Illegal Immigration in America: A Reference Handbook

Illegal Immigration in America: A Reference Handbook

Illegal Immigration in America: A Reference Handbook

Illegal Immigration in America: A Reference Handbook


Few issues have provoked as much controversy over the last decade as illegal immigration. While some argue for the need to seal America's borders and withdraw all forms of social and governmental support for illegal migrants and their children, others argue for humanitarian treatment- including legalization- for people who fill widely acknowledged needs in American industry and agriculture and have left home-country situations of economic hardship or political persecution. The study of illegal immigration necessarily confronts a broad range of migrants- from the familiar border crossers to those who enter illegally and overstay their visas, to the many unrecognized refugees who enter the country to seek protection under U. S. asylum law. The subject also demands attention to American society's responses to these newcomers- responses that often focus on limited elements of a complex issue.

A comprehensive, up-to-date review of this volatile subject, this book provides an accessible, balanced introduction to the subject. Covering the full range of illegal immigrants from Mexican border crossers to Central American refugees, illegal Europeans, and smuggled Chinese, the book considers the kind of work the migrants do and the public response to them. The work is divided into four parts: Concepts, Policies, and Numbers; The Migrants and Their Work; The Responses; and Illegal Immigration in Perspective.


Illegal immigration is a difficult issue. Few subjects are so fraught with misinformation and lack of information, complexity and paradox, political interest and governmental neglect, social concern and human callousness, careful economic analysis and fiscal incertitude. In addressing this subject, this volume aims to shed light on the variety of migrants and migrations that fall within the category of illegal immigration and on the ever-shifting legal frameworks that cause some people to be “legal” and others to be “illegal.” Indeed, many people shift between those two legal statuses as they move to America, live in America, and return—temporarily or permanently—to the countries from which they came. This chapter provides an introduction to the problems posed by “illegal immigration” as a label and then discusses five distinct social and political issues to which that label nevertheless points. The chapter concludes with a brief overview of the volume as a whole.


There are, by the most common estimates, some 5 million people in the United States who lack, as Lucy Cohen refers to it in her chapter, “proper papers.” That number appears to be increasing by roughly a quarter of a million persons each year. There are three conventional breakdowns of the overall numbers. The first is by the “how” of illegality. At least two-fifths—and perhaps more—of these people came to the United States with legal documents but subsequently stayed beyond the provisions of those documents. These are the “visa-overstayers.” Visa-overstayers, of course, are not literally illegal immi-

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