Bronze-level article

Undocumented immigration

From RationalWiki
(Redirected from Illegal immigrant)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Making the melting pot
Immigrants welcome, racists not
This article concerns illegal aliens of the human kind. Not to be confused with unidentified flying migrants.

Undocumented immigration, known to wingnuts as "illegal immigration", is the act of living in a country without having the proper paperwork. While this stereotypically involves crossing the border in violation of immigration laws, in most cases this occurs when people enter the country legally but their visas expire.[1] The people who commit such acts are known as undocumented immigrants or, to wingnuts, "illegal aliens" or "illegal immigrants" or more pejoratively, simply "illegals". Many countries have seen a rise in the undocumented immigrant population.[note 1] However, with increased pressure from the economic systems, and the use of "the immigrant issue" as a political ploy, undocumented immigration has become a serious issue in many industrialized countries around the world.


United States[edit]

The largest population of undocumented immigrants in the United States are Hispanic nationals who seek to escape the poverty and violence taking over Mexico and other Central American countries. According to a 2005 report by the Pew Hispanic Center, there are an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States; 56% of them were from Mexico, and 22% came from other Latin American countries. They make up roughly 5% of the civilian labor force in the US but much larger in occupational jobs such as farming, food preparation, or janitorial work.[2] With the US population at 307 million, the percentage of undocumented immigrants in the US is approximately 4%.

United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom, there are an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 undocumented immigrants.[3] With the population of 62 million, the percentage of undocumented immigrants is approximately 0.65%.

In 2011, Ireland and the UK agreed to a deal to share Visa information and biometrics in order to crack down on immigration.


By far, the largest percentage of undocumented immigrants in France are from the Maghreb.[4] Due to France's visa waiver programs, most undocumented immigrants enter the country legally, and simply do not leave at the appointed time. This has led to a call from wingnuts, such as the Front National, to review the open waiver program.

France estimates roughly 300,000 to 500,000 undocumented immigrants, making the undocumented immigrant population approximately 0.62% of the 65 million population.

Conservative views[edit]

US conservatives often fear of an "invasion" of immigrants who plan to 'screw over' good ol' white American culture. For example, Pat Buchanan wrote a book titled State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America. That book has been condemned as racist.[5][6] Contributing to the racist sentiment that non-whites commit most crime, conservatives publish propaganda associating undocumented immigrants with a crime wave, a la Yellow Peril. Michelle Malkin (herself the daughter of immigrants)[7] wrote a book tited Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists Criminals & Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores. Libertarian magazine Reason criticized the book's premise as flawed.[8] If you want the alternative to what the right wants, see Canada.

Famously, a 2004 episode of South Park summarized right-wing sentiment about undocumented immigrants and unemployment: "They took our jobs! Dey took are jerbs! Derka derp!"[9]

Such illegal invasion into native lands has actually happened, complete with systematic destruction of native races, customs, social norms, and culture overall, though US conservatives generally don't talk about it because it's not white people that are the losers. In the good old days, before civilised humanitarians invented national borders and barbed wire, all immigration was legal, leading to such benefits as colonialism, proselytization, conquest, plunder capitalism, chattel slavery, and cultural evolution. (As well as to such questionable side-effects such as assimilation,[10] Western civilization, and multiculturalism ...)

Interestingly, some of the US Religious Right supports immigration reform out of compassion for the immigrants.[11] Jason L. Riley, a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, defends "open borders" from a libertarian standpoint.[12]

What the Bible actually says about immigration[edit]

Not surprising of a book written after an exodus, the Bible is pro-immigration. Leviticus 19:33-34 states:

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

The Bible also opposes an employer paying illegal immigrant/any laborers less than what they should earn. Malachi 3:5 states:

I will be a swift witness against... those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against ... those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

Though if you're looking for something in the New Testament, Matthew 7:12 will work just as well:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

There's also this one in Titus 3:1-2:

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.


US federal laws[edit]

Title 8, Section 1325 of the US Code makes an immigrant's first unauthorized crossing of the U.S. border a Class B misdemeanor subject to a maximum six months in prison, maximum $5,000 fine, or both. Repeat offenses are class E felonies subject to a maximum 2 years in prison, maximum $250,000 fine, or both.[13]

Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution states that the U.S. Congress has the power "to establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization", or in layman's terms, common laws governing the granting of citizens' privileges to foreign-born people.[14] Federal courts have interpreted that clause as meaning that immigration is the right of the federal government to control, not the purview of individual states.[15] However, since the Republican Party have turned "illegals" into the new gays (i.e., the "Oh my god, the sky is falling" scapegoat) many states have gotten into the business of regulating undocumented immigration.

Depriving rights of undocumented immigrants[edit]

In 1994, voters in California by a 59%-41% margin passed Proposition 187, also known as the "Save Our State Initiative," which sought to cut off all taxpayer-funded social services (including health care and public education) from undocumented immigrants. Proposition 187 also allowed police to investigate the citizenship of anyone suspected of being in California illegally and to contact the State Attorney General and federal Immigration and Naturalization Services if true.[16] Three days after Election Day, a judge issued a restraining order against Proposition 187, and in 1998 a federal judge ruled Proposition 187 unconstitutional.[17][18]

In 2005, US Senator James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) sponsored House Resolution 4437, the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, that sought to secure the Mexico/US border, detain undocumented immigrants in federal prisons, and require employers to verify employees' legal status electronically. Those who knowingly assisted undocumented immigrants in coming to America would be imprisoned (sound familiar?). That bill passed in the House with most Republicans supporting and Democrats opposing, led to much protest in May 2006, and the bill failed in the Senate.

In 2010, Arizona passed Senate Bill 1070, or the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act" that allowed police to question and arrest anyone they suspect of being an undocumented immigrant. The results are exactly what you think they would be.

Attempts at immigration reform[edit]

In 2007, US President George W. Bush expressed strong support for S. 1348, or the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, which sought to secure the US/Mexico border while providing a path to citizenship to those undocumented immigrants already in the US. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) sponsored the bill, and Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA), John McCain (R-AZ), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) supported the bill too. There would be two new classes of visa: the Z visa for everyone living in the US without a valid visa, and the Y visa as a "guest worker" program. Z visa holders would be allowed to stay in the US for the rest of their lives and get a Social Security number. For a Permanent Resident Card (green card), the Z visa holder would have to pay a $2,000 fine and back taxes. Five years after getting a green card, the immigrant could begin the process of becoming a US citizen. The original bill was abandoned in the Senate, but Bush helped the Senate bring back the bill as S. 1639. S. 1639 ultimately failed.

Conservative myths about undocumented immigrants[edit]

Many xenophobic conservatives have come up with a lot of myths about undocumented immigrants, as an excuse to hate them. This is pretty typical behavior whenever people are trying to create a scrapegoat, an "other" to blame for their problems.

One common myth about undocumented immigrants is that they get special benefits that U.S. citizens don't[19] and that "the government cares more about those dumb ol' outsiders than about us 'MURICANS!!!" This is possibly due to propaganda from Fox News, exaggerated imaginations created out of jealousy, connected to the whole "they're takin' er jerbs!" rhetoric, and resentment over the illegal bussing of immigrants to blue cities (a problem that conservatives themselves caused, as Greg Abbott himself planned this illegal bussing, despite his promises to punish human trafficking.)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. This statement should be qualified with the fact that detailed identification and tracking of undocumented immigrants has only been possible in most countries for the last 20-40 years. It is uncontested that the majority of people who came to the US, for example, in the first part of the 20th century were largely undocumented. It was also an irrelevant issue at the time.


  1. Where Does Illegal Immigration Mostly Occur? Here's What The Data Tell Us, Sean McMinn and Renee Klarr, NPR 10 January 2019
  2. "The Size and Characteristics of the Unauthorized Migrant Population in the U.S." Pew Hispanic Center: March 7, 2006.
  3. Casciani, Dominic. "An illegal immigration amnesty?" BBC News: June 14, 2006.
  4. This information is largely taken from [1]
  5. "Pat Buchanan: In His Own Words: On Immigration and Ethnicity." Anti-Defamation League.
  6. Zaitchik, Alexander. "Hawking Racism." Intelligence Report: Winter 2006. Southern Poverty Law Center.
  7. Nahm, H.Y. "Michelle Malkin: The Radical Right's Asian Pitbull." Goldsea Asian American.
  8. Young, Cathy. "Guilty by Association." Reason: March 2003.
  10. See the Wikipedia article on cultural assimilation.
  11. Brayton, Ed. "Agreeing With Religious Right Leaders. Almost." Dispatches from the Culture Wars: May 17, 2010.
  12. Riley, Jason L. Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders: Six Common Arguments Against Immigration and Why They Are Wrong. New York: Penguin, 2008.
  13. 8 U.S. Code § 1325 - Improper entry by alien, 18 U.S. Code § 3559 - Sentencing classification of offenses, and 18 U.S. Code § 3571 - Sentence of fine
  14. Immigration vs Naturalization. Tenth Amendment Center: April 28, 2010.
  15. Report on the Contitutionality of Arizona Immigration Law S.B. 1070. New York City Bar: July 2010, p. 7.
  16. Martis, Nancy H. "#187 Illegal Aliens. Ineligibility for public services. Verification and Reporting." California Voter Foundation: 1994.
  17. "CA's Anti-Immigrant Proposition 187 is Voided, Ending State's Five-Year Battle with ACLU, Rights Groups." ACLU (press release): July 29, 1999.
  18. "Most Of California's Prop. 187 Ruled Unconstitutional." CNN: March 19, 1998.
  19. [2]