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Senators’ Border Tour an Opportunity to Inject Facts Into Immigration Debate

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With Border Security at Record Highs, Now is the Time to Tackle the Rest of Immigration Reform

Four Senators from the bi-partisan “Gang of Eight” that is drafting immigration legislation will tour the U.S./Mexico border at Nogales, AZ today.  After their visit, Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will hold a press conference.  With all eyes on the Senators, they have an important opportunity to explain the true state of security along our nation’s southern border and what other reforms are needed to our immigration system.

“For years, the only action Washington has taken on immigration has been to throw boots and money at the border.  Now, independent experts say the border is more secure than ever.  But we still have a broken immigration system.  The missing piece—and the centerpiece of the immigration reform we need to see from Congress—is a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.  Tackle this issue, and reform legal channels so that future immigrants have a way to come legally, and we will finally bring control and order to the current system,” said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice Education Fund.

A recent report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) found that the border-security requirements included in both the 2006 and 2007 Senate immigration reform bills “have now been met, and in most cases surpassed, by the investment of unprecedented resources in border security efforts.”  Additionally, resources and spending at the border are already at a staggering level.  A study released earlier this year from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) found that nearly $18 billion federal tax dollars were spent on immigration enforcement just in 2012 – a figure greater than the amount spent on every other federal law enforcement agency combined.

The MPI report noted, “the ‘enforcement first’ policy that has been advocated by many in Congress and the public as a precondition for considering broader immigration reform has de facto become the nation’s singular immigration policy.”  In an op-ed in the Washington Post timed to coincide with the release of MPI report, Doris Meissner, one of the report authors and former INS commissioner, wrote, “Even with record-setting expenditures and the full use of a wide array of statutory and administrative tools, enforcement alone — no matter how well administered — is an insufficient answer to the broad challenges that illegal and legal immigration pose for America’s future.”

The myth of an insecure border is purposely advanced by anti-reform policymakers and advocates.  For example, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) stated in January that he remains opposed to a larger immigration reform effort, saying “people need to know we’ve done everything we can do to secure the border.”  According to Jordan Fabian of ABC/Univision, Senator Cornyn went so far as to raise the specter of 9/11, noting that “the ‘porous’ border could leave the U.S. ‘vulnerable to the sorts of attacks that we sustained on 9/11.’”  Cornyn and other “border security first” messengers are no doubt aware that their rhetoric doesn’t match the reality of security and spending at the border.  Instead, they want a stated rationale for obstructing reform and are using the specter of a porous border as a convenient excuse for inaction and getting to “no.”

“Let’s get real.  Border enforcement is already at record levels.  Claiming that we cannot do other parts of immigration reform until we do even more on enforcement is just a Washington way of opposing something while pretending you aren’t.  That’s classic Cornyn.  Let’s hope others in his party realize that Americans aren’t looking for excuses, but action.  They want a law that resolve the issue once and for all—a law that includes citizenship for 11 million Americans-in-waiting,” Tramonte concluded.

America’s Voice Education Fund– Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform