Article

Mending a Broken System

Border Security in the Age of Immigration and Security

Border enforcement is a necessary, yet insufficient solution for security and immigration reform. We need comprehensive immigration reform now.

The United States has traditionally embraced and welcomed immigrants into this land of opportunity. Yet recent policies have done little to honor this tradition. The backlog of people waiting to enter the country has grown to more than a million people, and currently around 12 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States.

In the wake of Congress’ failure last year to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation, and in the shadow of continuing debate regarding how to make our country safer, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing today on one controversial component of the issue: border security.

Enforcing our borders is a necessary element of a comprehensive immigration reform plan, but implemented alone this strategy is costly and ineffective. Despite tripling the size of the U.S. Border Patrol along the southern border between 1990-2005, the undocumented population doubled in size, the death rate of border crossings tripled, and the per-apprehension cost increased from $300 in 1992 to $1700 in 2002.

Comprehensive immigration reform must include a expanded opportunity for legal entry—including a path to earned legalization—for individuals who are willing to apply for multi-year temporary status, maintain a job, pay taxes, obey the law, learn English, and clear criminal and terrorism background checks.

Experts agree that the current enforcement-only approach to immigration is not helping our security. The Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy magazine surveyed national security experts from across the political spectrum last year; 70 percent agreed that improving the visibility of the flow of people and cargo through ports of entry is the best way to improve U.S. security, while only six percent said that they would opt for building a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Time to Act, a report on the implementation of the 9/11 Commission recommendations released this month by the Center for American Progress, outlines a more effective strategy for our borders. We need more U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents along borders and at ports of entry, equipped with better technology, real-time information, and organizational support.

Border security and immigration reform are integrally linked. To enhance U.S. border security, Congress needs to end its divisive and futile debate regarding immigration and adopt a more realistic and less ideologically-driven approach. We need meaningful, comprehensive reform to protect our security, allow our economy to grow, protect the wages of U.S. workers, honor our value of rewarding hard work, and restore the rule of law and respect America’s traditional embrace of immigrants.

Contact our experts Dan Restrepo and P.J. Crowley for additional information and comments:

For TV, Sean Gibbons, Director of Media Strategy
202.682.1611 or sgibbons@americanprogress.org

For radio, Theo LeCompte, Media Strategy Manager
202.741.6268 or tlecompte@americanprogress.org

For print, Trevor Kincaid, Deputy Press Secretary
202.741.6273 or tkincaid@americanprogress.org

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