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Border Enforcement

The Fallacy of "Enforcement First"

Immigration Enforcement Without Immigration Reform Has Been Failing for Decades

Opponents of a new legalization program for unauthorized immigrants living and working in the United States frequently claim that we must try “enforcement first.” That is to say, we must adequately enforce the laws on the books before we can contemplate the formulation of more reasonable laws. This stance is nonsensical for two reasons. First of all, it ignores the fact that the unworkable nature of our immigration laws is itself facilitating unauthorized immigration; so it is illogical to hope that stronger enforcement of those unworkable laws will somehow lessen unauthorized immigration. Secondly, the “enforcement first” perspective conveniently overlooks the fact that the United States has been pursuing an “enforcement first” approach to immigration control for more than two-and-a-half decades—and it has yet to work.Read more...

Published On: Thu, May 09, 2013 | Download File

Border Patrol Agents as Interpreters Along the Northern Border: Unwise Policy, Illegal Practice

By Lisa Graybill

Advocates along the Northern Border report a recent, sharp increase in the use of U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents to provide interpretation services to state and local law enforcement officers and emergency responders. This most often occurs when an officer or responder encounters an individual who does not speak English and proactively reaches out to USBP for assistance. But it has also occurred when USBP agents respond to an incident report in lieu of, or in addition to, local law enforcement officers. In other cases, USBP agents have reportedly begun responding to 911 emergency assistance calls, especially if the caller is known or perceived not to speak English. Much of this activity appears to have been precipitated by the fact that the U.S.-Canada border has undergone a dramatic transformation, including an influx of newly assigned USBP agents.

Immigrants, their advocates, and community members are reporting—and official statistics confirm—that there are simply too many USBP agents on the ground, apparently with too much time on their hands, who lack adherence to stated priorities.

This special report by Lisa Graybill for the Immigration Policy Center lays out the problems with border patrol agents serving as translators and make recommendations intended to promote Title VI compliance, maintain the integrity of the USBP mission on the Northern Border, and protect the rights of immigrants and their families who call the Northern Border home.

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Published On: Tue, Sep 25, 2012 | Download File

How to Fix a Broken Border: A Three Part Series

In this three part series, former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard assesses current threats to our border security and calls for a coordinated, multi-dimensional, bi-national approach to cracking down on cartels. Goddard's suggestions for federal action include targeting cartel money, closing money-laundering loopholes, pursuing cartel leaders, and focusing border security on ports of entry.

Download the Executive SummaryRead more...

Published On: Thu, May 17, 2012

The Border: A Resource Page

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Published On: Fri, May 04, 2012

Authority of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agents: An Overview

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was established in 2003 as an arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It combined agents from the U.S. Customs Service, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service and agricultural inspectors, who monitor the ports of entry, and the U.S. Border Patrol, who monitor the area between ports of entry. Today, CBP is the largest law enforcement agency within DHS, with more than 58,000 employees. As federal officers, CBP agents may only exercise the authority granted under federal statutes and regulations. This fact sheet provides a snapshot of search, interrogation, and arrest powers currently authorized under the law. Read more...

Published On: Thu, Feb 23, 2012 | Download File

Fiscally Irresponsible: Immigration Enforcement without Reform Wastes Taxpayer Dollars

Many political pundits, GOP presidential aspirants, and Members of Congress want to have it both ways when it comes to federal spending on immigration. On the one hand, there is much talk about the need for fiscal austerity, and a Congressional “super-committee” is currently working on slashing federal spending in order to reduce the deficit. On the other hand, even though the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) just announced a record high number of deportations, some still want to increase federal spending on immigration enforcement; putting more Border Patrol boots on the ground, completing the border fence, and deploying an array of high-tech gadgetry. However, they miss one very important fact: piling on more immigration enforcement without immigration reform is a practical and fiscal dead-end. Read more...

Published On: Wed, Oct 19, 2011 | Download File

Guns, Drugs, and Money: Tackling the Real Threats to Border Security

By Josiah McC. Heyman, Ph.D

The external borders of the United States matter to security, but how and in what ways is neither automatic nor obvious. The current assumption is that borders defend the national interior against all harms, which are understood as consistently coming from outside—and that security is always obtained in the same way, whatever the issue. Some security policies correctly use borders as tools to increase safety, but border policy does not protect us from all harms. The 9/11 terrorists came through airports with visas, thus crossing a border inspection system without being stopped. They did not cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Future terrorists would not necessarily cross a land border. U.S. citizens and residents, and nationals of Western Europe, also represent an important element of the terrorist threat, and they have unimpeded or easy passage through U.S. borders. Fortified borders cannot protect us from all security threats or sources of harm.Read more...

Published On: Mon, Sep 12, 2011 | Download File

Is More Getting Us Less? Real Solutions for Securing our Border

By Eric L. Olson and David Shirk

Ongoing reports about Mexico’s bloody conflict with organized crime have raised again the question of whether the United States should do more to prevent such violence from “spilling over” into the country.  While officials have documented few cases of actual “spill over,” fears of exploding violence in Mexico and concerns about illegal migration are driving a policy debate that is centered on “securing the border.”  To whit, President Barack Obama announced last May the deployment of 1,200 more National Guard troops to enhance border security, and requested an additional $500 million from Congress to further modernize southwestern border security.  In August, the U.S. Congress approved a $600 million “Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010” in near record time.  The question is whether such policy actions are effective. 

Published On: Tue, Feb 15, 2011 | Download File

Explaining the Recent Decline in Unauthorized Migration

Immigration Enforcement in a Time of Recession

Recent estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center indicate that the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States has declined by roughly one million since 2007—bringing the total size of the unauthorized population to approximately 11.1 million.  Coming after the release of similar estimates by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in January, these figures have provoked considerable speculation as to how much of the decline is attributable to the current recession, and how much is the result of heightened immigration enforcement.  DHS, for instance, was quick to take credit for the drop, citing the money and manpower that have been poured into immigration enforcement by the Obama administration.  However, immigration researchers were just as quick to point out that unauthorized immigration has always responded to the state of the U.S. economy, and that the downward trend captured by both Pew and DHS matches up closely with the beginning of the recession in December 2007Read more...

Published On: Thu, Sep 09, 2010 | Download File

Back to the Border: A Historical Comparison of U.S. Border Politics

By Katherine Benton-Cohen and Geraldo Cadava

During the spring and summer of 2010, America’s broken immigration system erupted into national news headlines as a result of the passage in Arizona of a sweeping anti-immigrant law (SB 1070), growing concerns over drug-related violence along the U.S.-Mexico border, and calls in some quarters for a repeal of the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship.  While these events might seem new, the issues involved—unauthorized migration, labor disputes, violence, federalism, and constitutional rights—have played out over and over again, particularly along the border.  Back to the Border provides analyses by two historians who situate today’s controversies within the context of the broader history of the border region.   Understanding that history not only allows us to make sense of the complex issues behind the current rhetoric, but also demonstrates why it is necessary to go beyond the rhetoric and search for lasting solutions.

The following “Perspectives” by historians Katherine Benton-Cohen and Geraldo Cadava compare and contrast conditions and incidents along the Arizona border in 1917, 1976, and 2010.  The similarities between the three eras are startling.

Published On: Thu, Sep 02, 2010 | Download File