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Preliminary Data from the Migrant Border Crossing Study
Conclusions: What is security?
Increased border enforcement has dominated recent discussions about immigration reform. The idea that reform can only happen once the border is secure raises troubling issues, not least of which is a lack of understanding of what a secure border means. While developing security metrics is a start, whatever is decided will only encompass a small portion of what security might mean for different groups. Is a secure border one where nothing and no one that is unauthorized can pass through it?
An impermeable border is impossible if the United States and Mexico expect to maintain or expand trade and economic development. Are there other options, such as promoting economic development in Mexico and Central America that provide people with the option not to migrate, commonly referred to as, “el derecho de no migrar”? Rather than assert that more border enforcement is necessary to proceed with immigration reform, we would like to re-visit what border enforcement aims to accomplish.
While the official mission of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is to prevent terrorism*, this is hardly its day-to-day task. The moment the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) was replaced by the Department of Homeland Security as the umbrella organization for the USBP, they became part of a security oriented organization rather than an organization that provides a service. We need to re-examine what this means for our goals in regard to border security, immigration procedures and for border communities that live with the consequences of national strategies* *.
The Migrant Border Crossing Study (MBCS) sheds light on what is actually happening in the name of security along the border. Does Operation Streamline of ATEP increase security? Does family separation and migrant detention increase security? To conflate all immigration enforcement with security distorts the true nature of these programs. Any discussion of reforms needs to address the explicit and implicit goals of specific enforcement programs, as well as the unintended consequences that we have discussed throughout this report. The impacts of the current approach to immigration enforcement will be felt for generations. We are currently at a juncture where we can change course and reconceive of a humane immigration system and inclusive security that addresses our needs as one society connected by family, economics and the desire to make a life for ourselves and our loved ones.
- Giving young adults legal status is a good start, but without their families included in a reform it is not enough to substantially change the dynamics of undocumented migration
- Border security cannot be achieved by programs that punish non-violent immigration offenders
- We must re-examine why we allocate so many resources to assigning criminal sentences and punishments to people with no previous criminal history
- It is also important to dissect criminal categories and provide relief for people that have criminal histories purely because of immigration violations
International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples
Look for forthcoming publications using weighted data and inferential analyses, as well as a public forum at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. on May 30th, 2013.
* “We protect the American public against terrorists and the implements of terror.” There is no mention of unauthorized migrants. http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/about/mission/guardians.xml
* * Heyman, Josiah. 2012. Guns, Drugs and Money: Tackling the Real Threats at the Border. Immigration Policy Institute.