To Improve Border Security US Needs Real and Lasting Immigration Reform

Despite the political rhetoric, there is, of course, no legitimate crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, just the endless task of policing the international border. There is, however, a crisis in leadership as President Donald J. Trump continues to dig in. But to be completely fair, there is also a lack of leadership on the other side of the aisle, where Democrats seem unable to shape their own cohesive border security message.

As social scientists who have spent many years analyzing immigration and border security issueswhile living on the Mexico border, we want to emphasize the facts with regards both to the wall and the much more important issue of comprehensive immigration reform.

Our purpose is not to argue a 2,000-mile concrete wall won’t work – others have enumerated the reasons – but to highlight the fact that both sides agree that our immigration system is broken, but neither seems headed in a productive direction.

A consideration of the past suggests what’s ahead and what may need to be done.

History of Immigration Legislation

The last time a U.S. president passed comprehensive legislation on immigration was in 1986 when Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).

Among other things, IRCA legalized undocumented workers who had been residing in the U.S. since 1982, required employers to hire only workers who were legal, and made it illegal to recruit undocumented immigrants. No new illegal workers were to be allowed in. IRCA never worked very well, and both political parties failed to achieve their bipartisan objectives.

Twenty years later, under President George W. Bush, Congress again passed new legislation, theSecure Fence Act of 2006, with bipartisan support. About 650 miles of border wall was constructed along with hundreds of miles of secondary fencing based upon the recommendations of Customs and Border Protection.

A lesser known, but ill-fated attempt to provide additional border security was the Secure Border Initiative Network (SBI-net), a system of cameras, sensors, towers, mobile units, satellite phones, and computers managed by Boeing. The program was plagued with procurement issues that led to technical problems, such as equipment ill-suited to the harsh Southwest climate.

By Stephen Coulthart and Robert Lee Maril for THE GLOBE POST

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