I am wondering two things:

  1. Is it worth for them to cross the border with all the implications?.

Having in consideration that Latin American countries are corrupt but Democratic and the illegal immigrant will have to live in the shadows while he can have a normal life in his original country. I guess they don't have access to welfare as illegal.

  1. Do they affect the job opportunities for the American citizens?

Based on the assumption that they don't speak English and don't have formal education. If they don't, could a job program similar to the one used by the Eisenhower administration improve the current situation?

  • 1
    " I guess they don't have access to welfare as illegal." - that's not meaningfully correct. While technically the money side of social welfare is indeed not payable to illegal aliens, (1) They still get an incredibly costly (to taxpayers) set of benefits such as free public school education for their kids; law-and-order which is a public good; and medical care in ER facilities who have to treat everyone, with or without insurance. (2) It's quite easy to commit identity or document fraud and illegally obtain even welfare benefits in a fraudulent way.
    – user4012
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 18:04
  • @user4012: I didn't know about that, I edited the question with a strikethrough.
    – S182
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 18:51

4 Answers 4


You are asking a whole lot of questions here. I'll try and give a brief answer to them:

What kind of jobs do illegal immigrants do in USA?

The majority of illegal immigrants work in low-skilled jobs:

Nationwide, unauthorized immigrants are clustered in a few occupations, notably farming, fishing and forestry (26 percent of the workforce), building and grounds (17 percent), and construction and mining (14 percent). They comprise 24 percent of all groundskeepers, 23 percent of domestic workers and 20 percent of those in clothing manufacture.

In addition, they have carved out niches in certain relatively well-paid construction trades. They hold 34 percent of all jobs in drywall installation, 27 percent in roofing and 24 percent in painting. Passel also noted that many illegal immigrants who overstayed temporary visas have higher education levels that enable them to work in office or technical jobs.


Is it worth for them to cross the border with all the implications?

In that they are doing it, the answer would appear to be 'yes'. Keep in mind that many of these immigrants are coming from very rough situations in Central America. So rough, that risking their lives to make it across the border is seen as worth it.

Do they affect the job opportunities for the American citizens?

This is a hotly debated topic.

If they don't, could a job program similar to the one used by the Eisenhower administration improve the current situation?

What is the current situation you see is the issue?


A few other remarks to add to @blip's excellent answer:

  • One big factor is the gap in living standards/cost of life. Living a “normal life” in your home country means just scraping enough money for you. Living what appears to be a very unrewarding life on a minimum wage income in the US or Europe still leaves you with enough money to support your family (including parents, adult brothers and sisters, etc.) because a dollar goes a long way in Central America (or Africa).

    Migrants send a lot of money back home (and constantly receive solicitations to send more, for a wedding, a birth, a medical emergency, etc. in their extended family). In some countries/regions, sending the youngest and brightest, those who appear to have the best chance to “make it” can even be a strategy to secure the future of the family.

    You can see this effect even in situations where the gap is not nearly as large. Working a few months picking vegetables in Germany each year is enough for people from Romania to live comfortably for the rest of the year, build themselves a nice house and still have something left for their parents. The income is probably similar to what you can make as a professional in Romania and in fact the drain on qualified workers is a huge problem from the perspective of the “sending countries” (just for context: Romanian citizens can come and go and work in Germany completely legally without any visa or permit under European Union rules so their situation is quite different than that of illegal immigrants in the US).

  • Living in a rich country, even in a relatively precarious situation, also means your children have better odds of getting a good education, medical care if needed and generally living a better life than yourself. Everybody has a different story but many people make huge sacrifices for their families.

  • In spite of all the difficulties and efforts to scare people off, many potential migrants still have a rosy picture of life in first world countries. The contrast between the pictures you get from film and media and life in some poor countries is so stark that it's natural to think that among so much wealth, there must be a little something left for you. And if you try your luck, perhaps with some seed money from your family for the visa or for crossing the border illegally (see my first point above), you will do your utmost not to disappoint, send money and to some extent hide how difficult your life really is.

    It is again a completely different context but the people stuck in Calais, France and trying to cross the English channel to live in the UK have usually been on the road for one or two years, travelling across North Africa, Turkey or the Balkans, paying large sums of money to cross the border to the Schengen area, in many cases changing their final destination based on whatever information they could glean during the journey. This journey is incredibly tough but going back is simply not an option.

In all this, welfare really isn't a big factor in the decision to leave. Some people do use or even abuse it at some point but that's often something they discover after they arrived. Immigrants (legal and illegal) mostly come to work (and pay taxes).

Also, these remarks apply to “regular” immigration from some poor countries. Refugees from crisis area like Syrians coming to Europe at the moment (which is also the case for many of the people in Calais) are in a different situation obviously.


Illegal immigrants on average per household are a net yearly loss to American taxpayers of 14k per year. link

"Using fed's own statistics, jobs that are stereotypicaly thought to comprise mainly immigrants actually comprise mostly American citizens. Maids and housekeepers are 51 percent citizens; taxi drivers are 58 percent citizens, butchers 63, landscapers/ground workers 64, construction 66, janitors 73. There are a ton of statistics that show we have skilled students out of college in the STEM fields that can't find jobs because many are held by lower paid legal immigrants and visa holders." Source, Mark Levin's best selling book Plunder and Deceit.

  • 4
    Of course, that quote is from the Heritage Foundation. Which no one would call unbiased in their agenda.
    – user1530
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 2:49
  • 2
    How does the quote apply to illegal immigrants? As far as I can tell it's only talking about "legal immigrants and visa holders".
    – Geobits
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 12:37
  • 2
    College students cannot find STEM jobs because H1B visa employees are cheaper and cannot leave their sponsoring company. They aren't illegal immigrants, more like indentured servants.
    – user1873
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 14:23
  • 1
    @user1873 both sides can always be true. 'tis the nature of stats. :) H1Bs aren't necessarily cheaper. They can add a lot of overhead to an organization. I do believe the impression is that they are cheaper, of course.
    – user1530
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 18:56
  • 2
    @user1873, blip - Both are actually true. We have enough STEM graduates, but they're not the right kind. We're producing a lot of academic/theoretical/research-based STEM people, but that's not what industry is looking for.
    – Bobson
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 15:50

While it is not representative of the majority at all, most US illegal immigrants I have known were educated (undergrads) Canadians, Europeans or South Americans.

They were driven by a thirst of knowledge, improving their English, building a professional network and/or getting money to fund a project by playing the exchange rate (you can buy a house working at McDonalds).

I would also consider the wait times as a factor for illegality. Having been through this process two times, you need to be very patient.. not every one is.

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