It is clear that among the key security issues that the United States face is border security and illegal immigration. The U.S. has been regarded as a safe haven for immigration as the people seek to enter the country and a get a share of the “American Dream” and opportunities. The population of the undocumented migrants in the United States between 1986 to 2008 rose from three million to 12 million people. The earlier versions of the American Immigration policy between the 19th and 20th century was skewed as racist and sought to minimize immigration from non-white regions. The status of illegal immigration is made more difficult to deal with by the existence of 50 semi-autonomous states in America. Most immigrants relocate to the United States in search for job opportunities. Following the escalation of security threats and the 9/11 attack, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was developed. DHS was tasked with the responsibility of taking charge of border security, immigration, customs, intelligence collection, and offering protection to the homeland from possible internal and external attacks. Achieving border security and preventing illegal immigration is among the most important achievements to the Department of Homeland Security. The American borders are ever-busy handling tens of millions of goods and millions of lawful travelers entering the country. California has been at the center of the debate with regard to immigration policies, especially due to the Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools (TRUST) Act. The Act outlines the situations in which the law enforcement agencies may need to comply with the immigration detainer requests. Stakeholders that need to be involved in the review process include community stakeholders, government security agencies, researchers, scholars, and public advocacy groups. Community stakeholders include social groups with the smallest unit being the family, economic groups comprising of enterprises and business community, and political groups. Among the current initiatives to deal with border security and illegal immigration, is the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act (SAFE) that seeks to increase immigration control and enforcement. Another key policy to note is the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IRAIRA) that paved way for the strengthening of the immigration laws and increased penalties for undocumented immigrants who engaged in criminal acts or who stay in the U.S. for statutorily defined periods. Among the proposed solution to the issue of border security include one, requiring that current immigrant workers to be motivated to register themselves. The second proposed solution involves the inclusion of organizations and companies in the reform process. The third proposed solution include enforcing a legal entry system for the immigrants and punishing the illegal immigrants who refuse to comply as a message to the rest, as well as, cooperation with Unstable Countries to Attain Peace and Stability.
Homeland Security Issue and Solution
Identification and Introduction to the Problem
The Issue; Border Security and Illegal Immigration
Among the key security issues that the United States face is border security and illegal immigration. Border security and illegal immigration is an issue that faces many all over the world thereby prompting enactment of immigration policies. Over a long period of time, the U.S. has been regarded as a safe haven for immigration as the people seek to enter the country and a get a share of the “American Dream” and opportunities. This has seen the country accumulate a large and diversified population of immigrants, which has had a positive contribution to fueling its growth.
The population of the undocumented migrants in the United States between 1986 to 2008 rose from three million to 12 million people. This increase was experienced despite a five-fold increase on Border Patrol officers, a four-fold increase in the border patrol hours, and a 20-fold increase in nominal funding (Massey, Durand, & Pren, 2016, p.1558). It has been observed that the issue of illegal migration has been a nagging problem since 1965 when Congress made changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act. This led to the cancellation of the guest worker agreement that had been longstanding with Mexico. The law placed a limit to Mexico of just 20,000 legal residents for every year and no issuance of temporary work visa. This was a huge reduction from the numbers allowed in the previous years where 50,000 permanent resident entries were issued and approximately 450,000 temporary work permits granted. This created a problem since there was a connection that had already been created between the Mexican workers and the U.S. employers. The opportunities that had been there did not reduce but were, instead supplied by the undocumented immigrants thereby, fueling the illegal immigration (Massey & Pren, 2012, p. 1558).
The earlier versions of the American Immigration policy between the 19th and 20th century was skewed as racist and sought to minimize immigration from non-white regions. An example of such a policy was the Chinese Exclusion Act that sought to prevent members from some races from joining the United States. President Chester Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act into law in 1882 with the main goal of prohibiting all forms of immigration from Chinese immigrants. The act suspended the immigration of Chinese laborers for a period of ten years. Non-laborers seeking entry into the United States were mandated to acquire a certification from the Chinese government, asserting their qualifications to immigrate, and also put in place new requirements on the Chinese who were already in the country (Li, 2007, p.7). This later evolved with the advancement in a democracy that saw the United States take up the nature of freedom, and developed policies that defined America as the land of the free, thereby, attracting more people into the country in pursuit of the opportunities and political freedom. Among these policies is the Cable Act of 1922 that reversed the immigration laws on marriage where a woman lost her U.S. citizenship if she married a foreigner (Park, 2015, p 1). Another law that was tolerant was the Equal Nationality Act of 1934. The act permitted foreign-born children of American mothers and alien fathers, who had gained entry into the country before the age of 18 and had been in the country for five years to apply for American citizenship for the first time. This also made the naturalization process quicker for American women’s alien husbands (Orfield, 1934, p 101).
Another factor that has seen border security and illegal immigration emerge as a top priority in the United States is the role it plays in the international arena as a world “police” or “watchdog”. As a world police, America created a couple of enemies, which resulted in the 9/11 terrorists’ bombings as a retaliation to the activities of the United States. In playing this role, America had sent its troops in Saudi Arabia, which agitated the terrorist groups since it was home to Islam’s holiest cities. This further escalated the need to address the new source of threat and the Department of Homeland security was a key result.
The status of immigration is made more difficult to deal with by the existence of 50 semi-autonomous states in America. These states have been granted the power to develop their own laws, regulations, and support for immigration policies. Armenta (2007, p 7) indicated that the governments continuously enact laws that seek to control the lives of immigrants, thereby, thinning the line between controlling immigrants and controlling immigration. The presence of these states largely contributed to the politicization of the immigration debate and failure to attain a consensus on a single immigration policy for the country. On the issue of immigration, the federal government holds the exclusive rights on the control. Despite this, states have from time to time interfered and adopted mixed policies that are either in agreement or support of immigration to some extent.
Economic factors are another element that escalates the problem. Most immigrants relocate to the United States in search for job opportunities. In most cases, the immigrants are willing to work for less pay as compared to the natives. This makes the employers turn a blind eye on the immigration status of the employees since they offer a cost-effective alternative to staffing.
The issue of border security and immigration is not only essential but also contentious. America, being a white-dominated country has seen an influx of immigrants as an alternative race. This has resulted in fears that the white population is being displaced. The concern being raised about the immigrants is that they are undesirable newcomers viewed by some as convicts, poor, infirm, and being racially inferior (Armenta, 2017, p. 9). This analogy is more prevalent in most Border States, especially on the Mexico Border. The perception is different in liberal states, which are largely comprised of modern outgoing populations that are open to less conservative ideologies. The liberal states have more diversified groups that lobby for and sway public opinion in favor of immigration. It is, thereby, clear that there is a resulting stark difference in position between the liberal and conservative wings often leading to a stalemate in all areas of government (Freeman, 1995, p. 887).
Importance of Border Security and Illegal Immigration to Homeland Security
Following the escalation of security threats and the 9/11 attack, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was developed. DHS was tasked with the responsibility of taking charge of border security, immigration, customs, gathering intelligence, and offering protection to the homeland from possible internal and external attacks. The task of border security is under the charge of the United States Border Patrol within the Department of Homeland Security. The Border Patrols takes charge of securing the U.S. borders between points of entry. While it was originally established in 1924 through an act of Congress to deal with illegal immigration, the 9/11 attacks led to an expansion of its scope to deal with detecting, apprehension, and/or deterrence of terrorist weapons. Despite all the dramatic changes that have been made to Border Patrol, its core mission still remains unchanged, which is to detect and prevent illegal entry of aliens in America. To achieve this goal, the Border Patrol engages in patrolling the 6000 miles of the Mexican and Canadian International land border and 2000 miles of coastal waters around Florida Peninsula and Island of Puerto Rico (Department of Homeland Security, 2017, p. 7).
Achieving border security and preventing illegal immigration is among the most important achievements to the Department of Homeland Security as indicated by a recently published report. In the report published in 2017 by the Department of Homeland Security, it is noted that illegal access across the U.S. border with Mexico has been made tougher. DHS reports that about 55-85% of all illegal border crossings are unsuccessful as compared to 25-70% over the last decade (Department of Homeland Security, 2017, p. 4). It is also indicated that repeated attempts to cross the border have drastically reduced. The DHS takes pride in its ability to stop people from sneaking through the borders, which DHS terms as being significant. Another pointer to the fact that the issue of border security and illegal immigration is important to the DHS is the mandate by the Congress, requiring the DHS to provide detailed reports of the current State of U.S. border and the effectiveness of the set agency to stop illegal immigration. This points to the fact the Department of Homeland Security has been placed at the heart of the much-politicized issue. The Department of Homeland security goes further in their mission to discourage and deter immigrants from making repeated attempts to cross the border. It can, therefore, be identified that Border Security and illegal immigration is essential to the Department of Homeland Security.
The American borders are ever-busy handling tens of millions of goods and millions of lawful travelers entering into the county. At the same time, the United States faces a wide range of threats to its borders (Riley, 2005, p.10). This includes terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, transnational criminal smuggling gangs and counterfeit goods, and the unauthorized immigrants determined to live and work in the country. This has prompted the Department of Homeland Security and the Congress to shift their attention to the process of risk management that entails carrying out a risk assessment and distribution of resources based on a cost-benefit analysis. Through such a system, DHS is able to categorize the threats as per their level of risks (Rosenblum, 2012, p. 5).
Importance to the Jurisdiction
California has been at the center of the debate with regard to immigration policies. The State’s policy at California has been contrary to the federal immigration policies, thereby, earning its spot as a sanctuary for immigrants. One such policy is California’s Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools (TRUST) Act. This act outlines the situations in which the law enforcement agencies may need to comply with the immigration detainer requests. Detainer request is a tool used by the immigration and customs enforcement (ICE) requiring the state or local enforcement agencies to detain persons past their ordinary release due when the ICE holds the belief that the person is in violation of immigration laws (State of California Department of Justice, 2018). This makes it difficult for federal agencies to gain cooperation with the state agency. The TRUST Act provides conditions that need to be satisfied including that, the continued detention needs not to be in violation of any laws and should be supported by a judicial warrant.
Public policy is a result of different and diverse individuals’ input working together to solve a common problem affecting all of the different facets of society represented. Public policy is used to decide how communities, state governments, or the federal government manages resources or maintains order in the society. To draft border security and illegal migration policies, different stakeholders should be involved. Stakeholders can be viewed as community stakeholders, government security agencies, and others, which include researchers, scholars, and public advocacy groups. Community stakeholders include social groups with the smallest unit being the family, economic groups comprising of enterprises and business community, and political group, which are the major influencers. According to Berke, Kartez, and Wenger (1993, p. 8), all the stakeholders should be linked horizontally and vertically. Horizontal linkages are often defined by the frequency and relevance of contacting stakeholders from the same group. Vertical linkages consist of larger stakeholders, for instance, economic groups and government agencies.
Among the most the initiatives for engagement of stakeholders include engaging in discussions, consultations, and collaboration. Discussion is the most common form of collaboration where the stakeholders engage in discussions through meetings, roundtables and conferences that do not require a lot of coordination. The other form of stakeholder engagement in the process of policymaking is consultations, which refers to more structured process of dialogue that involves more resources and in most cases leads to a decision. The last method of stakeholder engagement is collaboration, which entails actively working together towards common goals and outcomes to establish an immigration policy.
Current Policies, Approaches, and Solutions to Issues on Border Security and Illegal Migration
Policies on immigration have been for a long period characterized by “sustained congressional inaction, unilateral executive action, and intensification of policy activity at the state and local levels. (Reich, G. 2018, p.372). Among the current initiatives to deal with border security and illegal immigration, is the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act (SAFE). SAFE Act seeks to increase immigration control and enforcement, especially within the interior of the United States. Among the provisions in the SAFE Act include one, offering states and localities full power to create, implement, and enforce criminal and civil penalties for federal immigration violations, but within the constraints of the penalties under federal law. Two, grant permission to state and local enforcement to conduct investigations, identify, apprehend and detain any suspects in violation of the immigration laws. Removed the powers of the administration to implement its Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policies that allowed the reviewing of the deportable people’s immigration cases to establish whether they would be allowed to live in the country (Garcia & Manuel, 2018, p. 12). The SAFE Act has seen the expanded criminalization at the federal level, expanded state and local enforcement, and an increase in federal detention.
Another key policy to note is the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IRAIRA). The enactment of this law implied the strengthening of the immigration laws, increased penalties for undocumented immigrants who engaged in criminal acts or who stay in the U.S. for statutorily defined periods. The act was meant to improve the border control through imposition of criminal penalties for racketeering, alien smuggling, and for using or creating fraudulent immigration-related documents. The law allows for the deportation of undocumented immigrants who commit a felony or misdemeanor.
It is indicated that the law on IIRIRA was not very effective. Under the provisions of this law, more people became eligible for deportation. This was because legal immigrants such as green card holders would be deported for certain crimes. People who had entered the country legally or had adjusted their legal lives, would due to some convictions, not even be granted the right for a hearing but would just be fast-tracked for deportation. This demeaned the effort that would be placed by illegal immigrants to update their legal status, as this would not make them any safe from deportation. The IIRIRA provision simplified the process of deportation of people since it allowed the government to hold the immigrants in detention before deportations, which limited their access to legal representation. The provisions of the IIRIRA made it harder for unauthorized immigrants to get legal status. The IIRIRA laws stated that unauthorized immigrants could not directly apply for legal status even when married to a U.S. citizen or qualified for a green card through a relative. The law indicated that the immigrants were banished from applying for legal status for three years if they had lived with no papers for 6 months and for 10 years if they had lived in the country for more than one year with no papers. These provisions implied that more illegal immigrants were not allowed to apply for a legal status, thereby, escalating the problem of illegal immigration.
Another notable solution on immigration has been the phasing out of DACA by President Trump. The President has issued a number of executive orders affecting the immigration policy differently. One of the executive orders focused on border security, mandated the federal agencies to build a physical wall to achieve complete operational control on the Mexican border. The order also called for catch and release practices where the unauthorized immigrants who were captured at the border would be releases in the U.S. for trial (Felter & Renwick, 2018, p. 1). The order also allowed for increased scope of application of expedited removal where any unauthorized immigrant with no proof of having legal status in the country for more than two years would be deported with no court hearing.
A second executive order issued by President Trump put emphasis on interior enforcement, increased the categories of unauthorized immigrants slated for removal, and called for an increase in enforcement personnel and removal facilities. This order further put limitations to the federal fund from sanctuary jurisdictions, which were known to have minimal cooperation with the federal immigration officials. The other order issued by President Trump was focused on terrorism prevention by placing bans on any nationals from Muslim countries such as Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from gaining access to the country (Felter & Renwick, 2018, p. 2). This has proved to be ineffective and has resulted in widespread protests and legal battles from individuals, cities, and states.
Another policy adopted by President Trump and has been largely been ineffective is the zero-tolerance policy adopted at the Southern border. This has been geared towards deterring border crossing to even those seeking asylum. The policy has seen the authorities arrest and prosecute all the unauthorized immigrants on criminal grounds. The implementation of this policy has seen more than two thousand child migrants detained separately from parents and guardians (Felter & Renwick, 2018). This practice was ceased in June, after widespread protests against family separation practices.
Current immigrant workers be motivated to register themselves
The government should enact a program that is more attractive to undocumented workers (Bruno, 2008, p.15). The new program that is aimed at the immigrant workers should include positive inducements for agreement, as well as, punishments for those who refuse to comply. For instance, the program could cap the tenure of immigrant workers at six years. This is informed by the fact that most people who entered the U.S. illegally or unlawfully overstayed their temporary visas for the sake of employment. This highlights the need to ensure that access to employment is curtailed in accordance with the law. This would encourage the illegal immigrants to leave the country voluntary or otherwise seek means to make their stay legal. If the objective is to limit the number of undocumented immigrant workers, then a renewable work permit that is short-term will have a higher probability of success instead of a single permit that has an expiration date that is not flexible.
Inclusion of organizations and companies as part of the reform
The restructuring of immigration will only be effective when the companies and organizations will be included as part of the reform and they will provide not only support but will also facilitate its enforcement within the country (United States Office of the President, 2013, p.2). This solution must eliminate tedious red tape and provisions that would make it simpler to hire currently undocumented workers in the country. Companies and organizations have been used to hire undocumented workers and this resulted in a negative impact on the economy. This solution will limit how employers hire illegal immigrants and will also involve providing stable funding for internal enforcement organizations to monitor and indict the organizations and companies that do not comply with the law.
This solution is based on the fact that employment is among the largest factor that attracts illegal immigrants into the country, and thereby, an important element that needs to be addressed in an effort to reduce the rate of illegal immigration. Under this policy, attention should be made to the businesses that hire illegal immigrants in a drive to ensure that they abide with employment rules. This solution should endeavor to empower honest employers through setting them free from the hustle of competing with businesses that employ illegal workers, thereby, minimize the costs of labor. The employers need to gain access to a verification tool that can determine the legal status of their employees.
Enforce a legal entry system for the immigrants
Enforcing a legal entry system for the illegal immigrants who are dwelling within the country is a potential solution. The approach would involve allowing the current undocumented migrants to leave the country and then permitted back into the U.S., through a system of border checkpoints with firm settings for identifying themselves, documenting, and complying with the law of the country (Recker, 2014, p.10). However, if the reform program, in its place, encompasses lengthy periods of re-entry into the country, the current illegal immigrants will not have any motivation to comply with this reform. Besides, the undocumented workers might consider this reform as an attempt by the U.S. to remove them from the country completely. This solution will work only if the government provides proper motivation to the illegal immigrants by assuring them that the reform will only serve to make them part of the country as opposed to removing them altogether.
Enforcing the legal entry system may require the adoption of a merit-based system to be used to determine who qualified for legal status through assigning them points based on criteria such as education, language skills, and employment history. Such a system has effectively been used in Canada and Australia. The immigration system adopted to the US need to reflect the liberal democratic value and integrate the vision of national identity (Kerwin, 2018, p 5).
Punishing the illegal immigrants who refuse to comply as a message to the rest
This solution entails punishing the illegal immigrants who do not agree with the reforms. Within the country, the immigrants who refuse to register themselves and are consequently detained should be castigated with more than just deportation. For instance, the punishments could involve a ten-year prohibition on employment participation for those who refuse to register (Greenhill, 2010, p.123). In addition, Congress could also contemplate a lifetime ban on the illegal immigrants who apply for and receive the country’s citizenship. Along with that, stringent penalties could be introduced, such as spending time in jail and seizing the possessions of the illegal immigrants.
These punishments, as well as the ban on the chance to obtain citizenship in the country, will be a strong motivation for illegal immigrants to go through the process of documenting and registering themselves. By doing so, the problem of immigration and its resulting effects in the country will have a better chance of mitigation.
Cooperation with Unstable Countries to Attain Peace and Stability
In this case, the first solution would be to implement programs that work with foreign government and law enforcement in unstable countries to help eradicate violence and corruption.
This will go a long way in providing security for people and reducing the number of people who may want to leave for safer countries such as America, as well as, cut the immigration costs. Controlling immigration and enforcement of stricter border rules with respect to the purpose of entry and country of origin can go a long way in reducing external terrorism threats brought about by the immigrants. Granted, not all immigrants who come to the border are terrorists. Ensuring stability is an initiative carried out to ensure that a country has security. Security in the world politics is considered to be instrumental value that allows people to have a choice on how to live. People are known to be on the look out for security as it sets them free in a certain manner as they have surplus time doing other productive things other than dealing with existing threats and always fighting for survival (Bjarnadóttir, 2012, p. 18). By helping other nations attain stability, the U.S. can thereby, reduce the urge of immigrants running away from war conditions in their countries.
Armenta, A. (2017). Protect, Serve, and Deport: The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement. Erscheinungsort nicht ermittelbar: University of California Press.
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Freeman, G. P. (1995). Modes of immigration politics in liberal democratic states. International Migration Review, 29(4), 881-902
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Kerwin, D. (2017). Moving Beyond Comprehensive Immigration Reform and Trump: Principles, Interests, and Policies to Guide Long-Term Reform of the US Immigration System. J. on Migration & Hum. Sec., 5, 541.
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Massey, D. S., Durand, J., & Pren, K. A. (2016). Why Border Enforcement Backfired. AJS; American Journal of Sociology, 121(5), 1557–1600.
Orfield, L. B. The Citizenship Act of 1934 (1934). U. OF CHI. L. REv., 2, 99-101.
Recker, K. E. (2014). Citizenship and Terrorism: The Significance of a Pathway to Citizenship on Homeland Security. Homeland Security Digital Library. Retrieved from https://www.hsdl.org/?abstract&did=754052
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State of California Department of Justice. (2018). California Laws Protecting Immigrants’ Civil Rights. Retrieved from https://oag.ca.gov/immigrant/ca-lawThe United States. Executive Office of the President. (2013). Fixing Our Broken Immigration System: The Economic Benefits of Providing a Path to Earned Citizenship. Homeland Security Digital Library. Retrieved from https://www.hsdl.org/?abstract&did=742611
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