Good Start on Border Control, but Threats Without Teeth Can Bite

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One early success of President Trump’s promised hard line against illegal immigration is the decline in border apprehensions. This decline is being touted by the administration and credited by the media as evidence that a tough policy can be successful in deterring illegal immigration.

The current issue of the Atlantic monthly cites, “How Trump Is Upending the Conventional Wisdom on Illegal Immigration.” In support of its analysis, it cites “The Department of Homeland Security reports that illegal crossings across the southern border plunged 40 percent in the first month of the Trump presidency, the steepest decline in illegal migration since the recession of 2009.”

This commentary is logical, but it also can be misleading. A glance at the history of enforcement efforts against illegal border crossing offers a cautionary lesson. Passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 made it illegal for the first time for an employer to knowingly hire an illegal alien. This law served notice on employers that they no longer would be able to hire and exploit illegal workers. By thus denying jobs to illegal workers this law was supposed to deter them from coming into the country looking for work. That measure was also the justification for adopting an amnesty for those already illegally in the country.

The results – as measured by the apprehension of illegal aliens at the border – indicated that the measure was a success. That is, it was a success for about the first two following years. But, after that short hiatus, the flow of illegal immigration – again measured by border apprehensions – zoomed. What happened was that both employers and prospective illegal workers soon learned that the new law was toothless because counterfeit work documents took the employer off the hook of responsibility for knowingly hiring illegal workers.

The moral is that, if there is not follow up action by the administration in effectively enforcing laws against illegal immigration, a similar resurgence in illegal immigration is possible. If that were to occur, the administration’s pledge to combat illegal immigration would prove to be fangless.

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About Author

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Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).

9 Comments

  1. avatar

    Congressman Cruz had a good idea about how to finance the wall just confiscate the drug lords money when they are arrested. The one that broke out of jail recently i can’t think what his name is that the U.S. wants to bring to the U.S. for trial is worth 14 billion dollars. That would go a long, long way toward financing the wall it would almost pay for it no matter what kind of wall heavy duty wire that can’t be cut or a solid wall, it may have to be wire because a lot of the border patrol agents said they didn’t want something they can’t see through. In a way, Mexico will be paying for the wall.

  2. avatar

    Perhaps the most effective new policy
    is ending catch-and-release ‘asylum’.
    Do-it-yourself immigrants
    used to be able to surrender to the Border Patrol
    and then be released with a court date
    a few years later.
    Just walk across the border, surrender,
    claim asylum, and then walk free
    —never to be heard from again.

    But now there is no release:
    Unauthorized immigrants go directly to jail
    where they remain until their cases are heard
    or they agree to return to where they came from.

    NEW RULES FOR ASYLUM:
    NO ‘CATCH-AND-RELEASE’

    The elimination of ‘catch-and-release’
    might be one of the most important steps announced recently.
    The old practice allowed anyone to cross the border
    and surrender to a Border Patrol agent,
    saying that he or she fears harm
    if returned to his or her homeland.
    Then the unauthorized immigrant is released
    with a court appointment 5 or 6 years later.

    What do you suppose happened?
    The do-it-yourself immigrant
    faded into the general population of the USA
    and was never heard from again.

    Now the claim for asylum will be processed immediately.
    The person who just crossed the border
    will NOT be released into the general population.

    If past numbers are taken as a basis for future guesses,
    about half will have genuine reasons
    for being allowed to stay in the USA.
    Asylum will be granted if the refugee
    has a well-based fear of persecution or torture.
    Wanting a better life in the USA
    is not a sufficient basis for granting asylum.

    Of course, with immediate processing
    and no release into the general population,
    many people who misused the old system
    will simply not try under the new system.
    The news media will tell us how well
    CATCH-AND-PROCESS works.

    Early reports show fewer people entering without permission.
    Ending catch-and-release might be a major factor.
    Who wants to cross the border only to be put into jail?

  3. avatar

    Perhaps the most effecting new policy
    is ending catch-and-release ‘asylum’.
    Do-it-yourself immigrants
    used to be able to surrender to the Border Patrol
    and then be released with a court date
    a few years later.
    Just walk across the border, surrender,
    claim asylum, and then walk free
    —never to be heard from again.

    But now there is no release:
    Unauthorized immigrants go directly to jail
    where they remain until their cases are heard
    or they agree to return to where they came from.

    NEW RULES FOR ASYLUM:
    NO ‘CATCH-AND-RELEASE’

    The elimination of ‘catch-and-release’
    might be one of the most important steps announced recently.
    The old practice allowed anyone to cross the border
    and surrender to a Border Patrol agent,
    saying that he or she fears harm
    if returned to his or her homeland.
    Then the unauthorized immigrant is released
    with a court appointment 5 or 6 years later.

    What do you suppose happened?
    The do-it-yourself immigrant
    faded into the general population of the USA
    and was never heard from again.

    Now the claim for asylum will be processed immediately.
    The person who just crossed the border
    will NOT be released into the general population.

    If past numbers are taken as a basis for future guesses,
    about half will have genuine reasons
    for being allowed to stay in the USA.
    Asylum will be granted if the refugee
    has a well-based fear of persecution or torture.
    Wanting a better life in the USA
    is not a sufficient basis for granting asylum.

    Of course, with immediate processing
    and no release into the general population,
    many people who misused the old system
    will simply not try under the new system.
    The news media will tell us how well
    CATCH-AND-PROCESS works.

    Early reports show fewer people entering without permission.
    Ending catch-and-release might be a major factor.
    Who wants to cross the border only to be put into jail?

  4. avatar

    Time Magazine is Warming to Trump Too

    This week’s issue, page 76, on Donald Trump Disrupter in Chief states in part, “Where others would pivot, he stays true to who he is. Where others would turn back, he forges ahead. Up close, I have found a driven, hands-on leader, with the potential to become a truly transformational American figure. I have little doubt that he will, once again, find a way to defy the odds and get it done.”

    • avatar

      HAHAHAHA!!! Really?…what are you smoking? hahahaha!!! you crack me up so naive and in denial……let me try….NAFTA…changed his mind…..China….change his mind….. etc etc etc you must be a fanatic or a groupie…..

    • avatar

      I forgot the best one to make Congress a two term period … zippo……Software Engineer I have no idea what you are or have been eating……really hahahahahahahaha!!! WOW…..!!! you must be in love with the man….the only reason….love is blind…good for you!!! I respect that!!!

    • avatar

      Of course we have the democrats the guys you hate to stop and make balances….thanks for our forefathers…..but dont know for how long ….

  5. avatar

    I love that headline from the Atlantic about how Trump is “upending the conventional wisdom on illegal immigration”. Uh, hello? Conventional wisdom among who? Perhaps the same brain dead idiots who have been saying for years that cracking down on illegal entry doesn’t work and the only solution is more amnesty, aka “reform”?

    How old do you have to be to figure out that rewarding bad behavior only encourages more? You allow them to stay, give them welfare for their families, promise them citizenship and they will keep coming. You discourage them by saying they will be returned if caught and they won’t bother to come.

    Now the same idiots continue to say a wall is no solution. No one says it will stop everyone but it will make it much harder to cross, specifically the drug smugglers who have fueled a heroin crises in this country and caused chaos and death in Mexico. That country should be saying how soon can we start on a wall, because the cartels own their politicians and anyone who opposes them dies.

    The media is always shocked when Trump does exactly what he said he would do on illegals. Talk about bias. Last week Rachel Maddow blamed the rioting in the socialist paradise of Venezuela on Trump because the state oil company had contributed money to his swearing in ceremonies. Never mind that the country has been undergoing massive civil unrest going back years to the late Cesar Chavez, a Hollywood favorite because he was anti American.