Blog & Updates
An Open Letter to the Tea Party
March 07, 2011 - Posted by Ali Noorani
Ali Noorani was invited to speak on Border Security and Immigration Reform at the American Policy Summit of the Tea Party Patriots, on February 26, 2011. Joining him were Andresen Blom of the American Principles Project and Norman Adams of Texans for Sensible Immigration Policy. Based on his remarks at the Summit, below is an open letter to the Tea Party:
The National Immigration Forum wants to end illegal immigration. Like every member of the Tea Party, we are frustrated by inaction by our federal government, and we worry about the direction of our great country.
A combination of politics, bureaucratic incompetence, and a failure to listen to common sense has stood in the way creating a national immigration strategy that meets our nation’s needs. The taxpayer, the small business owner, the family working hard to make ends meet, all of us, are watching our tax dollars disappear into an immigration money pit where federal waste, mismanagement and government intrusiveness are the standard operating procedure.
As a result, our deficit bankrupts our present and our future. Our neighbors struggle to find jobs while our economy sputters along. Meanwhile, our tradition of liberty is threatened by an archaic immigration system that is almost half a century old and cannot maintain the rule of law for the 21st century.
Instead of fostering the free market, supporting small businesses, rewarding good employers who play by the rules, and preserving the sanctity of the family, our immigration system fails to meet our nation’s needs and the vision and tradition of our forefathers.
· We want a secure border but Washington allows our tax dollars to be spent on gimmicks not solutions.
· We want a secure border, but Washington hasn’t created the right policies to prevent guns going south and drugs coming north.
· We train the best and brightest students in the world, and then our immigration system promptly sends them overseas to create companies that take American jobs.
· We encourage employers to create good paying jobs, but our immigration system allows unscrupulous employers to exploit workers of all backgrounds.
· We believe in family values, but our immigration system takes mothers from their children.
Today I write in the interests of developing smarter enforcement and smarter solutions that create a national immigration strategy in line with our values.
Let me begin here: The National Immigration Forum wants smarter immigration enforcement that keeps our nation and our communities secure, ensures our long term economic prosperity and honors America’s heritage as a nation of laws. We stand alongside sheriffs and mayors in recommending immigration policies and laws that increase public safety and prioritize scarce resources – our taxpayer dollars - towards stopping those who threaten to harm our communities and families. We have supported bi-partisan immigration reform bills that required serious measurements and accounting of border security.
Security benchmarks, identified in 2007, have been met. Yet our immigration system remains in need of repair. Here’s why:
Beginning in 1994, the federal government began to invest enormous resources into border security along the southwestern border. Since then, we have spent over $75 billion on border security and at least $50 billion on interior security. Even as we spent and continue to spend billions and billions of tax dollars the number of people here illegally grew from 4 million to nearly 12 million.
If our federal immigration system were a private enterprise, it would have gone out of business a long time ago. Clearly, enforcement alone has not solved and will not ever solve the problem; a different kind of solution is needed.
But, before we talk about what we need to do, let’s talk about what we have done:
· Border patrol has more than doubled its force on the Southwest border. Going from 8,580 in 2000 to over 17,500 agents in 2009.
· 1,200 National Guard troops patrol the southwest border, as well as thousands of federal law enforcement agents from nearly every federal law enforcement agency.
· There are over 649 miles of border fencing, 139 Border Patrol stations, 21 Border Enforcement Security Teams, and 37 Border Patrol checkpoints.
· On the lookout for unlawful traffic are electronic surveillance and communications equipment, including 10,000 ground sensors, as well as sensor towers, mobile surveillance systems, and thousands of cameras with infra-red night vision.
· A total of 290 aircraft are deployed daily for surveillance, along with mobile surveillance systems and remote video surveillance.
This massive outlay of resources continues in spite of the fact the border has seen fewer illegal crossings in 2010 than any year since 1972 – due in large part to a faltering economy.
While illegal crossings are lower than ever, threats still exist. Today we face powerful cartels that smuggle money, guns and drugs across the border, often preying on immigrants seeking a better life.
After examining Department of Justice data, the Texas Border Coalition found that the probability of a person involved in criminal activity crossing the border between the ports of entry being apprehended is 70 percent; but the probability of a person involved in criminal activity crossing at the ports of entry being apprehended is about 30 percent. This glaring difference exists despite overwhelming evidence that most criminal activity takes place at ports of entry. They estimated that 90% of illegal drugs enter the U.S. at ports of entry, which also serve as the conduit for the bulk of cash and guns being smuggled into Mexico.
For politicians in Washington, pictures of bridges and roads at ports of entry aren’t as exciting as pictures of fences and Border Patrol in the desert. As a result, our ports of entry have been neglected.
This misallocation of border resources has economic implications.
A 2006 study estimated that wait times at the border due to insufficient lanes, inspectors, and technology at ports of entry results in about $2 billion in lost economic output in the San Diego region alone, every year. Each additional 15 minutes of wait time at ports of entry represents an additional $1 billion loss in productivity and a loss of 134,000 jobs in the bi-national border region.
In summary, the border security benchmarks that Congress identified in 2007 as a prerequisite for an immigration overhaul have been met at the expense of security and trade at our ports of entry.
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has broken every record for arrests, deportations, and worksite audits and just like the border, at an enormous cost to the taxpayer. Last year, more non-citizens were deported than ever before – almost 400,000 people, making for 1,100 people per day removed from our country. But, more than half of them had no criminal history.
Most American taxpayers would be stunned to learn that the Administration spends $23,000 to deport a single immigrant. Thus, removing 400,000 a year comes at an enormous social and fiscal cost to our country. Studies show it would cost $285 billion over 5 years to remove the entire undocumented population – without accounting for lost economic activity in cities and towns across the country. Just to hold immigrants in detention now costs the taxpayers an average of $122 per detainee per day, for a grand total of $2 billion a year—and this money is feeding a growing for-profit prison industry.
We should not be wasting enormous sums of our tax money detaining and deporting landscapers and dishwashers who want to pay taxes, learn English and contribute to their new home.
Spending our way out of illegal immigration is not sustainable. Our taxes will increase, and our government will find new ways to intrude in our lives in their effort enforce outdated immigration laws.
Now is the time to fix the underlying problem – the absurd laws that masquerade as an immigration “system.”
But Congress – whether it is led by Democrats or Republicans – has failed, time and again, to successfully grapple with the problem of our broken immigration system. If this Congress is serious about reigning in out of control Washington spending and trimming the deficit, they need take a different approach and create a national immigration strategy that:
· Creates a functional system for immigrants to go through and not around;
· Allows us to focus enforcement resources on threats to our safety and security.
· Allows small businesses to focus on creating jobs and rebuilding our economy, not forced to act as unfunded immigration enforcement agents electronically “patting down” each and every one of us.
· Requires those here illegally to pass a criminal background check, learn English, pay a penalty and register for legal status before waiting up to 15 years to become a citizen, saving taxpayers more than $4.5 billion per year along the way.
This kind of national immigration strategy would create $1.5 trillion in economic growth and output over 10 years (leading to over 750,000 jobs).
Meanwhile, the broken status quo will cost us $2.5 trillion over 10 years in lost growth. That $4 trillion swing makes for 4 trillion reasons why Democrats and Republicans need to stop the bickering and get to work on fixing our broken immigration system.
I close this letter with Article II, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, “The Congress shall have Power to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization.”
Our nation’s fiscal health, our free markets and our liberty depend on Congress coming together to fix our broken immigration system so, we have a uniform rule of naturalization that adheres to our nation’s values and moves us forward together.
The Tea Party, whose adherents love America and her liberty, have a home in the movement to reform our broken immigration system. Join us in creating a system that honors our great American tradition of the melting pot while staying true to the founders’ vision of America as a nation of laws.