Center for American Progress

‘Border Security First’ Mantra Thwarting Progress on Border Security
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‘Border Security First’ Mantra Thwarting Progress on Border Security

It is past time to put aside the tired "border security first" expression and start working on comprehensive solutions to fix the system.

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Opponents of comprehensive immigration reform argue that we need a fully secure border before we can systemically overhaul our immigration laws. Ironically, the “border security first” mantra is actually thwarting progress on border security.

The argument to delay broader immigration reforms until the border is secure relies on the following dubious assumptions:

  • Congress’s current “operational control” standard—implying absolute control of the border—is realistic and achievable.
  • The American public will reject practical legislative reforms unless and until the border is fully secured.
  • The administration has failed to demonstrate adequate commitment to border enforcement to justify broader reforms.

The evidence belies each of these points, and our recent brief examines them in turn. It also shows—as the Center for American Progress has done before—that the Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, met and exceeded stringent enforcement benchmarks that “border security first” supporters laid out in legislation that failed to pass Congress in 2007.

It is past time to put aside this tired expression and start working on comprehensive solutions to fix the system.

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