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Sociological Views on Illegal Immigration

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Sociological Views on Illegal Immigration

Throughout human history there have been many theories developed in the attempt at understanding and explaining human behavior, no one theory is without flaws but each one provides a unique view on human interaction and society as a whole. The idea that society's parts work together in order to maintain a status quo and meet social needs is called functionalism, functionalism is about cooperation and interdependence. In sharp contrast to functionalism, conflict theory states that individuals are out to promote their own self-interest, and that conflict, not cooperation is what motivates society. Symbolic functionalism analyzes the way members of society communicate and the subjectivity of everything from religion to language. Each theory has its own merits and problems, as they are all unique ways of looking at the same thing. Illegal immigration is a hotly debated issue as of late and sociologists that subscribe to each of these theories have argued the pros and cons of illegal immigration and its effects on society as a whole as well as the individual. When looking at illegal immigration through each of these theories, there is a sharp contrast between the conclusions a person will reach through each theory.

"From each according to their ability, to each according to his need" (Marx and Engles) is an often quoted idea originally written by Karl Marx. Marx believed that capitalism was inherently oppressive and that a society could only be free when the members of society are freed from their class struggle. Although it can coexist with capitalism, functionalist theory is along the same lines as Marx's theory; in functionalist theory there are groups of people who are all interdependent on other groups (Layton), they all play their own role and by playing this role they are advancing society toward meeting their own social needs. Solidarity is the staple of functionalism, society is an organism and each group of that society is a vital organ (Urry). Groups work together to form social order and advance the greater good. Equilibrium is the goal of a society (Durkheim), and it can only be reached through cooperation and interdependence between each and every social group and class. The wealthy and powerful depend on working class people to put money, work, and trust into society in order to maintain equilibrium just as the working class people depend on the powerful to establish governing laws and programs that are generally considered fair and widely accepted. If the working class individuals lost trust in society and no longer worked toward maintaining equilibrium there would be no money or trust in the laws and social programs set up by the powerful making them useless. If the powerful individuals in society established unfair and unjust laws that oppress the less wealthy and powerful people then the social needs of society as a whole would not be met because the social needs of a certain group cannot be met. Hegemony is the only thing that gives power to societies laws, money, and general well being; this idea forces the government and the powerful members of society to earn the trust of the working class, because without this trust they could have no power. Societies have formed throughout history with the goal of meeting social needs that could not be met otherwise; there have always been individual groups with something unique and vital to contribute to the society as a whole. Without this contribution there could be no equilibrium and a society would not be able to function until a new equilibrium was met.

Illegal immigration has become a more and more commonly debated issue, there are strong opinions on both sides of the argument. Functionalism would seem to favor illegal immigration, or at least more open borders because there are so many industries dependent upon the labor of illegal immigrants. Since America became America society has been reliant on the work of immigrants and these immigrants, however that is not to say that immigration has not been met with firm opposition. Although there is and always has been a large group of American citizens who are adversely effected by and therefore strongly dislike the idea of immigrant labor, these laborers have established themselves in our society and have formed their own social group which other social groups have become increasingly dependent upon. A new equilibrium was formed because jobs available to immigrants have historically been low paying and required very little skill, instead focusing on physical labor. Ever since the Irish were an oppressed minority that could not get a well-paying job there have been industries that capitalized on their desire to work and earn a wage. Because these industries seized the opportunity to hire workers at a fraction of the cost of what they would otherwise pay they have become dependent upon them. If cheap immigrant labor were to all

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