Advantages & disadvantages of illegal immigration

Written by lena freund
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Advantages & disadvantages of illegal immigration
Farm workers receive health care from the Salud Family Health Centers' mobile clinics in Colorado in 2009. (John Moore/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Illegal immigration is a much-debated issue on the American political scene. Proponents of rights for undocumented workers claim that the majority of illegal immigrants to the United States are loyal and hard working, and should be given a path to legal residency. Detractors claim that illegal immigration irreparably harms the U.S. economy and environment, and allows undocumented residents to put a strain on the job market and on public institutions.

Seeking Better Lives

Legal immigration to the United States can be an arduous process. There are many forms to fill out, interviews to go to and visas to get. The entire process can be lengthy; according to the U.S. State Department, it is impossible to predict the exact amount of time that the immigration process can take. If an applicant does not follow all instructions to the letter, then the immigration application can be denied completely. For potential immigrants who are desperate to support themselves and their families, this time period can be daunting. Though moving to the United States illegally to work may be an advantage to the immigrant, there are many Americans who do not look at it in a positive way.

Supporting the Economy

Another advantage of illegal immigration is that it supports the U.S. economy. According to Glenn Loury, a professor of economics at Brown University, undocumented workers are relatively unskilled and often find work in the restaurant and hospitality industries. Employing them allows employers to keep costs down and count on a steady source of workers in fields that many Americans feel themselves too skilled to work in. Expelling five per cent of the country's workforce --- around 11 million people --- would be economic suicide for the country, according to Loury. However, Andrew Sum, an economics professor at Northeastern University, quoted in "The Jobless Effect: The Toxic Mix of Illegal Immigration and Unemployment," stated that in times of recession, illegal immigrants do displace many American workers, especially men under age 25 who do not possess college educations and advanced skills.

Public Services

The National Center for Policy Analysis claimed in 2003 that illegal immigrants were placing a strain on the health care system in many areas along the Mexico border. Employers in these areas are often aware of their employees' illegal status, since illegal immigrants do not have driver's licenses, passports or Social Security numbers. Many employers pay their undocumented employees in cash in order to avoid the IRS. Yet, undocumented workers send their children to state schools and make use of local health clinics, parks and other resources. Taxpayers support public services such as schools, parks, hospitals and health clinics and illegal immigrants constitute a strain on the system since they often do not pay taxes that support services.


According to a Center for Immigration Studies paper by Steve Camarota, illegal immigration will cause the U.S. population to increase by 25 million people by 2060. Many American cities are already overpopulated, and suburbs are expanding into more and more once-rural areas, creating sprawl, crowding and traffic problems. A massive increase in population, according to Camarota, would contribute to the destruction of open space and to overcrowding.

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