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Report: Defining 'secure border' is key to immigration reform in Congress

Defining Border Security in Immigration Reform
July 29, 2013

As the U.S. House takes up the issue of immigration reform following passage of a related U.S. Senate bill, a new report from the Morrison Institute Latino Public Policy Center titled, "Defining Border Security in Immigration Reform" examines the question: "What is a 'secure' border?"

The report by Mike Slaven notes:

"For an immigration reform bill to work, majorities in Congress need to commit to border-security standards that are reasonable and attainable. More fundamentally, though, the debate on border security needs to move beyond the pitfalls that have made agreement about this issue so difficult. Political leaders need to engage in the kind of precise discussion about when or how exactly the border can be considered sufficiently 'secure,' which has not been determined as of yet."

The report looks at apprehensions of undocumented crossers over the years in Arizona and elsewhere, as well as "triggers" related to enforcement standards and metrics to determine the "effectiveness rate" in helping Congress and its constituents reach the elusive agreement on a "secure border."

In a recent op-ed article, center director Joseph Garcia wrote:

"This likely is not the only chance for real immigration reform, but it may well be the best chance for a long time. Any delay toward the 2014 elections shifts Congress’ motivational balance from 'pragmatic solution' to 'political problem' – especially for the House, with all 435 seats on the ballot.

"Perhaps a good starting place for Congress today is acknowledgement that the U.S.-Mexico border is the most secure it has been in more than four decades, when a more porous border was considered acceptable. That fact is not in question. The big question is, realistically speaking, how 'secure' is 'secure enough?'"

Garcia said concisely defining a “secure border” is the lynchpin to any comprehensive legislation that would lead to a pathway to citizenship or legal residency for the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. 

"Otherwise there are just too many vague notions floating about for any actual immigration reform to take firm shape, and the only thing secure will be continuation of a broken system and all the consequences that come with it," Garcia said.