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The immigration debate can be divided into two primary categories: the impact of legal and illegal immigration.
Proponents of amnesty argue that offering a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. would lead to higher wages, job growth, and increased tax revenue. Opponents say that these immigrants take jobs from native workers and unlawfully take advantage of government assistance programs, offsetting the taxes they pay.
Proponents of amnesty typically argue that it is morally unacceptable to deport undocumented immigrants, particularly since the U.S. was founded by a nation of immigrants, and that they add to the country’s diverse culture. Opponents emphasize the order of law, saying that anyone who wants to come to the U.S. must apply via the pathways we currently have in place.
Opponents of amnesty argue that illegal immigrants commit crimes at higher rates than native-born Americans. Proponents refute this, saying the data is taken out of context, and argue that protecting illegal immigrants from deportation makes communities safer because undocumented individuals feel comfortable going to the police when a problem arises.
The debate crosses partisan lines when it comes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program initiated under former president Barack Obama, which gives protection to illegal immigrants who arrived here as children. Supporters of DACA argue that these individuals were brought to the country by no fault of their own, and should therefore be allowed to stay. Opponents say that the program, which was put in place by an executive order, is an example of government overreach. However, while many opponents feel the program should be rescinded, the general consensus is that a DACA fix is possible, but is better accomplished through legislative action and comprehensive immigration reform. Supporters argue that scrapping DACA while Congress finds a long-term solution could cost immigrants’ jobs and leave them vulnerable to deportation.
The debate over legal immigration centers around the economic impacts of low-skilled vs. high-skilled immigrants.
Proponents of low-skilled immigration argue that these individuals are taking jobs that native-born Americans do not want, filling a major gap in the workforce. Opponents say that low-skilled immigrants decrease opportunity for American citizens and depress wages. Many also emphasize that lower education levels and language barriers prevent these individuals from effectively assimilating.
Conversely, proponents of high-skilled immigration assert that this would abate immigration levels overall and that incoming immigrants would not need to take advantage of government assistance programs. Critics of the merit-based system usually look back to low-skilled immigration, arguing a reduction in inexpensive labor will hurt the economy.
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