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Here's why controlling immigration in America isn't all that easy

“The Irish had that extra bit of clout because of political and business leaders with Irish connections such as McCain.”

BATTERED AG Source: AP/Press Association Images

THEY’RE BRINGING DRUGS, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists.
As has been stated continuously in the press, people are pouring across our borders unabated. Public reports routinely state great amounts of crime are being committed by illegal immigrants. This must be stopped and it must be stopped now.
 We’re going to build the wall, and we’re going to stop it. It’s going to end.

Donald Trump has promised to clamp down on immigration.

Not only has he repeated his promises to deport illegal migrants and create new jobs by doing so, but most people would say that this is the promise that won him the presidency.

On his campaign website he’s laid out a ten point plan, which includes:

  • “Begin working on an impenetrable physical wall on the southern border, on day one. Mexico will pay for the wall
  • “Move criminal aliens out day one, in joint operations with local, state, and federal law enforcement
  • “End sanctuary cities
  • “Suspend the issuance of visas to any place where adequate screening cannot occur, until proven and effective vetting mechanisms can be put into place.
  • “Turn off the jobs and benefits magnet.”

And for the estimated 11 million undocumented migrants in America, this could change everything.

But policy advisers and various experts are saying that his policies are impossible to enforce, and that immigration regulation in the land of opportunity has always been tricky.

Oranges and lemons

Immigration has been an issue American administrations have been trying to grapple with since 1986.

Back then, legislation called the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was brought in with the aim of limiting the number of illegal immigrants, and offered amnesty for certain people (depending on how long they had been in the country).

The legislation required employers to prove to their employees’ immigration status;
made it illegal to hire illegal immigrants knowingly; legalised agricultural illegal immigrants, and gave an option for illegal immigrants to become citizens, as long as they had minimal knowledge about US history, government, and the English language.

It was considered a good idea, as it offered a path for people to legal residency, while also sending out the message that American is getting really tough on immigration.

Before the policy was implemented, there were five or six million undocumented migrants in America – 20 years after the policy that figure had doubled. So these attempts made to control immigration had proved unable to do so.

“You have to look at the pull as well as the push factors,” says Dr Piaras Mac Éinrí, Lecturer in Migration Studies at University College Cork. ”A lot of large industries in America rely on cheap labour offered by illegal migrants to make their profits.

“An example of this would be the orange and lemon farms in California where employers are reliant on migrant labour to maintain the flow of production.”

The argument continues that if all illegal workers were removed from any society, that certain businesses would collapse and the economy would suffer. But this is just a theory.

Immigrant Children Schools Arizona Source: AP/Press Association Images

Sanctuary cities

“In the 1990s, Boston was one place where all the Irish went, where you could literally round up a big group and deport them if you wanted to, but they didn’t,” Mac Éinrí explains.

These are called sanctuary cities, whereby the police and authorities don’t actively enforce immigration control, or ironically, have laws that shelter illegal immigrants and accept that they are part of their communities. There are around 300 sanctuary cities in America.

“You can deter authorities from doing this through threatening to limit Federal financing unless they crack down on illegal migrants – that would send a message that ‘we are serious’.

Before now, there has been a good bit of talk about cracking down on immigration but no action.

Path to residency

For the 11 million undocumented migrants living in America, Trump’s victory has made their future much much more uncertain: if his policies are implemented people are much more likely to think twice about overstaying their visa or travelling to the states in the first place.

Previously, both Democratic and Republicans had shown an interest in drafting legislation that would aim to register some or most of the country’s illegal migrants, and give them a path towards residency.

Now, for the first time in a long while there’s a real fear that the law will be applied with force and authorities will be a lot tougher.

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Obama himself had tried to implement something to this effect, and managed to bring in a law that ensured migrant children are entitled to attend schools, under the thought process that it wasn’t right to disclude them and that there was going to be some sort of solution for undocumented migrants in the near future.

Mexico US Haitian Migrants Source: Gregory Bull

Undocumented Irish

“There was a time,” Mac Éinrí explains, “when the undocumented Irish fighting for recognition had to decide whether to fight for recognition as a special case compared to other minority groups, or to fight with them for status.

“The Irish had that extra bit of clout because of political and business leaders with Irish connections such as McCain.

But those days are gone now, so if a cold wind starts blowing about undocumented migrants, then there’s no reason to believe that the Irish will get a special deal.

If Trump’s policies are enforced, fears have been raised that it would lead to raids on illegal immigrants, possible abuses of process and increased detentions.

Considering that illegal immigrants in America are entitled to due process, significant resources to hire more judges and prosecutors will be needed, leading to clogged courts and prolonged periods of time before someone has to leave.

Added to the implausibility of the policies is the fact that it might not create more jobs.

“People blame migrants for the fact that there are less jobs around,” says Mac Éinrí, who also studies political and social sciences. “Which is a misinterpretation and a conflation of two issues.”

“There are less jobs because of the introduction of mechanisation, and trade agreements like NAFTA which sees more traditional companies travelling south to Mexico to avail of cheap labour.”

“There isn’t much proof that immigration is resulting in less jobs.”

Read: ‘An ugly crossroad’: Trump promises unity as outrage continues across US

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