The stories below are based off real client experiences. However, all names and specific details have been altered as a matter of privacy and confidentiality.
Republican politicians continually state that the U.S. needs to secure the U.S.-Mexican border before Congress can pass any other immigration reforms. This statement may rile up conservative supporters but it does not have much basis in reality.
There are more border patrol agents and miles of fence at the border than ever before in U.S. history. Overall, apprehensions and deportations at the border are higher. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are effectively securing the border. This should not be a hurdle in comprehensive reform. In fact, further security measures without reforms may hurt the U.S. and immigrants alike.
The militarization of the border, without any meaningful immigration reform, has led to several unintended consequences. First, it has forced people attempting to enter the U.S. without authorization to resort to drastic and often life-threatening alternatives. These people are forced to trek through rough desert terrain to cross the border. Many others are forced to use smugglers who may have no concern for immigrants’ health or safety.
Additionally, due to the increased security and the danger of entering the U.S., many people are forced to remain in the U.S. rather than return to Mexico. It’s important to understand the motivations for Mexican and Central American migration to the U.S. The motivations are overwhelmingly economical or relate to a fear of their home country. Migrants have families and few opportunities for employment. There only hope of providing for and protecting their family is to migrate to the U.S.
Take for example, Oscar. He lived in rural southern Mexico. His family owned a small batch of land for farming. The family barely grew enough crops to feed the family. There was rarely enough to sell. Oscar lived in a one room house with his wife and two children. The house had dirt floors, and his family had limited access to running water. He had nothing to support his family. He has little education because he was forced to help his family at the farm growing up. He could not find jobs elsewhere in Mexico because of his poor education and his status. He had no business connections and no transferable work skills. So he traveled to the U.S. Were he met a cousin, who helped find a job for him in the agricultural industry. Oscar sent money back to his family for support. He wanted to visit them, but he knew the dangers of crossing back to the U.S. and the likelihood of getting stuck in the same Mexican poverty as before. So he stayed. Eventually, his family joined him in the U.S. and stayed also.
The U.S. does not need more border security, it needs smarter border security and comprehensive reform. It needs to consider the motivations for migration, like Oscar’s, and encourage lawful immigration through expansion of temporary worker visa program and other programs. It also needs better training for its border agents.
Instead of actually addressing the real issues, Republicans in Congress recently introduced a border bill increasing the amount of fencing along the border and setting priority deadlines to increase security. The director of the Department of Homeland Security called these priorities “unworkable” and “not a serious effort at legislating border security.” Furthermore, we are about two weeks away from a potential DHS shutdown, which would force the agency charged with securing our borders to operate without sufficient funding. Congress is playing politics rather than debating the issues and passing comprehensive reform that would go a long way in resolving some of the most pressing immigration issues.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. If you are in removal proceedings or need legal advice on your immigration case, please contact an immigration attorney.