The Republican-controlled house has significantly decreased funds for border security, they same money they overwhelmingly approved just last year. Unsurprisingly, anti-immigrant groups such as Numbers U.S.A. have not questioned Congressional Republicans’ decision to de-fund border initiatives. TMP reporter Benjy Sarlinwith recently interviewed Numbers U.S.A. Director of Governmental Affairs Rosemary Jenks, who noted,”For an administration that’s decided it’s not a priority, it doesn’t make sense to throw money at them.”
Ms. Jenks is of course referring to President Obama’s administration, and by them she is referring to the Department of Homeland Security. Not only does her remark relieve Republicans of any responsibility in cutting security funding, but it is also utterly ignores the realities the current Administration’s strategy on the border.
Let’s be very clear here, the only thing Congress has done on immigration has been the earmarking of money for border security.
According to the United States Customs and Border Protection, since 2004 the number of “boots on the ground” along the Southwest border has increased by nearly 85% to 17,600 Border Patrol Agents today. In Arizona, where the current Governor has very publicly asked for more funds, the administration is currently putting a record number of border patrol agents in rotation, including more than 4,900 Border Patrol Agents, 900 Customs and Border Protection Officers, and 130 Air and Marine Agents.
Interior enforcement of immigration laws has also increased under the current administration: there have been a record 2,746 worksite enforcement investigations, more than doubling the 1,191 cases initiated in 2008. ICE also issued a record 2,196 notices of inspection to employers, surpassing the prior year’s record of 1,444 and more than quadrupling the 503 inspections in 2008. ICE issued 237 final orders – documents requiring employers to cease violating the law and directing them to pay fines – totaling $6,956,026, compared to the 18 issued for $675,209 in 2008. The total of $6,956,026 collected last year through final orders represents the highest amount issued since the creation of ICE in 2003.
Calming inflamed rhetoric on border violence is the first step in beginning work on fixing our broken immigration system. The mantra of “securing the border” feeds into the hysteria surrounding the southwest region and ignores the fundamental truth that the border has long been a positive space for commerce, trade and the movement of labor into and out of the country.
Furthermore the rhetorical excuse that the border is out of control is totally false. Our southwest border is doing fine. It is true that Mexico has a very real problem with drug cartels, but there has been very little spillover on the American side of the border. In fact, violence along our southern border has never been lower.
While border security is an important part of reform, it is by no means separate from, or a substitute for holistic change of an immigration system that members of the Republican party acknowledge is broken and needs to be fixed.
It is certainly easy for Republicans to raise the specter of out of control border violence as a means to score political points, but wouldn’t it make more sense to have a real conversation about ways to improve the border and our immigration system?
Let’s have a real discussion about moving forward with a plan that not only makes America safer but also creates a system that allows our country to continue to prosper and harnesses all of the positive benefits of legal immigration. If we concentrated on that, and if we created an alternative to illegal immigration, we probably wouldn’t have to worry so much about that “troublesome border.”