Immigration Reform 2013: Our Misguided "Border Security" Fetish

ByPhil Kuck

Although the purpose of the Berlin wall was to keep Berliners in rather than to keep others out, the new U.S. border security amendment introduced into Senate Bill 744 resembles the same kind of measures taken by Soviets with the "Iron Curtain." It is hard for me to believe that an additional $30,000,000 of border security costs (totaling an annual cost of $50 billion) will pass any sort of cost-benefit analysis.

Because research shows that undocumented immigrants tend to stay longer in the U.S. when border security is tightened, a bipartisan effort for comprehensive federal immigration reform should focus less on beefing up security measures on the border, and more on visa allowances, making it easier for immigrants to come legally to America and prosper.

House Republicans will undoubtedly seek to write a new bill reforming the immigration system that secures the border even moreso than the Senate bill already has. This is where both the Senate and House bill are in error. Border security and assimilation into the American economy are largely two separate issues, and should not be addressed with a single bill. So why do politicians insist on dooming an immigration-reform bill that will reduce our national debt by coupling assimilation with border security? The issue of undocumented immigrants will undoubtedly need to be addressed. But the issues addressed in S.744 are separate and distinct and should be handled as such.

Economist Milton Friedman (a believer in free immigration) argued that in a welfare state such as ours, we should "look, for example, at the obvious, immediate, practical example of illegal Mexican immigration. Now, that Mexican immigration, over the border, is a good thing. It’s a good thing for the illegal immigrants. It’s a good thing for the United States. It’s a good thing for the citizens of the country.” Like it or not, the country is in need of low-skilled (“illegal”) and high-skilled immigrants alike, yet laws that ignore their economic importance continue to pop up.

Just over one year ago, the Supreme Court partially upheld a controversial “show your papers” provision in Arizona’s SB 1070. The recent increase in anti-immigration rhetoric may have been influenced by many anti-immigration reform bills including SB 1070 (Arizona), HB 87 (Georgia), and HB 497 (Utah, later repealed), along with others from the states of Alabama, Indiana, and South Carolina. These laws have resulted in a mass exodus of undocumented immigrants into other states. The results of the exodus have shown us that not only do Americans not want the jobs these immigrants were performing, but that there simply aren’t enough Americans qualified for the work:

If you get pulled over by the police, they ask for your driver’s license. Now imagine you are an American citizen, your skin has a slightly darker complexion to it, and you are driving through Arizona when the officer pulls you over and asks for your immigration papers (e.g visa or green card). The Arizona Support our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (SB 1070) was not only offensive to those that were targeted but it also encouraged racial profiling. We cannot afford laws like this to continue in the future.