Ethical Issues In U.S. Immigration Policies The sun seems unrelenting as it beats down on the two families huddled together in a rickety makeshift boat. The rafters have been floating in the open sea for what seems to them like years. Their food and water supplies have run out and the littlest ones cry out of hunger. But the keep going. Because they know that once their feet touch the land of opportunity their prayers will be answered.
Finally, their raft makes it to the ankle-deep waters and they are only a few short steps away from dry land and freedom. As quickly as the wave of relief and happiness rushes over the rafters, so does it disappear. The Coast Guard is there and telling them that they will be shipped back. So close to freedom. Other families know what its like to have freedom snatched away. After years of working six days a week for miniscule wages, sewing dresses or picking vegetables, they have had freedom and the opportunity of a better life taken away after being rounded up by Immigration Naturalization Services and deported back to Guatemala, Honduras, or Mexico.
These are only two examples of the travesties that occur daily in the land of opportunity and freedomthe Unites States of America. The United States was built by immigrants, many seeking a new life in a new land. Before 1882, anyone could move to the United States. As the population grew, however, the Federal government decided to control immigration. But they have done this in a very inconsistent manner, letting some people in from one country more than others from another country. The current U.S. immigration policy is immoral, unethical and inconsistent in its dealings with immigrants. Early immigration laws aimed to preserve the racial, religious, and ethnic composition of the United States, which was then largely European (Wilbanks, 1993, p.1).
The first immigration laws were aimed at nonwhites. In 1882, for example, the Chinese Exclusion Act suspended immigration from China for sixty years. In addition, in 1907, President Roosevelt, negotiated an informal gentlemans agreement with Japan, under which the United States promised to desegregate its California schools in exchange for the promise from the Japanese government to stop the immigration of its citizens (Anderson, 1998, p.2). Soon, however, Americans were complaining about European immigrants as well, especially those of eastern and southern Europe. As a consequence, Congress passed a new law in 1921 based on quotas; only a certain number of individuals with a given background or heritage could move to the United States. And only 30 percent of those could be from eastern or southern Europe (Anderson, 1998, p.2). Again in 1952, we see the same kind of discrimination when President Truman signed the McCarran-Walter Act.
Under this law, ideology became a criterion for admission. Political beliefs were questioned as the government sought to weed out people with even a marginally communist background (Wilbanks, 1993, p.4). In the last half of the century new laws emerged seeking to abolish quotas that discriminated against nationalities, replacing it instead with an overall limit of immigrants allowed into the country. These new policies, however, not only did not end discrimination and unethical treatment against immigrants but also touched off a serious illegal immigration problem. The latest and most extensive of these laws came with the 1996 Immigration Act which doubled the U.S.-Mexico border control force to 10,000 agents over five years and adds fences to the most heavily trafficked areas of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The controversy over immigration emerges between advocates of the open door policy and those who support restrictions on immigration. Those Americans who support restrictions on the number of immigrants allowed into the United States annually feel that our country is running out of room (Carr, 199, p.2). They also feel that we are being overrun by immigrants who intent on draining our resources. On the other hand, those who support an open-door policy, feel that the unethical treatment of immigrants must stop. These open-door supporters argue that the 700,000 immigrants allowed into the country annually is not enough.
This overall limit should be lifted and replaced with an open-door policy, which would allow any number of people in without question. These supporters also feel that shipping rafters back even if they are inches away from dry U.S. soil is immoral. And worse yet, deporting families who came here illegally but worked in the fields or did numerous other jobs that most U.S. citizens do not want to begin with is unethical. These policies demonstrate that this country has a hypocritical value system. On one hand we value our heritage and the fact that we are all descendants of immigrants overcoming enormous obstacles to come to the land of the free.
We value the ideal that Emma Lazarus penned on the Statue of Liberty when she wrote Send these, the homeless, the tempesttost to me, /lift my lamp beside the golden door! Now the consensus and un-American attitude has become shut the door behind you. We value our heritage so much that almost every generation has drawn up some barriers to immigration. Now we value keeping out the same people as our ancestors once were, looking for a better life and freedom. As pat Buchanan wrote in 1996 in a column against immigration, When did we vote to rid America of her dominant European culture? He supplies the answer to his own question: Never (Wilbanks, 1993, p.4). In a recent article in the Miami New Times, Defede (1999) writes that the immorality of Americas immigration policy exists not in its treatment of Cubans, but in its treatment of the rest of the world when compares with Cubans (Defede, 1999, p.13).
Defede feels that the United States is inconsistent with its immigration policy and is especially lenient towards Cubans. According to Defede, it is immoral to repatriate a Cuban refugee caught in the surf, so close to dry land and freedom. But he says the problem exists because the U.S. allows Cubans who reach dry land to stay in the U.S. and grants them residency 366 days after they arrived.
That is the lure that brings the Cubans and the promise that they risk their lives for. Eliminate this and the illegal immigration from Cuba would slow to a trickle, according to Defede. The U.S. policy towards Haiti, however, couldnt be any more contradictory. According to an editorial written in America (1992), a U.S.
District Judge tried to halt U.S* efforts to ship back some two-thirds of the 15,000 Haitians who had left their homes after the military coup that overthrew the government of Jean Bertrand-Aristide. The U.S. Supreme Court lifted the ban and the Coast Guard began removing more than 10,000 Haitian refugees being detained at the U.S* Naval base in Guantanamo Bay. This led to a hunger strik …