Table of Contents
According to Weissinger (2003) the varying characterizations of the illegal aliens create confusion concerning the central issue. Typically, the image of the illegal alien is represented using a more traditional view of hard-working immigrants looking for greener pastures, which may have changed in view of the 9/11 attacks. Further, public perception of the illegal alien problem is usually influenced by the media by ignoring the health, criminal, and economic aspects of the debate. These issues, combined with the influence of religious and political leaders, make it difficult to identify the real concerns pertinent to this debate. Further, there seems to be some sort of inefficiency and dissonance between the different state agencies tasked with enforcing immigration laws in the US. Weissinger (2003) notes that the US could be experiencing a potential shortage of agents to cover all the 50 states. In addition, the INS has repeatedly failed to report illegal aliens, which often leads to their release. On the contrary, proper coordination between the INS and the Bureau of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (BICE) would facilitate better enforcement of the law. A potential solution to this problem is to offer amnesty for illegal immigrants and create sanctuary cities.
One of the advantages of sanctuary cities is that they may be safer because they facilitate coordination between law enforcement agencies and unregistered immigrants. Recent statistics show that over 70% of all illegal aliens and about 43% of Latinos in the US were less likely to report crimes of provide information concerning a crime due to the fear of revealing their immigration statuses. This tendency leads to the increase in criminal activities at the expense of the public (Kennedy, 2017). The increased coordination between undocumented immigrants and law enforcement makes sanctuary cities safer, as shown by the low rates of crime in San Francisco, one of the oldest sanctuary cities.
In addition, sanctuary policies are lawful and protected by the Tenth Amendment that separates state and federal authority. Accordingly, the federal government cannot coerce local or state governments to implement federal regulatory programs, such as immigration. The ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policies ensure that state and local governments do not violate federal laws by not sharing immigration status data with the federal government (Ngai, 2014). As a result, sanctuary cities can greatly help to protect illegal aliens from the seemingly unjust federal immigration laws. In most cases, deportation policies are enforced indiscriminately, affecting even law abiding people and those that have lived in the US since childhood, separate families, and create a sense of fear among communities.
On the other hand, amnesty and sanctuary cities can harbour criminals and endanger the lives of citizens. According to Bush and Bolick (2013), of the 8,145 illegal aliens released from detention between January and August, 2014, about 63% had criminal convictions or were categorized as public safety concerns, 36.6% had felony charges, 23.4% had misdemeanour convictions, such as sexual abuse, violence, drug distribution, and weapons, while 2.9% had more than two misdemeanour charges. Such individuals would be allowed to live and interact freely with the public, potentially endangering people’s lives and property. Ngai (2014) also notes that sanctuary policies may be in violation of federal legislation that binds local and state governments. Government entities are barred from prohibiting any transfer to or from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, any information pertaining to the immigration statuses of individuals. Finally, sanctuary cities prevents he effective functioning of police officers by hindering them from questioning, investigating, and arresting individuals that contravene the federal immigration law.
Symbolic interactionism can be used to explain the illegal alien problem in the United States. According to this theory, shared orientations, meanings, and assumptions are the primary motivators of people’s actions. Proponents of this premise argue that the increasing public concern over the escalating number of immigrants is primary die to the influence of mainstream media. Immigrants have been portrayed as poor people who enter the country in search of employment opportunities and who will do anything to make a living, including engaging in criminal activities. Further, some immigration laws, including the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, led to an increase in anti-immigration sentiments, social movements, and nativist rhetoric in the United States. In addition, the perceived group threat and the fear of altering the established culture also explain American attitudes towards migrants, both legal and illegal, and the recent polarization observed in the country. Particularly after the 9/11, the US has experienced a sharp increase in islamophobic tendencies as more and more citizens associate Muslims and Arabs with terrorism, including South Asians, Latinos, and any other race that is mistaken to be Muslim or Arab on the basis of dress, skin colour, or organizational affiliation (Bush & Bolick, 2013).
- Bush, J. & Bolick, C. (2013). Immigration wars: Forging an American solution. New York: Threshold Editions.
- Kennedy, J. (2017). A nation of immigrants. New York: Harper Perennial.
- Ngai, M. M. (2014). Impossible subjects: Illegal aliens and the making of modern America. Princeton University Press.
- Weissinger, G. (2003). The illegal alien problem: Enforcing the immigration laws. Central Islip, NY: New York Institute of Technology, 203, 47.