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By Michele Waslin

A new report on border security issued by Center for American Progress adds yet more evidence to the argument that the U.S. government is already doing plenty about border security. Brick by Brick: A Half-Decade of Immigration Enforcement and the Need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, written by Former DHS Assistant Secretary for Border and Transportation Security Policy Stewart Verdery, details the range of programs that have  been implemented in the last five years and their impact on the border. The report cautions, however, that securing the border is an elusive goal, and without comprehensive immigration reform, we will never achieve the real objectives needed to end illegal immigration.

In a panel discussion highlighting the report,  Verdery and others made it clear that “securing the border first” is an empty demand because the border is more secure than ever, immigration enforcement has increased dramatically, and comprehensive immigration reform is needed now.  It is also clear that restrictionists and others on the “enforcement first” bandwagon have not been paying attention.

Verdery and fellow panelist DHS Principal Deputy General Counsel David Martin pointed out that the federal government has spent billions of dollars on border and interior enforcement over the last several years, and that “the enforcement capabilities and resources now available to law enforcement are considerably stronger than during the intense debates of the last decade.”

The failed 2007 comprehensive immigration reform bill included enforcement “benchmarks” that DHS would have to reach before other elements of the bill could be enacted.  These benchmarks included:

  • Establishing operational control of the Mexican border

  • Expanding Border Patrol staffing

  • Constructing strong physical and electronic border barriers

  • Implementing a “catch and return” policy

  • Deploying workplace enforcement tools


Verdery and the other panelists systematically listed all of the enforcement enhancements that have been put in place since then and demonstrated that all of these benchmarks have been met.

  • The Secretary of DHS has established and demonstrated operational control; CBP’s budget and personnel has increased; apprehensions along the border have decreased.
  • The Border Patrol has 20,000 full-time agents.
  • At least 300 miles of vehicle barriers, 370 miles of fencing, and 105 ground-based radar and camera towers have been installed, and four unmanned aerial vehicles are in operation.
  • DHS is detaining all removable immigrants apprehended at the border, except in certain humanitarian circumstances.
  • The E-Verify system has grown exponentially, and employer audits have led to 2,069 audits targeting employers for hiring unauthorized workers.


Verdery also pointed to US-VISIT, the 287(g) conference, the Visa Security Program, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and other enforcement initiatives that have expanded DHS’s immigration enforcement efforts and resources in the years since CIR failed.

The panelists concluded that it is imperative that we move forward with CIR; there are no more excuses.  Panelist Ted Alden of the Council on Foreign Relations stated that “reform is being held hostage to an idea of border security that isn’t defined.”  Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has said that those opposed to CIR keep “moving the goalposts.”  David Martin stated, “It is artificial to separate out border security and make it a condition for reform.”

Once again, those who call for “enforcement first” have been put on the spot.  Will any amount of enforcement ever be enough to move them to the next step?  Will they continue to move the goalposts?  Or will they finally recognize that comprehensive immigration reform is ultimately about securing our borders?

Originally posted to ImmigrationPolicyCenter on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 08:24 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  In a word, 'Lie'. Just ask Big John McCain (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gatorcog, luckylizard

    Squawking now about how Phoenix is 'the Number 2 Kidnap Capitol in da Wurld!' Of course its not even slightly true. But it doesnt matter. The red faced rubes just nod and smile and reach for another  pack of ding dongs.
    Because its what they believe anyway. They believe it, so it just has to be true. Like Obama is raising their taxes. And the world is 6000 years old. And Rush Limbaugh pees champagne.

  •  Well put. There is no 'out of control' (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mariachi mama, fredlonsdale

    border. That is entirely a right wing myth.

    Ironically a tight border has led to a different kind of problem: those illegal immigrants who are already here tend to stay put because they don't want to have to cross the border again.

  •  So people are not crossing into the USA (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    longislandny

    illegally anymore?  Having a "more secure" border then before is meaningless if thousands are still crossing to into our country.  I still don't understand how either side would be against completely securing our border first.

    I mean, the political optics on that are pretty straight forward.  You would have public support by the barrel full.  Furthermore, it would be much much easier to pass immigration reform once the borders are fully secure.

    What is the reason not to get this done first?

    •  Unless you use landmines (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fredlonsdale

      and shot to kill the border will never be completely secure.

    •  It would be a lot easier and more effective to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      longislandny

      aggresively prosecute those who hire illegals.  We wouldn't have a problem if there were no jobs to be found.

      "Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight." - Albert Schweitzer

      by Apost8 on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 09:15:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Securing the border {first) is just a buzz phrase (0+ / 0-)

      for the Republicans and the rest of the anti-immigration crowd including people who just hate brown people, different people.

      I am sure it would be possible to lock down the border, but at what price? The price is more than just dollars. How much freedom are we willing to give up to secure the borders?

      If you are older than 55, never take a sleeping pill and a laxative at the same time!

      by fredlonsdale on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 12:27:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not sure what freedom Americans (0+ / 0-)

        would be losing by truly securing our borders.  Please explain that one.

        •  definition of freedom (0+ / 0-)

          The Merriam-Webster definition of freedom is here.

          One of the synonyms given describes freedom as the  power or condition of acting without compulsion. When you force 280 million people to get biometric Id's because there might be 20 million people in the country who should not be in the country, you are diminishing the freedom of all of us. It is sorta like the tail wagging the dog. While a biometric Id night be no 'big thing' to you, others may see it differently.

          You also have to consider the cost of these things. In addition to the cost of the Id, you have to consider the cost imposed on people: time off from work to get the card, the expense of replacing a lost or broken card, the ramifications of accidentally leaving your card at home and then being picked up for not having the card on you.

          And like anything else, cards can be forged even if they are "biometric."

          If you are older than 55, never take a sleeping pill and a laxative at the same time!

          by fredlonsdale on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 02:58:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  The bottom line is that "immigration reform" (0+ / 0-)

    is a nonstarter with enough people because they perceive it as granting special rights to people who don't deserve them. It's as simple as people seeing illegal immigrants here getting automatic legal residency even though they didn't follow the proper procedure to get here. Also, in a time when unemployment is near 10%, where are all these illegal immigrants going to get jobs?

    •  That's exactly the point. (0+ / 0-)

      People who didn't play by the rules having stuff handed to them often doesn't sit right with people who did.  This is a reasonable position to take.  

      The left tries to make it into a racial thing and there is a certain amount of that involved, but it doesn't tell the whole story.  

      Do we want to allow unlimited immigration or not?  

      They see me trollin'. They hatin' I find it hilarious that people think legality has anything to do with right and wrong.

      by obnoxiotheclown on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 01:36:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well (0+ / 0-)

        The problem is that most of the "immigration reform" side wants open borders, but just won't be honest about it. The problem that I have is that "immigration reform" amounts to granting special consideration to people who didn't follow the rules to begin with. From the perspective of fairness it offends many Americans.

    •  no one is talking about granting special rights (0+ / 0-)

      No one is talking about automatic legal residency.  There would be a long, arduous process to earn legal status.  They would pay large fines and fees, and would have to work and pay taxes and undergo background checks.  No one supports waving a magic wand.

      There is this myth that immigrants get special benefits that Americans don't get.  That's absolutely false.  Illegal immigrants are ineligible for almost all public benefits, and legal immigrants are subject to tough restrictions.  

      Finally, they already have jobs.  they're already here.  We're not talking about bringing in new people.

  •  border can't be completely secure (0+ / 0-)

    until we pass comprehensive immigration reform.  That's what national security experts, former Bush appointees, and many others are saying.  The problem is that restrictionists keep saying that we can do reform AFTER we secure the border, but they keep changing the definition of secure border.  We've reached all of the previous benchmarks, but now they want MORE.  If you follow their logic, we'll never get to comprehensive reform.  But that's exactly the opposite of how we need to think.  We need to reform the laws and then we can better secure the border.  When people enter legally thru ports of entry, fewer will enter extralegally, and Border Patrol can target their resources on the few that do enter.  When we take 11 million off the table by legalizing them, law enforcement can focus on going after criminals, not chasing busboys and hotel maids.  CIR makes our enforcement more efficient.

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