As countless reports and briefings by now have noted, the US-Mexico border is more secure than ever. Even though a 2007 immigration reform bill did not pass through Congress and become law, every border security benchmark from that bill has since been met or exceeded. Yet many legislators who find it more convenient to sit on their hands and do nothing continue to use “border security first” talking points as an excuse to delay pursuit of immigration reform.
Today, as advocates put it, the border came to Capitol Hill to set the story straight. Local elected officials, faith leaders, civil and human rights experts, and business leaders from both the northern and southern US borders joined 200 people living and working in border areas for a day of advocacy. The advocates came from as far away as El Paso, Texas, and Washington State, to explain to lawmakers the reality of life on the border and to ask for immigration reform that is about more than just increased enforcement.
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and a longtime supporter of immigration reform, spoke about the need for legislation that includes sensible border enforcement practices that makes sense for families and immigrants:
We have broken so many families up. It’s time to put a mechanism in comprehensive immigration reform that begins to unify our families and bring our families together. [. . .] The problem, to talk about enforcement, is a problem that everybody on the border knows so well: no transparency. No due process for families. Detention policies that you can’t understand or get redress for. An issue of no checks and balances, of self-policing by Border Patrol. If that’s the litmus test for immigration reform, then do it in a way that allows immigrants and their families to look at an agency that is transparent.
Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a freshman Democrat from Texas, echoed the sentiment that increased border security and immigration reform should go hand in hand. As he asked:
What does a secure border look like? The fate of millions of people depends on this question. A secure border looks like El Paso, Texas, which is one of the safest cities in the nation. Cities are safe not despite of their immigration populations but because of them. These immigrant communities tell us why we need to move forward with immigration reform.
Today’s event followed yesterday’s House hearing on border security, held by the Committee for Homeland Security.