Friday, July 19, 2024

Guest Blogger Series: Kristian Ramos “The Positive Steps Made In Making Our Southern Border Safer”

Why The Current Debate About Security Ignores The Positive Steps Made In Making Our Southern Border Safer

In the current debate over immigration there is near unanimous agreement that our system is broken.  With Congress currently split by party, one of the shrillest arguments before the American people is over securing our southern border before proceeding with any legislative reform on immigration.

Adding to this debate is Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), who recently wrote an editorial on immigration reform which perpetuates the two troubling notions.

1)      That our southwest border is out of control

2)      That securing it must occur before any legislative reform of our immigration system can take place.

Our southwest border is not out of control, it is true that Mexico has a very real problem with Drug Cartels, but there has been very little spillover on the American side of the border In fact, violence along our southern border has never been lower.

While border security is an important part of reform by no means is it separate from or a substitute for a long term, wholesale change of an immigration system that Senator Cornyn acknowledges is broken and needs to be fixed:

“What was missing during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night? I believe one of his biggest omissions was a credible commitment to border security and immigration reform.”

Everyone can agree that President Obama’s comments on immigration at the State of the Union were brief. What I cannot agree with is the notion that the President is not committed to making the border a safer region.

Let’s be very clear here, the only thing Congress has done on immigration reform has been the earmarking of money for border security:

According to the United States Customs and Border Protection since 2004, the number of “boots on the ground” along the Southwest border has increased by nearly 85% to 17,600 Border Patrol Agents today. In Arizona, where the current Governor has very publically asked for more funds, the administration is currently putting a record number of border patrol agents in rotation, with more than 4,900 Border Patrol Agents, 900 Customs and Border Protection Officers, and 130 Air and Marine Agents.

Interior enforcement of immigration laws have also increased under the current administration: there has been a record 2,746 worksite enforcement investigations, more than doubling the 1,191 cases initiated in FY 2008.  ICE also issued a record 2,196 notices of inspection to employers, surpassing the prior year’s record of 1,444 and more than quadrupling the 503 inspections in 2008. ICE issued 237 final orders – documents requiring employers to cease violating the law and directing them to pay fines – totaling $6,956,026, compared to the 18 issued for $675,209 in FY 2008. The total of $6,956,026 last year represents the most final orders issued since the creation of ICE in 2003.

Calming inflamed rhetoric on border violence is the first step in beginning work on fixing our broken immigration system. The mantra of “securing the border” feeds into the current hysteria surrounding the southwest region, and ignores the fundamental truth that the border has long been a positive space for commerce, trade and the movement of labor into and out of the country for a long period of time.  Alan Krieger, Mayor of Yuma, AZ has had to deal first hand with the corrosive effects of inflamed rhetoric along the border.

“The job creation opportunities for industries in Arizona and along the border are tremendous. If they [industry’s] don’t understand the truth of what is happening here, that it’s a safe environment, hundreds of thousands of families live and work here, that people cross the border every day [legally], thousands and thousands of people have jobs, they go back and forth [across the border]. Industry needs to understand that this is a safe environment and it’s not a wild frontier.”

Mayor Krieger’s quote underlines a missing element of the current arguments about immigration and the border.  While making the border safe is important, and it is currently being made safer by the President’s administration, it is not the only means of reforming our immigration system.

It is certainly easy for Senator Cornyn to raise the specter of out of control border violence as a means to score political points, but wouldn’t it make more sense to have a real conversation about ways to improve the border and our immigration system?

Let’s have a real discussion about moving forward with a plan that not only makes America safer but also creates a system that allows our country to continue to prosper and harnesses all of the positive benefits of legal immigration. If we concentrated on that, and if we created an alternative to illegal immigration, we probably wouldn’t have to worry so much about that “troublesome border.”

Kristian Ramos is a Policy Advisor at NDN who covers immigration, the border and Hispanic Demographics. Before working at NDN, Kristian worked in the United States Senate for Majority Leader Harry Reid in the Senate Democratic Communications Center. He is proud to say that he grew up in a South West Border City, and reports that it is not a war zone.




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