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Immigration Policy Center Explains Difference Between Border Security, Immigration Enforcement

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border securityThe Republican primary candidates convened for another debate yesterday (livetweeted here) and no surprise, their answers to the night’s immigration questions were the same old, same old.

One after the other, the candidates tried to explain why immigration reform simply could not be pursued until after the border is secure, ignoring the fact that the border is more secure than ever and declining to give any idea of when exactly the border might be safe enough for them.  We don’t know who they’re trying to fool. Voters — especially Latino voters — understand that their talking point is merely a perpetuated deflect designed to protect them from having to talk about immigration.  But still, the GOP continues to stick its collective head in the sand.

In an event entitled “Is the Border Broken? Rethinking the Conventional Wisdom,” also held yesterday, a panel of speakers at the Immigration Policy Center discussed the dangers of this sort of approach and tried  to decouple the problem of border security from that of immigration enforcement.

“Illegal immigration is NOT a security issue,” said Josiah McC. Heyman, the Chair of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Texas-El Paso.  “If we want to prioritize cracking down on immigration, we must separate it from security, and vice versa.”

Heyman, along with fellow panelists Terry Goddard, the Former Attorney General of Arizona; Eric L. Olson, Senior Associate of the Mexico Institute; and Mary Giovagnoli, Director of the Immigration Policy Center explained that politicians who were serious about securing the border would go after drug cartels.  This would involve persecuting money launderers, disrupting smuggling chains, and imprisoning whole organizations of offenders.

Marshaling the resources necessary to deal with this true threat, according to the panel, would mean that there would be no resources left to handle undocumented immigrants—nor should there be.  Undocumented immigrants, regardless of their positive or negative effects on the U.S. economy or social safety net, simply don’t have anything to do with security.  To waste limited resources going after them is to pursue a political agenda that forsakes true safety for an empty, xenophobic gain.

According to Heyman:

Security along the southwest border and across the whole nation requires that we focus on the critical role of targeted intelligence—slow, careful, long-term investigative work aimed at specific individuals and networks, focused on guns, money, and terrorism. This differs in crucial ways from the current approach to border security, which is unselective, inefficient, and massive: witness the costly and time-consuming, as well as inhumane, arrest annually of approximately 500,000 unauthorized migrants in the region, none of them terrorists and very few of them dangerous criminals.

An IPC blog summarizing the event concludes:

Anyone who lives in or near a border town can tell you that building a taller fence and investing yet more resources into chasing undocumented immigrants do nothing to address real threats to our security. Only by focusing enforcement resources on bringing down the cartels responsible for smuggling drugs, guns, money and people across the border can we say that we’re serious about security. Anything less—like conflating undocumented immigrants with crime—is just cheap political pandering to those, as Goddard describes, “whose real intent is not to fix the border, but to stop and reverse all immigration in the United States.”