As immigration reform talks begin to dominate the conversation in Congress, the inevitable conversation about border security has as well. But what always seems to get lost in this conversation is the definition of “security.” Right now, the border is actually more secure than it’s been before, according to most experts.
What, then, will be the benchmark for “securing” the border before comprehensive immigration reforms can kick in?
“The incessant focus on security is largely, if not purely, a political ploy,” said Miguel Levario, a history professor focusing on the U.S.-Mexico borderlands at Texas Tech University. “What is hugely disturbing is how 9/11 somehow meant militarizing our southern border — when we all know the southern border had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.”
Levario notes that, in terms of infrastructure and personnel, the border is safer than it’s ever been. But the enforcement strategy advocated by many Republican lawmakers has one fatal flaw, he said: it’s likely that most of the illegal drugs are coming in through ports of entry in tractor-trailers and that most immigrants without papers are simply overstaying their visas.
So is the border “secure?”
Newly elected Texas Congressman Pete Gallego’s district stretches along 800 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas and spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña pointed out that, earlier this week, El Paso was ranked the safest large city in the United States for the third year in a row. When asked about Gallego’s position on border security, Acuña noted that Gallego is enthused about the bipartisan legalization effort, but also sees the benefits of enforcement.
On a recent tour of his district, conversations with Customs and Border Patrol officials led Gallego to believe that additional resources would be “helpful in modernizing these facilities,” she said.
Acuña emphasized to Politic365 that immigrants and immigration have a long and rich history in Gallego’s district, and that he supports comprehensive immigration reform above enforcement because, “the men, women and children who have long been a part of our communities should be allowed to earn a path to citizenship.”
Border security, when it comes to resources, is kind of a trade-off. On the one hand, these are federal jobs with federal benefits that are incomparable to most other types of employment people in border regions can typically attain. On the other hand, Levario points out that enforcement is something of a money pit meant to mitigate the flow of people and goods that are driven by economic forces more powerful than Washington’s need to play political football.
“The highly politicized rhetoric of immigration has conflated the discussion with border security and drug smuggling. these are three separate discussions and conflating them into a “one size fits all” only exasperates the problem and the ineffectiveness of past and current policies,” Levario said.