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The Immigration Policy Center hosted a tele-conference with a panel of experts to discuss the definition of true border security Tuesday, February 12.With the release of proposals and benchmarks from Congress’ Gang of 8, border security is at the forefront of politics. The proposals call for an increase in resources, technology, and security along the border.
“The equation for ending illegal immigration always seems to point to increased border security,” said Mary Giovagnoli, Director of the American Immigration Council’s Immigration Policy Center.
“For many years some of the only legislation on immigration that Congress has been reliably able to pass are budget increases for more border security.”
Giovagnoli said the discussion is an opportunity to rethink what the border means and how to best protect it and the country.
Former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said “border security has never been defined by either political party. Without a proper definition,” Goddard said “it is open to any possible interpretation.”
“I’m most disserved about the provisions, the so-called trigger that basically says we are going to secure the border before we move onto any other aspects of immigration reform,” said Goddard.
“We’ve spent so much time on the border, discussing security in terms that only relate to people.”
Goddard said border security is concentrated on apprehending illegal crossers rather than focusing efforts on other crimes at the border such as smuggling of drugs, contraband, and United States currency, and human trafficking by cartels. Homeland security has intercepted approximately one percent of revenue from cartels.
“The number one thing that needs to be beefed of is our ability to intercept money that is being laundered across the border,” said Goddard.
Goddard said that cartels’ success is due to their resources. They generate considerable amounts of revenue that go toward technology which allows them to efficiently cross over the border.With the increase in border security, border crossings have become a market for organized crime groups.
“As we tighten border security, ironically [we] made it more lucrative for organized crime groups to enter into that illicit industry,” said David Shirk, associate professor and director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego.
Shirk explained that previously border crossing were “mom and pop shops,” meaning that any individual could potentially profit from border crossing. Over time as border security began to tighten, the business of crossing migrants became the market exclusively for organized criminals.
“There are no legal means, no legitimate means for them [migrants] to obtain a visa in a timely way, in an efficient way so they can come into the United States,” said Shirk.
By moving to establish a more efficient system for people to enter the country, Shirk said it would in turn weaken the cartels by removing their revenue source. In regards to increasing border security, Su Kim, advocacy associate for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, released a report stating many security benchmarks in regards to immigration have been met or exceeded.
“Each of these proposals, even though they haven’t passed, they failed to become law. The metrics and the benchmarks that were laid out, each of them have been met,” said Kim. The benchmarks have been very “people focused.” It talks about border personnel and the increase of it, it talks about what are the infrastructures in terms of fencing.”
Panelists agree that border security is more than an immigration issue.
“We need to be looking at the sources and root problems of what we’re dealing with before they get to the border, otherwise we’re not going to be able to resolve those issues,” said Shirk.