Center for American Progress

Incorporate Robust Safeguards and Enforcement for Immigration
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Incorporate Robust Safeguards and Enforcement for Immigration

Comprehensive immigration reform must make enforcement—at our borders, ports of entry, and in the workplace—a priority.

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Comprehensive immigration reform must make enforcement—at our borders, ports of entry, and in the workplace—a priority. Reforms must ensure that our borders and ports of entry are protected against those who seek to do us harm. They must also establish mechanisms that, while respecting the rule of law, make clear to employers and employees alike that unauthorized employment will not be permitted.

Effective border security requires that we expand legal avenues for entry into the United States. Converting the migration flow demanded by the U.S. economy into a regulated flow would enhance enforcement efforts immeasurably by significantly reducing the number of people seeking to enter the country illegally.

Even with a reduced flow of immigrants, the expanse of our borders and the difficult terrain which they encompass demands that we facilitate the Border Patrol’s security mission by deploying effective technology that make our border enforcement efforts “smarter.”

Taking pressure off the borders also requires reforming workplace enforcement efforts because a majority of those in the country illegally are here to work. Until very recently, however, workplace enforcement was practically non-existent, eliminating any real deterrent to employers violating U.S. laws by hiring undocumented workers.

In a reformed system, to be effective, worksite enforcement must crack down on those who employ undocumented workers, not just the workers themselves. Focusing in isolation on unauthorized workers simply leads to churning within the undocumented population. Unless there are meaningful negative consequences for employers, such churning and slap-on-the-wrist fines will become costs of doing business and will not contribute to a reduction in undocumented immigration.

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