Listen to the political campaigns and you would think there is a consensus that the “immigration system” is broken. But to start to get specific, and you realize this is not so. By “immigration system” some mean the de-facto non-enforcement of our laws against entering the country illegally (i.e., we should have less immigration), others mean the length of time it takes to legally immigrate (i.e., we should have more legal immigration), and still others mean it is unjust to “separate families” i.e., there should be no consequence for breaking our laws.
The Republicans running for president say they want to enforce the border, and one (Trump) wants to deport illegals already here. But the Republicans have shown no inclination to enforce the border when they have held the Presidency and could have done so (the Department of Homeland Security is a federal agency under executive control. the President has enormous discretion in enforcement.) But the Bush administration advocated for amnesty and more legal immigration. The problems grew worse. And what have Republicans done since controlling the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014? Nothing.
The Republican party likes to talk tough on immigration but does not really want to change the status quo. It is profiting too handsomely from all the cheap labor the quasi-open border has created. Better to give the illusion of concern with ideas like mandatory e-verify than an alternative that would really work, like repealing birthright citizenship. E-verify cannot work for the same reason the current system of workplace enforcement is a farce. Employers are the beneficiaries of illegal immigration and do not want to enforce the law. That would only change if the federal government employed tens of thousands of DHS agents in the workplace, as the Food and Drug Enforcement Agency does in meat and poultry processing plants and farms. The public demands safe food. Employers (food producers) have no choice but to comply with expensive health and safety regulation. We are not anywhere near that point when it comes to immigration. E-verify sounds good, like it would really weed out illegal immigrants at the workplace, the magnet that draws them in. But all regulations can be gamed. Employers can simply not use it. Or the illegals can get fake social security numbers that match actual U.S. citizens and pass e-verify. These documents are obtainable but more expensive than the common fake socials which can be purchased in any community with a factory for $20.
The border is 2000 miles long but in many areas is mountainous and impassible. DHS knows the areas where 80% of the illegals cross in order to enter the country. That area is about 700 miles. We could easily fortify 700 miles of border if the President were committed to doing the job. In actual manpower such a task would take about 10,000 agents and several hundred helicopters with clear rules of engagement. If crossers were routinely charged with a felony, instead of a civil offense, as it is now, with a five-year mandatory prison term, the flood would slow to a trickle. By comparison, this would be about 1% of the deployment in the D-Day invasion.
Couple that with a common-sense reform of birthright citizenship, a law saying the children of illegal immigrants are not U.S. citizens, and the incentive to illegally cross really dries up. Employment is one incentive, but the entire world knows we lack the will to enforce our border, so thousands of children are sent via smugglers to the border and simply surrendered to the Border Patrol. No need to actually cross. American hospitality takes it from there. The children will never be sent home, and their children become citizens.
It used to be common for Mexicans to cross the border illegally, work in the fields for six months and then return to their families. This is very uncommon today. Mexican (and Guatamelan and Honduran) men bring their families in tow and do not return. At least not until they have a a U.S. citizen child. Under the Obama administration’s DHS policies it is unjust to separate families. If one child is a citizen, the parents should be allowed to remain here. That they could all live together as a family in their country of origin is not the point.
My conclusion is that there is no real desire to “enforce the border” or “fix” the broken immigration system. The system, such as it is, serves the interests of both political parties. The Republicans are shameless hypocrites for adopting a public stance of “enforcement.” It cannot be stressed enough, they do not want enforcement or to fix a system that puts tremendous amounts of money in their pockets. And the Democrats get millions of new voters, which Republicans are obsessed with and believe can be won over to their side. Neither side really wants change.