Benjamin Johnson, Director of the Immigration Policy Center, discusses the futility of an enforcement-only approach to immigration reform and the need for a more comprehensive strategy to deal with the problem of undocumented immigration. In this new "Perspective," he argues that immigration cannot be treated simply as a law-enforcement issue. Rather, the United States must begin managing immigration as a national resource.
The U.S. government's efforts to stem undocumented immigration by fortifying the U.S.-Mexico border have increased the profitability of the people-smuggling business and fostered greater sophistication in the smuggling networks through which a foreign terrorist might enter the country. U.S. national security would be better served if undocumented labor migration were taken out of the border-security equation by reforming the U.S. immigration system to accommodate U.S. labor demand.
Most of the border-enforcement and immigration-reform proposals currently being considered in Washington, DC, are not comprehensive or adequate solutions to the issue of undocumented immigration. The process of North American economic integration, and development within Mexico itself, create structural conditions that encourage Mexican migration to the United States. Read more...
Congressional representatives who supported H.R. 4437—the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005—are most likely to represent districts with relatively few undocumented immigrants.
In the United States, human traffickers most frequently exploit the desperation of undocumented immigrants as a means of obtaining victims. Until recently, their lack of legal status precluded undocumented trafficking victims from receiving government protections typically available to other crime victims and kept them from remaining in the United States to assist in the prosecution of their abusers.
A proper understanding of the causes of international migration suggests that punitive immigration and border policies tend to backfire, and this is precisely what has happened in the case of the United States and Mexico. Rather than raising the odds that undocumented immigrants will be apprehended, U.S. border-enforcement policies have reduced the apprehension rate to historical lows and in the process helped transform Mexican immigration from a regional to a national phenomenon. The solution to the problems associated with undocumented migration is not open borders, but frontiers that are reasonably regulated on a binational basis.
The current crisis of undocumented immigration to the United States has its roots in fundamental misunderstandings about the causes of immigration and the motivations of immigrants. A growing body of evidence indicates that current border enforcement policies are based on mistaken assumptions and have failed. Undocumented migrants continue to come to the United States, rates of apprehension are at all-time lows, and migrants are settling in the United States at higher rates than ever before. Developing effective and realistic immigration policies requires overcoming five basic myths about immigration.
New proposals for more fencing and Border Patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border may only perpetuate an unsuccessful and counterproductive policy that does not effectively enhance national security or control undocumented immigration.