For the second year in a row, more illegal immigrants were caught entering the country than the year before, mostly along the US-Mexico border. The numbers are nowhere near their pre-recession peak, but they are unmistakably trending upward. This has heightened the battle between Republicans and Democrats over whether immigration reform should focus first on fixing the border or on clarifying the status of illegal immigrants already in the country. The WSJ reports:
Some Republican lawmakers have said aggressive approaches, such as another doubling of agents or construction of a full border fence, should be part of any such measure, noting what happened in 1986, when Congress allowed people in the U.S. illegally to stay only to see more waves of illegal immigration….House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) is considering introducing a version of the Senate bill that strips out the amendment ramping up border security and swaps in the House panel’s measure committing no money upfront until a border strategy has been established, a House Democratic aide said.
In reality, it is the lack of effective border security, and not the confusing status of illegal immigrants, that is the immediate cause of the illegal immigration problem. And while it’s true that the root cause is the large economic disparity between the US and some other countries, realistically speaking, that problem isn’t going away fast enough to have an impact on immigration in a policy-relevant time frame. Therefore, fixing border security is from a practical standpoint the sine qua non of effective immigration policy.Regularizing the status of illegals is necessary, but politically and practically it cannot be done without fixing the border. At this point in time, the sense that liberals are opposed to border security is the biggest obstacle to a realistic immigration deal. Good faith efforts at regulating entry and preventing more mass waves of illegal immigration from the left remain the key to addressing the status of illegals.Fortunately, there is no principled reason why good faith bipartisan efforts on this issue could not succeed. We live in hope.[US-Mexico border photo courtesy of Shutterstock]