military troops to stop ‘the caravan’ from entering the country. Nevertheless, the most concerning issue has been the enactment and practice of Arizona state laws that have made lacking proper immigration documents a criminal offense. According to these regulations, the first instance one is found guilty of the offense he or she is charged with a misdemeanor. However, the second offense of a similar nature constitutes a felony (Golash-Boza, 2015). Additionally, the laws obligate the Arizona law enforcement department to conduct a stop and search on a person suspected to be an unauthorized immigrant (Cox & Rodríguez, 2015). The new regulations are ambiguous and may cause harm to the racial diversity of Arizona. America has a history of racial prejudice hence it is likely that the new immigration laws may be another avenue of racial prejudice and stereotyping of Latinos.
The anti-immigration legislation has been a tool for racial bias in the United States. Over two decades ago, the government passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) into law. IIRIRA encompassed a list of crimes that were punishable by the deportation of immigrants. As indicated by Chen (2000), until 1996, America’s legislation cited murder as the only type of aggravated felony that could lead to the deportation of legal emigrants. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 redefined the law such that almost all crimes, including misdemeanor charges, could lead to the expulsion of immigrants to their native countries. According to Fragomen Jr (2007), IIRAIRA made it possible for the criminal justice system to deport an immigrant who was found guilty of a non-violent crime such as drug possession or shoplifting (Karyotis & Patrikios, 2010). Additionally, the law was applied retroactively, meaning that legal immigrants could be deported for criminalities they had committed before 1996. Indeed, 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act showed how the law could be used to promote racial prejudice. An analysis of IIRAIRA revealed that it worked as a tool for double punishment whereby an individual was forced to pay for his or her crime in the criminal justice and immigration courts.
One of the most mentioned rhetoric against immigrant in the U.S. is that they are criminals invading the Americans and their rights as well as culture. On 12 October 2018 a group of individuals from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador gathered at San Pedro Sula (Schrank, 2018). The following day they set off on foot towards the United States border seeking asylum from the violence, poverty, and political oppression in their nations. The crowd grew to an estimated 2,000 individuals within 42 days (Schrank, 2018). The U.S president Donald Trump, as well as other like-minded individuals, tagged these immigrants as invaders. Although the U.S constitution does have provisions to help asylum seekers who have left their nations due to increased violence, poverty, or political oppression, failure to help these individuals was unethical. Most individuals supporting anti-immigration laws paint immigrants as violent criminals and the sort of measures taken against them, including caging children, are often carried out to fight crime. Studies indicate that no scientific evidence suggests that some races are more violent than others are (Delgado & Stefancic, 2017). Additionally, native-born Americans are more likely to commit serious crimes or incarcerated as compared to immigrants (Hawley, 2017). With such proof, it can be argued that the premise of immigrants being hostile is invalid, it is propaganda that is precipitated by anti-immigrant law activist.
The September 11, 2001 attack remains the worst terrorist attack that has happened in the United States. While the incident is regrettable, it has been used to unfairly target immigrants, especially those of the Arab descent. Over time, it has been established that Native-born Americans are being recruited to terror groups and perpetrating attacks. In a report conducted by Frostenson (2018), by the end of 2015, the U.S Department of homeland security had reported 28 fatal terror attacks conducted in about half a decade. Ten of these cases were related to religious extremism while right-wing extremists conducted the remaining 18 attacks. Native-born Americans conducted the 18 attacks. Despite such compelling evidence by a credible government agency, the stereotype of immigrants being dangerous is still being used to fuel the enactment of anti-immigration laws such, as the IIRIRA in 1996 and the ones in Arizona. The majority of immigrants are not as violent, or inherently criminals as the advocates of anti-immigration laws paint them to be. Criminality is not attached to race or gender, and a significant amount of information has been lost in the emotional and untrue rhetoric that has dominated the majority of the immigration debate in America.
The debate over immigration status has grown to become a focus of U.S politics. Over the last decade, discussions over deportation and entry of immigrants majorly due to security purposes have become more politicized than ever. The issue has led to the development of new anti-immigration laws in states such as Arizona. Such legislation is bound to increase racial prejudice against Latino Americans and other racial minorities in America. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996 offers a prime example of how the law can be twisted to promote prejudice against racial minorities. Although most individuals who advocate for the establishment of anti-immigration laws cite security as their major concern, it has been established that their worry is unjustified because immigrants are not violent or security threats any more than native-born Americans are. In fact, native-born Americans are the most likely to commit crimes. Indeed, the current anti-immigration laws are bound to increase racial disparities in a country that has been marred by prejudice against racial minorities. Over the last decade, the African American community has been subject to an unfair criminal justice system tagged as the new Jim Crow. It can be argued that anti-immigration laws are currently being used as an alternative for the incarceration of minority races. Indeed, it is likely that the illegalization of immigration in the U.S will extend far beyond the state of Arizona if nothing is done to change the situation. It is imperative for such policies to be shunned, especially in the modern wild because they are based on emotions rather than facts.
Chen, S. (2000). The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996: Another congressional hurdle for the courts. Ind. J. Global Legal Stud., 8, 169.
Cox, A. B., & Rodríguez, C. M. (2015). The president and immigration law redux. Yale LJ, 125, 104.
Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2017). Critical race theory: An introduction. NYU Press.
Fragomen Jr, A. T. (2007). The illegal immigration reform and immigrant responsibility act of 1996: An overview. International Migration Review, 31(2), 438-460.
Frostenson, S. (2018). Most terrorist attacks in the US are committed by Americans not foreigners. Vox Online Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/2015/11/23/9765718/domestic-terrorism-threat
Golash-Boza, T. M. (2015). Immigration Nation: Raids, detentions, and deportations in post-9/11 America. Routledge.
Hawley, G. (2017). Making Sense of the Alt-right. Columbia University Press.
Karyotis, G., & Patrikios, S. (2010). Religion, securitization, and anti-immigration attitudes: The case of Greece. Journal of Peace Research, 47(1), 43-57.
Schrank, D. (2018). Caravan migrants rest in Mexico City, some deterred by U.S. hostility. Reuters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-caravan/caravan-migrants-rest-in-mexico-city-some-deterred-by-u-s-hostility-idUSKCN1NB2X7