The number-one policy most Americans think of in response to illegal immigration is securing the border. It has become a reflexive rallying cry that border security has to come first, before any other policy, to deal with the estimated twelve million immigrants who live in the country. As most experts know, this is an impossible condition to meet; thus the border-security- first mantra has become an obstacle to reform.
Begin with the fact that the border is not the main problem, given that nearly half of illegal immigrants don’t cross the border illegally. America could seal the border so tight that not a single coyote could cross again, but millions of people could still travel legally and then overstay their visa terms. Securing the border is at best one plank in the larger security discussion and, arguably, the least important plank. I’ve often held that if America had an efficient ID system the so-called problem with undocumented workers would be solved in an instant. The key word is undocumented; just add verifiable documents and there’s no need for sealing the border.
This issue of Peregrine asks what other security reforms would be most effective. Securing the border is given equal consideration, and I am just as curious as everyone else to know if adding more resources there is still necessary. After investing billions of dollars of fencing and patrol agents, maybe the returns are diminishing to zero. I have my own opinions, but what do a score of immigration experts think? Our survey gives a fascinating answer.
This issue includes a long-form essay by Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the Migration Policy Institute, that explains the shift in how the United States has handled deportations in the past two decades. We also have essays by John Cochrane, Sylvia Longmire, and Tom Church.
Security matters. It matters so much that it shouldn’t be used as a red herring to prevent action on everything else that matters. The world has changed since America was attacked on 9/11, and it’s long past time to acknowledge that the United States has made measurable progress in improving its border security. With little progress on interior security, the net outcome has locked millions of immigrants in, meaning inside the border and inside a shadowy status ripe for exploitation.
The Hoover Institution’s Conte Initiative on Immigration Reform conducts a quarterly survey of leading thinkers. Survey Respondents were asked what they would tweet when placed 'at the intersection of immigration policy and national security, what is the one policy or law that you recommend doing (or undoing)?'
For a more detailed analysis on this issue’s survey findings, click here.