America’s southern border has challenged policymakers for decades. The 1,951-mile U.S.-Mexico border spans deserts, rivers, and urban areas and is annually bombarded with tens of thousands of people trying to illegally enter our country, many of whom come from Venezuela, Colombia, and Honduras.
Illegal immigration has played an increasingly important role in recent presidential elections, with candidate Donald Trump making bold promises in 2016 to build a 1,000 mile long border wall – and send Mexico the bill.
Trump’s wall never fully materialized. Only approximately eighty miles of it covering areas previously without a fence were constructed during his administration.
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Those who understand the roots of America’s immigration woes know the underlying issues go much deeper than a failure to erect physical barriers.
America’s immigration laws – which grant rights to asylum seekers and dictate punishments for illegal entrants – are the true driver of illegal immigration.
The controversy surrounding the expiration of title 42 (commonly referred to as the “remain in Mexico policy”) demonstrates just how important these laws are.
Title 42 was a Covid-era policy implemented by the Trump administration that did not carry the weight of the law. On its face, Title 42 aimed sought to minimize immigration while communities across the nation struggled to prevent transmission of the virus – although progressive activists argued the pandemic was an excuse for Trump to take otherwise impossible border action.
What existed before Title 42 – and what is permanent immigration law – is Title 8. It makes illegal entry a misdemeanor, puts those who enter again on a five-year ban list – and gives prosecutors the ability to charge those caught a third time with a felony.
Democrats are caught between a rock and a hard place politically on this issue – where the realities of governance clash with the idealogical ideals of the party’s progressive base. There is also selective interpretation, as Barack Obama‘s “Immigration Detention Centers” became Trump-era “Kids in Cages,” which in turn became Biden era “Migrant Child Facilities.”
Progressives decried Trump’s policies as racist throughout his administration. For example, a 2019 Time magazine column was entitled “Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric Was Never About Legality — It Was About Our Brown Skin.”
President Joe Biden set himself up for a crisis. Years of Democratic rhetoric supporting illegal immigration had a predictable effect – leading to more illegal immigration once a Democrat was in office. That was clearly illustrated by the radical increase in border patrol encounters with illegal aliens after Biden took office.
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While border encounters are not the end-all-be-all statistic for illegal immigration analysis, (because administrations can structure policies to minimize encounters in order to make the numbers give a false impression), they are in line with other information about the increase in illegal immigration.
Last month, U.S. Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz testified to Congress that the federal government doesn’t have “operational control” of the border – i.e. that the border is not secure. His warning came shortly after a whistleblower within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told Congress the agency lost 85,000 unaccompanied children – two thirds of whom are believed to be exploitatively employed in violation of child labor laws.
The recent actions of Democratic lawmakers indicate the American people – Democrats included – are alarmed by the state of the southern border. During the 2022 midterm elections, numerous victorious Democratic candidates – including U.S. senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania – broke from Biden on immigration. Fetterman told Politico in April 2022 that “we should not end Title 42 until we have a detailed plan in place.”
“There’s having things on a piece of paper and then what is going on on the southern border — and there is a huge disconnect,” Kelly told the publication.
The practical concerns of these lawmakers – many of whom anticipate immigration playing an important role in their next election – are not shared by all in power, as was demonstrated in 2021 when the Biden White House leveled false allegations that U.S. border patrol agents whipped Haitian immigrants while chasing them on horseback.
Despite an investigation indicating there was no merit to the allegations, the White House has yet to apologize to the agents falsely accused – or to the agency.
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This public relations snafu – likely the result of ideologically driven White House staffers buying too much into their own rhetoric – shows the sway the anti-immigration enforcement wing has (or had) within the White House.
It seems that political realities weigh heavier on Biden administration officials as they prepare for the 2024 presidential election. They implemented new standards that mimic title 42 rules as the Trump era policy expired.
Immigration reporter Alicia Caldwell of The Wall Street Journal summed up Biden’s rules, saying, “those who cross illegally, and haven’t asked for protections in other countries by and large won’t be eligible – they’ll face swift deportation.”
The administration also announced plans to build immigration processing facilities in Central and South America to preemptively process asylum requests – and has asked for more resources for border patrol use.
While progressives decry this policy (the ACLU sued the government over it) and Republicans continue to disparage the president’s poor handling of the issue – the reality is any permanent solution for this problem must come from Congress.
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The roadblocks in the way of possible reform are significant. For the millions of illegal aliens who have lived in America for years – and for the employers who rely on their labor to operate their businesses – a path for naturalization is a must.
Advocates on both sides of the aisle argue that legislation similar to Ronald Reagan‘s immigration reform and control act of 1986 – which temporarily slowed illegal immigration through the creation of an easier path to legal immigration – should serve as a model for new legislation.
There aren’t many feasible solutions that do not involve naturalizing large swaths of illegal immigrants. But doing so without reforming the larger legal framework that led to millions of illegal entrants breaking into the country would only encourage further illegal immigration.
The Republican party – a group one might expect to have advanced meaningful immigration reform given their rhetoric – hasn’t made major legislative headway on the issue.
Prior to Trump’s presidency the GOP was dominated by corporatist neoconservatives, whose donors were the beneficiaries of the cheap labor illegal immigrants provided. Couple this with the fact that Democrat strategists – still operating under the impression that Latin American people would vote blue, assumed that the naturalization of illegal immigrants would be a political boon for their party.
It soon became apparent why neither party was motivated to change the status quo.
Trump’s populist success blew up both party’s assumptions. His calls to restrict immigration – legal and illegal – were born of an economic-nationalist desire to decrease competition within the American labor force and subsequently drive up wages. This was a message that both the Republican base – and Latin Americans – supported in unexpected numbers.
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This shift left traditional Republican think tanks and policy centers spinning. Should they continue to push neoconservative open-borders solutions favorable to the corporate class? Or should they promote policy that would unequivocally empower law enforcement to dam the flow of illegal immigrants by fundamentally reshaping what is currently a catch and release system?
The failure of GOP leadership to make a meaningful push for reform when it held all three branches of government between Trump’s inauguration and the 2018 midterm elections speaks volumes about the party’s inability settle on a solution. Also, it’s hard to gauge where Republican legislators currently stand since they don’t have to do the hard work of advancing legislation – and can just pile on the current administration’s failures.
If Biden’s policy pivot successfully smothers the influx of illegal immigration, the issue won’t play the outsized role it is poised to play in the 2024 presidential election. Should he fail, candidates in competitive districts across the nation will be forced to defend or reject his handling of the southern border – and Trump will undoubtedly redouble his argument to the American people that Biden’s failure to secure the southern border contributed to the nationwide spike in violent crime and drug overdoses.
Should comprehensive border reform be addressed legislatively, it will be relatively easy to generate support for nationalization of immigrants who have successfully integrated themselves into American society. A Fox News post 2020 election poll found that 71 percent of Americans support legal status for undocumented immigrants.
A purely economic analysis would suggest that this opinion is well-founded. As America’s geopolitical rivals Russia and China face the serious threat of demographic collapse, America is one of the only developed nations to have a growing population – and that is a good thing.
To put it in perspective, economists don’t have models which aren’t predicated on perpetual GDP growth – and one of the driving factors of this perpetual growth is perpetual population increase.
China currently sits on the brink of economic disaster largely because it does not have a rising young consumer generation to drive its domestic economy. Immigration prevents the United States from suffering a similar fate – given that Americans are currently reproducing well below a replacement birthrate.
Legislation aimed at processing visa applications more rapidly – as well as the faster adjudication of backlogged immigration court proceedings – would help solve this issue and discourage visa overstays.
It would be unfortunate if naturalization is not coupled with (an admittedly less politically viable) reassessment of the rights of refugee and asylum seekers, as well as appropriate (and mandatory) penalties for those who attempt to illegally enter the country. The urgent need for this reform was recently demonstrated by an illegal immigrant who’d been deported four times already allegedly killing five of his neighbors in Texas.
Once this fundamentally flawed system is reassessed, investments in physical barriers like Trump’s wall will truly be worth discussing.
Given the hard realities legislators must stare down to fix this issue – and the lack of will to address the issues demonstrated by decades of legislative inaction – don’t expect much.
The breakdown of the rule of law on America’s southern border benefits nobody – gang members and terrorists are free to enter the country with large quantities of narcotics, as well as to engage in widespread human trafficking activities, all of which threaten American citizens.
Undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom are good people who aspire to build a better life in America, are victimized by this system too, since there are no guarantees that the cartel affiliated coyotes who control the border crossings on the Mexican side will not kill or rape their clients.
Reagan once said, “a nation without borders is no nation at all.” That is ironic given his failure (and the failure of all Republicans who came after him) to materially address this issue. Still, Reagan was right.
The U.S. must have a border that effectively prevents violent cartels from superseding the rule of law. FITSNews understands the importance of informed conversations about this complicated issue, and is committed to continued coverage.
We also plan on traveling to the border in the very near future as part of that coverage. Stay tuned …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
(Via: Coleman Rojhan)
Dylan Nolan is the director of special projects at FITSNews. He graduated from the Darla Moore school of business in 2021 with an accounting degree. Dylan primarily covers education when he isn’t producing video content. Got a tip or story idea for Dylan? Email him here. You can also engage him socially @DNolan2000.
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