As the race for the U.S. Presidential Candidacy rages on, perspective contenders are really pushing to showcase their ideas on how to deal with the current immigration crisis. Strategies for immigration reform range from being quite vague, to more comprehensive, to going to extremes. Republican candidate Donald Trump has proposed building a wall on the United States/ Mexican border. There are two problems with this:
1: A wall will not help the problem of having over 11 million undocumented individuals living in this country.
2: A wall will not stop illegal immigration.
The United States immigration crisis is happening inside this country. The problem is how the government is handling it, or not handling it, as the case may be. I have said in many other blogs that the first step to fixing our current situation is to put more money into the immigration courts. Hire more judges, process more cases. There is no other way to get ahead of the judicial clutter that has built up, causing extensive wait times, than to accelerate the immigration process for all the backlogged cases.
If the United States were to build a complete wall along the 2000-mile Mexico border, the budget would have to be enormous. “A Bloomberg Government analysis in 2013 estimated what it would cost to completely seal the border: $28 billion per year.” That money could be going towards adjudicating the cases already in progress. More efficiency within our immigration system would encourage more legal immigration. Qualified immigrants would see that if they went through the proper channels, their petitions would be reviewed in a timely manner. On the other hand, deportations would also be expedited, making room for those foreigners who need to be here.
The myth is that the people illegally crossing the Mexican border into the United States are all criminals looking to exploit the American system: hoping to live in the U.S., not pay taxes, and benefit from our economy. The truth is that many of them are refugees from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. The extreme violence and persecution that has plagued these Central American countries has forced many to flee to the United States, by way of Mexico. They have no other way to get here. These are desperate people, for whom entry into the U.S. isn’t a matter of opportunity; it’s a matter of survival.
Many refugees are afraid to take the chance of going through the proper channels to legally immigrate to the United States. They don’t have the luxury of waiting until our system is back on track in order to be processed quickly. They are afraid to take the chance of being denied, when they know that for them, there is no other option. A wall will not keep people out. People have been digging tunnels from one side of the U.S./ Mexican border to the other for years, as a means of smuggling not just contraband and substances, but people.
For centuries, people known as “Coyotes” have charged migrants large sums of money to help them cross the Mexican border into the U.S. in whatever way they can. Sometimes they use tunnels, sometimes they are able to sneak people out disguised as cargo, and sometimes they use fraudulent birth certificates and passports. Migrants of all ages are subjected to arduous, dangerous, expensive journeys, and once inside the U.S., are usually left with scarce opportunities because of their legal status. They are willing to do this, and pay thousands upon thousands of dollars, to escape their present living conditions. Coyotes have made a prosperous career out of bringing people into our country illegally; building a wall will not stop them.
Central American refugees have to see a change in the United States immigration system in order to stop them from trying to illegally immigrate here. They have to believe in our legal immigration process in order for them to take advantage of it. Those who need asylum need to know that we can offer it to them when they need it, rather than locking them up in detention centers for months awaiting their fate. U.S. immigration filing fees are less expensive than the cost of hiring a Coyote, so legal immigration wouldn’t just provide an individual with an opportunity to thrive within the American work force, but it would allow them more of a cushion to start off with. The one thing the U.S. government can’t compete with illegal immigration on is the speed of the process. Fix this, and I believe we will see a change in our current immigration crisis. This has nothing to do with a wall.