National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

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NYT Edit: False Victory at the Border

July 05, 2008 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin

If our goal is to have an immigration system that almost all rational intending immigrants choose to go through rather than around, then we need to do more than just focus on fencing and boots on the ground at our Southern border.  Today’s lead editorial in the New York Times makes this point superbly.

Immigration policy has mostly been directed by opponents of legal immigration for the last two decades.  They have helped bottle up legal immigration channels so that they can then shout bloody murder at the resulting illegalities in the labor market.  They direct all the focus on the fence –”The Great Wall of Chihuahua,” which the Supreme Court says can be built with no consideration for any laws, foreign or domestic — and on the Border Patrol force than cannot recruit, train, and deploy agents at nearly the rate the do-little Congress has authorized.  Add substandard detention conditions, massive and record-setting round-ups, and truncated or non-existent due process for those swept up, and you have our current approach to controlling and regulating immigration.

But how effective is it?

The National Guard is leaving the border at the end of the month. And even though the border states want them to stay, the Bush administration is declaring victory. That’s how good things are down there. 

Too bad, though, that the results that restrictionists predict from victory — an end to illegal immigration, the expulsion of illegal immigrants, the restoration of jobs to American workers, the protection of American culture and language from a Hispanic invasion — are not coming anytime soon. That’s because fixing immigration has very little to do with any of the hustle and bustle along the 2,000-mile line from San Diego to Brownsville, Tex.

According to research by the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California, San Diego (summarized here) more than 90% of intending immigrants from Mexico get through the gauntlet at the border somehow.

Maybe establishing law and order in our immigration system is more complicated than just focusing on the border, enforcement, and deportation alone.

This is not to argue for giving up on enforcement. The real victory will come when a repaired, well-patrolled border coincides with a repaired, well-run immigration system that requires undocumented workers to come forward and be legalized, has expanded avenues for legal workers, including would-be citizens, and cracks down on illegal hiring as staunchly as it protects workers’ rights.

There is a long list of things to do to make the immigration system correspond to American values and economic realities, and the country is doing just about none of them. We’re paying a huge price to pay for an ineffective fence and some symbolic victories on the border. — “False Victory at the Border,” New York Times editorial, July 5, 2008

Well said, Grey Lady.

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