Refugees vs. Economic Migrants
An economic migrant moves in order to improve his life; a refugee moves in order to save his life, specifically out of fear from State persecution.
Refugees make up a relatively small percentage of annual immigration to the U.S. (see Rosemary Jenks' chart). Most immigrants (including most illegal immigrants) are economic migrants; relatively poor by our standards, but not facing life or death situations.
Immigration Can Not Cure the Third World
We could triple current levels of immigration, destroy our infrastructure, environment, and quality of life (from overcrowding), and barely make a dent in the lives of the billions of people for whom immigration will never be an option. If we want to help the poor people of the Third World, we have to help them where they live. See Roy's gumball demonstration for more.
Does the U.S. Take in Too Many Refugees
The U.N. told Congress in 1995 that the U.S. takes in too many refugees, undermining the first goal of the U.N.'s refugee program: to return refugees back to their homelands:
Voluntary repatriation is the preferred long-term solution for the majority of refugees. Most refugees prefer to return home as soon as circumstances permit (generally when a conflict has ended), and a degree of stability has been restored. UNHCR encourages voluntary repatriation as the best solution for displaced people, providing it is safe and their reintegration is viable. - [UNHCR]
Understandably, few refugees in the United States wish to return home because they grow accustomed to a higher standard of living.
Refugees are allowed on the basis of humanitarian concerns and must be looked at not primarily based on their financial burden on the country but on their need. For decades, large percentages of refugees have entered on the basis of fraud or without certification as internationally recognized special needs refugees (the kind that are supposed to be considered for resettlement instead of repatriation). Especially during rising unemployment, the State Department should ensure that only refugees who have been deemed as incapable of ever returning to their homeland should be resettled here.
A smart, reduced immigration policy would make the U.S. more capable of absorbing our share of the world's legitimate refugees.