Immigration reforms in the US



The United States history in relation to opening its doors to the immigrants from all over the world (Amstutz, 2013). Angel Island in Pacific and Ellis Island in Atlantic are evidence of numerous people of different origins from all over the world who form part of the “melting pot” of cultures. However, there is increasing concern over illegal immigrants from Mexico. Most immigrants arrive in the States by land and sea; Mexicans however, enter through any point along the long New Mexico, Texas, California and Arizona borders. The issue is a major concern to the U.S. citizens because of the existing policies that encourage uncontrolled immigration and because it is hard to monitor the vast coastline and desert. This essay examines the ethical issues, breaches of ethical behavior and ethical theories surrounding immigration reforms in the U.S.

Ethical issues surrounding immigration

People come to the U.S. expecting to get opportunity and freedom. However, the current U.S. immigration system is broken: immigrant are exploited in the workplace, immigrants are extensively discriminated upon, separation of families and death of immigrants while trying to cross the border. Immigrants deserve to be treated equally and fairly. Some of the ethical issues that arise from immigration are:

Difficulty in Acquiring a Green Card

Undocumented immigrants have a hard time in acquiring green cards (Amstutz, 2013). The Immigration Policy Center reports that most undocumented immigrants lack necessary family relationships to enable them to apply for legal entry and that those who do have to undergo years of waiting for a visa. The country’s economy can be able to sustain more green cards than the set number. The limitations on the number of green cards available are unreasonable, and those who meet the requirements to make the application have to wait for so long before the completion of the application process.

Undocumented Immigrants Lack a Pathway to Citizenship

The U.S. currently is made up of 11 million undocumented immigrants. The immigrants are in the country so as to try to make their lives and those of their families better. It is thus necessary for the immigration system to recognize the immigrants’ contribution and hardships create a rational citizenship process for them and keep families together in the country. The system will be better than the expensive approaches that are used like deportation and walling off a 2,000-mile border.

Unfair Automatic Penalties that Trigger Deportation

The current law stipulates for automatic penalties which can lead to deportation for noncitizens who are convicted of an “aggravated felony.” However, the definition of an “aggravated felony” is too expansive to the point that it includes petty crimes like theft, a bar fight and failing to appear in court. Judges have little discretion concerning the deportation of such immigrants as they do not evaluate the circumstances of the case (Amstutz, 2013). The credibility of American justice system should be based on due process, for both immigrants and its citizens.

Putting Immigrants in Immigration Detention

Everyone should be allowed the right to liberty and detention should be the last option. As much as immigration cases have become rampant, detention should not be applied to effect deportation, and it does not make the country any safer. Survivors of torture, victims of trafficking, the elderly, asylum seekers, families with small children, lawful residents facing minor crimes or deportation and individuals with serious mental health and medical conditions, are among those who have been locked up unnecessarily. The lock-up system wastes taxpayer dollars and those locked up are exposed to myriad abuses including death due to inadequate health care, sexual assault, and rape.

Ethical theories that explain immigration reforms

The ethical theories of Justice and Utilitarianism have been used to explain the issue of immigration in the U.S. (Salzborn, Davidov & Reinecke, 2012).  The utilitarian claim that “the only actions in this case that count morally are considered to be the ones that create the substantive amount of utility, or the greatest overall positive consequences. Because of the uneven playing field of the reality beforehand, using the theory of Utilitarian solely will not be enough in evaluating the given situation. The theory of Justice is vital as well in analyzing the situation. The principle of Justice claims that “The justice of a social scheme banks on how fundamental rights, as well as duties, are assigned and on the economic opportunities as well as social conditions in the various sectors of society.” Moreover, there is need to look at Equal Liberty Principle as well. The principle states that “Each person, in this case, has an equal right to the adequate scheme in relation to equal basic liberties which is compatible with a similar scheme of liberties for all.” The theories demonstrate how the current United States immigration policies do not produce the greatest good for the greatest number nor provide justice for the privileged and unprivileged cultures (Fragomen, 2012). The U.S. needs to adopt a policy that will benefit both the country and the immigrants who wish to become citizens.

The United States immigration policy has shifted from taking the poor, tired and hungry to choosing the rich and famous immigrants who will most likely boost its economy (Barnet & Bedau, 2005). There are a number of ways through which an individual can become a permanent legal resident of the US. However, all the processes are lengthy, and none guarantees permanent residence.

Immigration through a Member of the Family

This is one of the avenues used to gain permanent residency in the U.S. An immigrant department, therefore, should have a family member who is a legal citizen of the U.S. and then makes an application that has to be approved (Fragomen, 2012).

Immigration through Investment

An immigrant can obtain permanent citizenship if they invest in a new commercial enterprise. Such an immigrant should invest in U.S. corporations, and the investment capital should be up to one million dollars. Moreover, the immigrant is expected to produce statistical evidence that the investment has boosted the U.S. economy.

Immigration through Employment

There are four categories of workers available for immigrants (Gerdes, 2005), they include:

  • Priority workers who consist of workers with extraordinary capabilities in various areas of employment like medical professions and athletics.
  • Professionals holding degrees or individuals with exceptional ability
  • Skilled/professional workers. They include professionally skilled laborers, professionals with bachelor’s degrees and unskilled laborers.
  • Special immigrants include the U.S government workers from abroad and foreign religious workers.

The first category is given more preference and so forth.

Immigration through the “Diversity of Lottery”

This is a lottery system that avails 55,000 visas for immigrants from countries with the low U.S immigration rates. The US. Immigration policy is clearly discriminatory and violates the Equal Liberty Principle. The state is selective on who to allow into the country, denying every person equal rights to liberty in the process. The country thus violates the ethical theory of justice in the Equal Liberty Principle. For instance, immigration through investment preference is given to those who are already succeeding elsewhere, meaning that those who are struggling in a foreign country have minimal chances of acquiring citizenship (Barnet & Bedau, 2005). Moreover, such people ought to invest a significant amount of funds in order to qualify for permanent residency thus discriminating against those who don’t have the funds. Utilitarian expects for the exact opposite, providing as much good for as many people as possible. Immigrant investors are already successful and less eager to leave their home countries. The people who want to immigrate are those who are seeking for jobs so as to provide for themselves and their families.

Also, when immigrating through employment, preference is accorded to the smartest, most athletic and most accomplished. It is possible that such people could be doing well in their home countries hence are merely presented with a benefit than a necessity. Those looking for public education and a chance to acquire advanced degrees abroad have slim chances of acquiring a residence, despite needing it the most. Therefore, the system is discriminatory and violates both utilitarian ethical frameworks and social justice (Salzborn, Davidov & Reinecke, 2012).

Once they enter the country, the system decides how the immigrants are integrated into the social systems like social security. Carens claim that the country does not owe immigrants the same treatment as that of her citizens. According to the ethical framework of social justice, an elderly immigrant is not entitled to social security as they have contributed less compared to natural born citizens (Gerdes, 2005). As much the framework is socially just, there are many young people who come to the U.S. to get an education and are denied the chance to contribute to the country’s economy. The U.S. provides an opportunity for young people to study and acquire knowledge in the country but sends them back to their home countries the moment they complete their education. The situation presents an ethical dilemma as such people may not get an opportunity to put the attained knowledge as well as skills into practice in their home countries.


In examining the country’s utilitarian and social justice obligation to raise the wellbeing of as many as possible, there is need to look at a push and pull factors. The state of the economy of the U.S. is a pull factor. The political and social strife that Mexicans must endure so as to live in the country is a push factor. The country’s GDP dwarfs most continents (Amstutz, 2013). Also, people are guaranteed numerous rights and freedom when considered to be U.S. citizens. The country has always been a destination for immigrants, and as long as the citizens remain in control, more and more people will choose to immigrate into the country. The concern for homeland security revolves around controlling the people who get into the country. There is thus the necessity for naturalization and controlled immigration as many immigrants avoid the authorities due to the obvious reason that they will not be granted access to the country or citizenship.

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  1. Amstutz, M. (2013). International ethics. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield.
  2. Barnet, S., & Bedau, H. (2005). Current issues and enduring questions. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.
  3. Fragomen, A. (2012). 45th annual immigration & naturalization institute. New York, N.Y.: Practising Law Institute.
  4. Gerdes, L. (2005). Immigration. Detroit [u.a.]: Thomson Gale.
  5. Salzborn, S., Davidov, E., & Reinecke, J. (2012). Methods, theories, and empirical applications in the social sciences. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.
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