Migration and Refugee Services/Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Comprehensive Immigration Reform
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, there are currently 11.2 million unauthorized persons residing in the United States. Each year, approximately 300,000 more unauthorized immigrants enter the country. In large part, these immigrants feel compelled to enter by either the explicit or implicit promise of employment in the U.S. agriculture, construction, and service industries, among others. Most of this unauthorized flow comes from Mexico, a nation struggling with severe poverty, where it is often impossible for many to earn a living wage and meet the basic needs of their families.
Survival has thus become the primary impetus for unauthorized immigration flows into the United States. Today’s unauthorized immigrants are largely low‐skilled workers who come to the United States for work to support their families. Over the past several decades, the demand by U.S. businesses, large and small, for low‐skilled workers has grown exponentially, while the supply of available workers for low‐skilled jobs has diminished. Yet, there are only 5,000 green cards available annually for low‐skilled workers to enter the United States lawfully to reside and work. The only alternative to this is a temporary work visa through the H‐2A (seasonal agricultural) or H2B (seasonal non‐agricultural) visa programs which provide temporary status to low‐skilled workers seeking to enter the country lawfully. While H‐2A visas are not numerically capped, the requirements are onerous. H‐2B visas are capped at 66,000 annually. Both only provide temporary status to work for a U.S. employer for one year. At their current numbers, these are woefully insufficient to provide legal means for the foreign‐born to enter the United States to live and work, and thereby meet our demand for foreign‐born labor.
In light of all of this, many unauthorized consider the prospect of being apprehended for crossing illegally into the United States a necessary risk. Even after being arrested and deported, reports indicate that many immigrants attempt to re‐enter the United States once again in the hope of bettering their lives.
Adding to this very human dilemma is the potentially dangerous nature of crossing the Southern border. Smugglers looking to take advantage of would‐be immigrants extort them for exorbitant sums of money and then transport them to the U.S. under perilous conditions. Other immigrants have opted to access the U.S. by crossing through the Southwest’s treacherous deserts. As a result, thousands of migrants have tragically perished in such attempts from heat exposure, dehydration, and drowning.