Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it isn’t. I have known a pretty substantial number of illegals from south of the border, and it’s not always desperation that drives them. Sometimes it’s “getting ahead of the Joneses” (of their own country)
Mexico, for example, is not a third world country, and isn’t counted as such by any international standard. Wages are about 1/3 what they are here, but so is the cost of living. The unemployment rate in Mexico is actually lower than ours.
There are, however, a number of attractions. A very substantial number of illegals save their money here and use it to live large where they came from. I know one guy from Guatemala, for example, who lives with ten other guys in a house and spends almost nothing. He works a tremendous amount of overtime. He sends the money to his wife in Guatemala, who is buying up banana-growing land there. I know a father and son who are buying land near Mexico City and planting peach trees there. I asked him how much peaches cost in Mexico City, and he told me “about the same as here”. So he and his son are going to live large when they get their orchard expanded to the degree they want, or at least that’s their plan.
I have known illegals whose plan is to buy a store in their home country, and American money speaks with a very large voice in their home countries when it comes to buying something like that.
For many, many Latin Americans coming here to work, it’s to get that “currency/wage differential”, sort of like American oil workers who go to work in Kuwait for a few years and then come back greatly wealthier than the American oil workers who didn’t. But who could credibly maintain that they have a “moral right” to work in Kuwait? The country with the highest per capita income (other than an oil state) is Lichtenstein, or so i understand. Lichtenstein is not very big on letting foreigners become citizens. Who would say I have a “moral right” to citizenship in Lichtenstein just so I could maybe make four times what I make here and live better than my fellow Americans?
It isn’t all desperation. I have my doubts that desperation is even the biggest factor. Moving back to the home country and being well ahead of their neighbors, I think, is.
On the other hand, I recently met a couple from Macedonia who did it the legal way. Took them years. They have no intention of ever moving back to Macedonia, and are enormously proud of being Americans. In their home, it’s the rule that only English is spoken because they don’t want their kids to lack English skills. They worked in restaurants until they could finally buy a little restaurant of their own. Their restaurant has a giant American flag flying over the door, with two big spotlights on it. Both are citizens now.
There may be some merit to making people earn it, and there may be something to giving preference to people who really do intend to become Americans.