It is estimated that some twelve million immigrants are in the U.S. without authorization.
More important, Why are they here in the first place?
Fixing a "broken" system means addressing the causes of migration.

The United States currently has about twelve million people who are in the country without authorization. We often hear about the "broken" immigration system, but what is actually "broken" that needs fixing? Until we can address the basic causes of migration, we will never resolve this issue.

The immigration debate has focused mainly on two often opposing approaches:

Finding the right balance calls for an understanding the causes and process of migration itself. As we look around our own neighborhoods and towns, we can see that the vast majority of people have come from other locations in their lifetimes. Why do very few of us still live in the communities where we were born? Very few want to leave their families, friends, and familiar way of life to go to strange places and start a new life. Not only people raised in America move from one neighborhood or town to another, but more than one in every ten people have come from other countries to work and live in our communities. It is important to remember that when people move to new locations, they also bring their experiences and ideas. America is a nation of immigrants, and as our history, these different perspectives offer new potentials to us all for creative solutions to life challenges.

There are certainly challenges to how people with different ways can function together in the same society. It is always easier when people think and behave the same way, but this has never the case... as every family or community easily recognizes. The reality is that people themselves are different yet expect everyone to be the same, the group cannot work effectively together. This expectation has many costs to both the individual and the society. First, it simply results in personal unhappiness and social conflicts. Second, it denies all of us the potentials that others have to offer, particularly creativeness in resolving life challenges and developing a more satisfying way of life. History shows that those societies that define themselves narrowly and are intolerant to differences ultimately fail, such as Nazi Germany. On the other hand, those societies that are open to the contributions of a wide variety of potentials tend to thrive over time, such as the United States since its founding.

We all have the human right to find our own balance, but we all also have to find ways of functioning effectively with others for the benefit us all. The United States was founded on this principle, and this has been the challenge of humans all over the world since the beginning.

The ultimate challenge in the immigration debate, then, is how can we work together to find a balance that works for us all?

In considering how to fix America's broken immigration system, what do we want in reforms?

America's Immigration Legacy (video)
The Immigration Debate
Case for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, A Resource Guide (PDF)
The Many Facets of Effective Immigration Reform (PDF)
Immigration Ground Zero


The same social and economic forces that brought our forefathers to America
are still operating around the world today.
The immigration issue will never be resolved until we address the causes of migration.

In the immigration debate, the unasked elephant-in-the-room question is Why do people migrate in the first place? Have you moved in your lifetime? Do you know the migration history of your own forefathers? Do you know someone in your family, neighborhood, workplace, or place of worship who has moved? Why do people leave familiar ways and go to strange places? Did you know that U.S. international policies are a major factor in driving global migration? Have you talked with immigrants about why they have come?

We will never resolve the immigration issue until we address the causes of migration!

Why Are They Here? (PDF)
The History of Human Migration, New World Encyclopedia
Migration, The Economist (video)
The Roots of Migration: Why are migrants leaving home?, Witness for Peace (video)
The Roots of Migration: The North American Free Trade Act, Witness for Peace (video)
The Roots of Migration: What is happening to communities?, Witness for Peace (video)
An Age of Migration: Globalization and the Root Causes of Migration, One America
NAFTA and Migration, National Forum, Vol. 74 Issue 3
The Rights to Development: The North-South Divide
More losers than winners from WTO's free trade, Third World Network
The Economics of Necessity, American Immigration Council
Irresistible Attraction, The Economist, Vol. 365 Issue 8297
The changing face of America, Seattle Times

Why do some propose open borders? ...particularly between countries that have free trade agreements?

In addressing the immigration issue, Baldemar Velasquez, a leader in the Immigrant Rights movement, states that the current immigration system is designed to benefit rich corporations at the expense of workers. He has proposed a Freedom Visa where workers have the same rights as corporations to cross the borders between countries that have trade agreements in the search for the economic well-being of all concerned.

Workers Without Borders, New York Times (PDF)
Why restrict immigration at all?, Christian Science Monitor

Also see, Who Are the Anti-Immigrants?

* No personal information is collected on this and other course-related pages. You may use these materials in your own personal research and learning, though I'd appreciate your giving me credit.

© Dr. Ken Barger, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Indiana University Indianapolis, 2011