It is critical to secure our borders and our ports of entry, to know who is entering our country and for what purpose, and to interdict illicit activities such as drug smuggling and human trafficking. But there is no reason why the wealthiest and most technologically advanced nation in history should have to resort to ineffective, 5,000 year-old Chinese technology to do so.
We need to secure the border with barriers where appropriate like densely populated urban areas, and with modern technology and manpower where that is more appropriate. If you’ve ever seen the Santa Elena Canyon, you know that a 30 foot wall atop the 1,500 foot vertical cliffs is entirely unnecessary.
More importantly, we need to understand why people are trying to cross and address the underlying root causes. Today this falls into three broad categories – economic migration, illicit activities, and asylum seekers.
For economic migration, we have to crack down on employers who exploit migrants. We must require employers to use E-Verify to verify employability of all hires. If people can’t find work without proper documentation, they are far less likely to try to cross the border. Being mindful that many industries need to be have access to a migrant workforce, especially in times of low unemployment, we must institute a manageable guest-worker program.
The same principal applies to drug trafficking. As long as there is a lucrative market for illicit drugs here in the US, smugglers will go to extraordinary lengths to move their supply across the border. If we reduce the demand for illicit drugs, either by legalization in some cases (e.g. marijuana), or by treating addiction as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue, we can reduce the stress on our border and weaken the cartels, helping our friends to the south maintain the rule of law.
As a parent, I would do anything to keep my kids safe and give them the opportunity for a brighter future. That is what many of the asylum seekers who reach our borders are trying to do. First and foremost, we have to treat all asylum seekers with basic human dignity and respect, and process their claims in a timely manner. We also have to update our asylum laws, which are currently based on a post World War II assumptions. Our current reality is that many are not fleeing state sponsored persecution, but persecution from actors who the state is unable to police. Finally, we have to develop a comprehensive plan to address the security and economic issues across our hemisphere that are driving migration.