Regrettably, for many, human nature is a strong enough force to weaken individuals to the extent that they often concede and elect to “follow the path of least resistance.” And often, this phenomenon becomes prevalent during times when thoughts and ideas are generated or individual postures are taken on matters, including those of critical significance.
It can sort of run akin to multitasking – but in this case, I would imagine, the aversion is to a broad collection of perspectives and principles that need managing. One idea or thought is much easier to handle than several. Or there could potentially be other driving forces that would create this type of behavioral reticence – upbringing, culture, psychology or even politics. Whatever the origin, most people believe broader, more thoughtful and inclusive approaches that are taken to achieve goals regardless of the scope of the mission are wise.
Holistic, multi-faceted strategies more often than not deliver more successful outcomes because they typically employ disciplines that are diverse. The more sophisticated and complicated the piece of machinery, the less likely a rudimentary, monolithic and basic approach will be effective. And there are few more highly complicated pieces of machinery than the issue of immigration.
To date, the immigration debate has unanimously spawned two particular schools of thought – one being a more institutional policy that’s been the general “rule of law” for the past several decades, and the other a more recent perspective that hasn’t benefited from any form of legislation. The two schools of thought are 1) exclusive border enforcement and 2) comprehensive immigration reform.
Since the United States began a less symbolic form of border enforcement (meaning when principles became policy) in the mid-1960s, strong border enforcement has been the tactic used to keep illegal immigrants out of the country. The belief is that a strong and growing Border Patrol force; ongoing construction of fences and walls; and state-of-the-art technologic resources will decrease the flow of illegal immigrants entering the country or prevent them from entering. Illegal immigration has always been a challenge faced by our nation, but it has truly become a significant dilemma over the last four decades. And as a result, the U.S. Border Patrol budget increased by a factor of 10 between 1986 and 2002, and the number of Border Patrol agents has tripled.
In 2002, the Border Patrol became the largest arms-bearing branch of the U.S. Government next to the military itself. The chart below illustrates how profoundly spending on immigration enforcement has advanced during the presidential administrations since 2002. Moreover, Predator Drones are currently flown above our southern border; the only other region in which the United States does this is Afghanistan. So the argument that our government has not done a sufficient job securing our border could be considered slightly flawed.
Regrettably, however, the currently employed mono-tactic of strong border enforcement has not been very successful because illegal immigration has not been curbed to an acceptable level. Ongoing border studies indicate that illegal immigration continues to rise (with the exception of the last two years resulting from economic decline in the United States).
In fact, there seems to be little evidence that border buildup had dissuaded undocumented immigrants from crossing the border. This policy has actually backfired, bringing about outcomes precisely opposite of those sought to achieve. Not only have they failed to deter border crossings, they have promoted a more rapid growth of the country’s undocumented population. Paradoxically, studies are showing the following:
- The cost to taxpayers per border apprehension is increased.
- Immigrants planning on returning to their home countries are more likely to stay in the United States because of challenges crossing.
- There is an increase in the number of border deaths; crossers are channeled to dangerous border crossing areas, which increases the likelihood of death.
Many believe it’s now time to employ a broader strategy that assesses the multiple cultural, ethical and economic factors involved in this issue in order to reduce undocumented immigration. The current migration system functions as a highly integrated apparatus, and would be better served with a multidimensional approach in order to reform. There are several components at play associated with the issue to which our government should respond.
To bring current flows of migrants into the open, Congress should create a new category of temporary visa that permits the migrant to work for two years with a once-in-a-lifetime option for renewal, but only after the migrant has returned home. This program would guarantee the rights of temporary migrants, protect the interests of American workers and satisfy the demands of employers by moving toward a free and open North American labor market.
Additionally, the U.S. Government should consider charging migrants a $400 fee upfront or in low-interest installments for each visa. A $400 fee paid by 300,000 migrants would yield annual revenues of $120 million. As an additional source of revenue, the government could target federal taxes (Social Security and income taxes) withheld from the paychecks of temporary migrants for immigrant-related services.
The US-Mexico migration system functions as a very complicated piece of machinery. Unfortunately, the steps we’ve taken to correct malfunctions have been simple – investing in border enforcement and resources as a single method. The current law is fundamentally at odds with the reality of the North American economy and labor market. The “path of least resistance,” regrettably, has not been successful.
Tackling this issue will take some multitasking and creative thinking rather than a simple and very expensive fix. Once we recognize the immigration issue for what it is (an involved piece of socio-economic machinery), the more possible it will be to improve how the system operates.
The path that needs to be taken to reform the system should not be resisted. It’s also part of our human nature to attempt things that are challenging and difficult. That’s one of the things that makes our country great.
Marc Rodriguez is vice president/co-founder of the Latino Briefing Room, a Latino news-focused Web network providing content on commerce, government, religion and breaking news. The site is geared toward Latinos in the United States who want to stay on top of pertinent issues. For more information, visit www.latinobriefingroom.com.
[Photo By US Govt]