The Effects of Immigration on Children and Families
Introduction Illegal immigration is a very controversial issue within our society. There are families within our society that are made up of parents that are here illegally but have children who are born here and are citizens. But it is these citizens that are what I am referring to as the incomplete citizens. Who are these incomplete citizens and why are they being impacted by our society? Are there different stipulations for these children that are born to these undocumented families? Do they really receive the same rights as those born to U.S. citizens? Our societies including our politicians have different opinions about illegal immigration. Immigration reform negatively affects those children that are born to undocumented parents. They find themselves facing adversities that had the situation been different would never have to face. Working in an elementary school I have seen first-hand how those children are affected as a result of their parent's legal status. My purpose in this research is to show the emotional, educational, and financial effects that are inflicted on the undocumented families. This is a problem that is not going to be resolved overnight but rather this is a problem that is going to need help from the various disciplines. With this research more information will be found to present how children are affected through the different disciplines and how these disciplines integrate and can have a more insightful understanding of the issues at hand. The four disciplines that I will focus on will by communication, government, business and psychology. It is through these varied disciplines that I will show how these children are living their lives as incomplete citizens. The current ruling passed by Farmers Branch is a prime example of how the undocumented families have to make difficult decisions.
Communication Through the lens of communication we see how culture, the media and our society affects the way how these children are viewed. Culture has negative and positive effects on these children. By doing some research I saw how various groups and organizations have different perspectives regarding undocumented families and there U.S. born children. Our society is divided by the issue. Some think that since those children are already here they should be included in the view that they are our future. They should be accepted and receive the benefits of all American born citizens. On the other hand, there are others in our society that think that these children are a burden. They believe that those specific children should not receive the same benefit that a United States citizen receives because of their parent's illegal status. In addition, the media at times has a negative impact on these children. It is traumatic to see or hear through the various channels of communication how these families are being torn apart, separated and punished and even at times being labelled as criminals because they do not have the proper documentation. These children are faced with the real possibility that at any moment those same types of situations can easily happen to them. It is these kinds of circumstances that can affect the children's wellbeing. The common view among these undocumented families is that they came here to have a chance at a better future. They do not view themselves as criminals, but rather as people that are willing to work hard to provide their family with a better existence. “It says especially to Congress that were tired of the out-of –control illegal Immigration problem. That if Congress doesn't do something about it cities will, said Tim O'Hare a City Council member who was the ordinance's lead proponent (Anti-Illegal Immigrant Law, 2007). It is people like Mr. Tim O'Hare, a city council for Framers Branch and other groups that force illegal immigrants to make hard decision that will affect them and their families. These people get the attention from the media to address and show how illegal immigrants are a problem in our society.
Government Government is another disciple that has a great deal to with how the children of undocumented families are affected. According to Repko, “political science is the study of power (raw and constrained) and influence in government, political processes, institutions, and relationship involving rule and authority.” (Repko, 2005. pg. 58). Government has created laws, regulations, reforms and acts that affect the undocumented parents on day to day basis. For example, The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 states that it is illegal to hire an undocumented person. This makes it difficult for the family member to obtain a steady job which in many cases causes a financial burden to the family. On the other hand, we have the 14th Amendment that gives the right to any child born in the United States soil to have the right to be a citizen regardless of their parent legal status. These are some examples of how government has imposed themselves on illegal immigrants. I view this as an historic opportunity for Congress to act, for Congress to replace a system that is not working with one that we believe will work a lot better. In other words, this is a moment for people who have been elected to come together, focus on a problem, and show the American people that we can work together to fix the problem.” President George W. Bush (The White House, 2007) This is a statement by the Press Secretary on Comprehensive Immigration reform. President George W. Bush says that illegal immigration is a problem that needs a solution. Not only is our society divided with this issue, but we see the political debates that follow regarding illegal immigration. In order to reduce all of the confusion and the political debates about illegal immigration we need the government to have a better and clear understanding of who is really considered a U. S. citizen and what their rights really are.
Business Another discipline that integrates into this topic is business. This approach has been affected from an economics point of view. In Repko's textbook of economic concept that deal with illegal immigration is opportunity, cost and unemployment. In addition, the epistemology of the economics is how the math configuration is presented. (Repko, 2005. pg. 58). Illegal immigration not only affects the economy of the United States but the parent's home country as well. For example if these illegal immigrants are having trouble obtaining a job to support their families they do not send any money to their home countries. In addition if these parents are deported to Mexico and if their children stay in the United States, this is a cost that society will be forced to cover. For example, these children will qualify for federal programs like CHIP, Medicare, food stamps and other governmental programs that these children are entitled to. How much and who is paying for this benefit that a parent would cover it they were here with their children. In additional, are the illegal parents helping the economy or making it worse for everybody else. Some of these illegal parents are not paying their taxes that they should pay. On the other hand there are people that are here illegally that pay taxes and do not receive the benefits. Due to these kinds of situations is what at times helps to divide society even more. Society is then forced to think of the financial backlash of having the undocumented family members deported or come up with sanctions or pardons that would allow them to stay in this country and contribute rather than be a burden.
Psychology In the psychology approach we see how these children are affected emotionally, mentally and sociologically by having an illegal parent. As stated in Repko's textbook, “The epistemology of psychology is that psychological constructs and their interrelationships can inferred through discussion and observation and applied to treatment (clinical) or a series of experiments with slight variation (experimental).” (Repko, 2005. pg.60). When children are growing they are already faced with many changes not to mention all the hurdles that they deal with, but to add the additional stress of having to deal with the possibility that their family may be torn apart because of their parent's status is traumatic. Imagine not having your mother or father with you during your childhood because one of them was deported. This creates a very emotional and sociological imbalance in their lives. How will the child deal with this problem? The child's education may also be jeopardized by having to move locations due to laws or acts that are taking place in today's society. One example is Farmers Branch, Texas where the city council passed an ordinance that stated that illegal immigrants were not allowed to rent apartments. As a result the parent will be forced to make a decision of moving or to stay and take their chances of being deported. In other situations, where the parent was deported to their home country the child may have been forced to live with another family member or return with their parents. In this situation a parent has to make the difficult decision of taking the children to their home country or leaving them behind to have a better opportunity of life. If this child is taken to their home country would he or she have the opportunity to have an education? What quality of education will this child have in another country even though this child is American citizen? They may not be able to finish school because they may have to financially support the family. Also, this child may not have the support to have a college education due to the financial burden that the family is going through. These are some of the situations that a child has to think about when having an illegal parent.
Conclusion Through this research that we can see that illegal immigration is a problem that needs an Interdisciplinary approach to better understand it. This is a problem that has our society and government divided on how it should be handled and how it is going to find a better solution to solve this problem. This problem affects different disciplines in different ways but with this research more information will be found to present how children are affected through the different disciplines and how each discipline can stand alone but at the same time they integrate with each other to have a better understanding of the issue. How much of this child's life is different from other children as a result of having a parent that is an illegal? Do these incomplete citizens have the right to stay in the United States if they were born here but their parents are not here legally? This is a problem that needs the different approaches of the different disciplines to come up with a more beneficial solution for the children that are caught in the middle of this problem. It is through communication that we see how this issue is viewed and understood in our society. What policies and laws are in place to deal with this issue? Are they working and where is improvement needed? Through psychology we are able to see how a child is affected emotionally, mentally, and sociologically by having an illegal parent. Communication, government, business and psychology are needed to find the common ground for this problem and to find a better understanding of how children's lives are being affected by having an illegal parent. More initiatives to help these children that are affected may help. Having a more solid understanding of the right of a citizen but born to illegal parents can help the four disciplines address the problem. By my research I hope to see how the four disciplines integrate within each other to have better perspective of this problem and to see what the incomplete citizens have been facing for years and are still facing in our society by having an illegal parent.
Background Illegal immigration has been an issue of discussion from the local to the national level in the United States for many years and more so in the present. Immigration affects not only the immigrant and his family but also society as a whole. Even the political candidates that are in the running for president address the subject with caution. Society and politics have different perspectives regarding illegal immigration. Immigration laws and policies have made it difficult for families of illegal parents to support their children that are citizens of the United States. The Webster Dictionary defines immigrate to enter a country to settle (Kidney, 1992). Many people have come to the United States from different countries and for a variety of reasons, ranging from religious to political to economic circumstances. Each wave of newcomers that have arrived in this “New World” has faced many obstacles. It is difficult to go back in history to a time in which any new wave of people was received with open arms. On the contrary, these new arrivals were often shunned, abused and seen as unskilled workers. Immigration to the United States must be seen from a historical lens to understand its complexities. Immigration has had its roots since the birth of the United States beginning with the Africans and continuing to the present times. After the 1600's, the Africans were shipped to the colonies to serve the plantation owners, resulting in the institution of slavery. The white servant worked for a period of time, and most importantly became free and equal after completing his term. However, society considered the black slave and his family and children as property for life which made the white servant move to the north to have an opportunity to be a free landowner. Thus, a greater demand increased for black slaves in the southern colonies. As a consequence, the slave trade increased tremendously during the 1700's, resulting in an innumerable mass of African slaves shipped to the colonies. “The unique but unmistakably tragic migration of these people had ‘planted the seeds of a difficulty that would permanently mark the nation.” (Handlin, 1972). (Immigration, n.d.). The Germans fled from their homeland due to violent conditions and immigrated to the United States in the early 1700's. Another wave of German immigrants came to the United States after the 1800's. At this particular time, they left their homeland due to population growth, and the fact that modernization negatively impacted family businesses. Ironically, modernization improved the means of transportation with the steam boat and steam train which conveniently assisted the Germans to immigrate to the United States (Immigration, n.d.). The Chinese immigrated to the United States in the 1700's due to the California Gold Rush. The first wave of Chinese immigrants was well received by the Americans because of their qualities of dependability and diligence. However, the pouring of unskilled Chinese labourers in the mid 1800's changed the Americans' attitude from one of acceptance to one of negativity and hostility. The Naturalization Act of 1870 and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 restricted Chinese immigration to the United States. “The Naturalization Act of 1870 restricted all immigration into the U.S. to only ‘white persons and persons of African descent,' meaning that all Chinese were placed in a different category, a category that placed them as ineligible for citizenship from that time till 1943.” (Immigration, n.d.). Despite the laws, the Chinese population in the United States increased and reached its peak in 1890 with 107,488 people (Immigration, n.d.). The Irish immigrated to the United States since the 1820's due to religious and political circumstances. A mass of Irish immigrants poured into the United States due to the devastating effects of the great potato rot in 1845. Starving families had no other alternative but to leave their homeland in order to have a better quality of life. The flow of Irish immigrants continued to grow, and many settled in established Irish communities to retain their religion, culture, and customs. The Italians immigrated to the United States in the mid-1800's and demonstrated their diligence by working in a variety of jobs ranging from sewer cleaning to dangerous jobs that others refused to work (Immigration, n.d.). The Japanese immigrated to the United States in the late 1800's due to economy's effect on modernization which resulted in bankruptcies and unemployment. The Japanese immigrants experienced many similarities as the Chinese immigrants. The Japanese immigrants were unskilled labourers and became more successful which the American society resented. Consequently, laws were passed to prevent Japanese immigrants to advance onto the next step of the status ladder. The advancement and competition compounded with Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 added to the hostility towards the Japanese immigrants (Immigration, n.d.). Due to the influx of immigrants from numerous countries, “the House Committee of Immigration chose Ellis Island as the site for a new immigrant screening station in 1890.” (Ellis Island) Extensive screening took place at Ellis Island which determined the fate of the immigrants. The fear of family separation or lacking certain qualifications added to the immigrants' anxieties. Immigration through Ellis Island decreased due to legislation and shut down in 1954 by the Immigration Services. Immigration has had a powerful impact in the birth and development of the United States. It is a melting pot of diverse ethnicities and cultures. The past immigrants have had to overcome their hardships to attain the American dream. Interestingly, the current immigrants from Latin American countries are in the same predicament as the past immigrants (Immigration, n.d.). Illegal Central Americans have immigrated to the United States in late 1970's due to political and economic circumstances. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 “institutes employer sanctions for knowingly hiring illegal aliens, create legalization programs, and increases border enforcement.” (Fix and Passel, 1994). Even though the act has been in effect since 1986, the problem of illegal immigration is prevalent in today's society. According to Steven Camarota's article, “Immigrants in the United States, 2007: A Profile of American's Foreign-Born Population” and data from the Census Bureau in March 2007, “one in three immigrants is an illegal alien. Half of Mexican and Central American immigrants and one-third of South American immigrants are illegal.” (Camarota, 2007). According to Table 4 of the Centre for Immigration Studies, “Latin American and Caribbean countries dominate the list of immigrant-sending countries, accounting for almost half of the top-25 countries.” (Camarota, 2007). (Camarota, 2007) Immigration reform, a controversial topic, is addressed by the presidential candidates. According to Jimenez in his article, “Who's the immigration candidate?” Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton “favour comprehensive immigration reform: increased border security, a pathway to citizenship and an electronic employment verification system. “ (Jimenez, 2008). President Bush and the presidential candidates Obama and Clinton state that there is a need for a comprehensive immigration reform because the present immigration system is ineffective. Since the present immigration system is ineffective, city councils such as Farmers Branch are taking further action to control illegal immigration such as implementing an ordinance that requires apartment managers to verify their legal status (Garay, 2007). Illegal immigration is a problem full of complexities that cannot be solved with merely one discipline. As seen in figure 1 immigrates has increase from 24.3 million in 1995 to 37.3 million in 2007 (Camarota, 2007). To attain a greater understanding of illegal immigration, the need of integrated disciplines must be analysed (Repko, 2005). First, government will address the legislation and the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of the present immigration system. Second, communication will express the different perspectives of illegal immigration. Third, business will focus on the immigration's economic impact on the United States. Finally, psychology will present the family's emotional impact on illegal immigration. All the contributions from the disciplines of government, communication, business and psychology will provide meaningful insights that will result in a more detailed understanding of the complex issues of immigration (Repko, 2005).
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