President Obama has made some surprising claims about the security of America’s southern border. Probably in response to Republican proposals that immigration reform should be tied to enhanced border security, the President stated in his State of the Union speech that the number of illegal crossings have declined to their lowest point in 40 years.
While the facts may be disputed by some, there is strong evidence that more Border Patrol agents and a sluggish U.S. economy have contributed to a much lower number of undocumented aliens entering the country. As an immigration attorney in Texas, I applaud the federal government’s efforts to make the country more secure.
The number of confirmed cases of attempted crossings has declined from almost 1 million in 2005 to 286,000 in 2011. The Pew Research Hispanic Center estimates that unauthorized net immigration has dropped to virtually zero. A number of factors have contributed to this including a low demand for labor in the labor markets, an elevation in the number of Border Patrol personnel, and more deportations. The U.S. Border Patrol reported about 327,000 apprehensions at the border 2011, the lowest number since almost 321,000 in 1972.
Much of this diminished influx into the U.S. can be attributed to the strengthening of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. Since September 11, 2001, the number of Border Patrol agents has risen from 3,000 to almost 20,700. Additional surveillance and deterrence methods have also stymied efforts to enter the U.S. through its southern border. Almost 700 miles of fencing have been built and the CBP utilizes advanced technological systems like Predator drones to monitor the 2,000 mile long boundary. Furthermore, the government has stepped up its deportations. In 2010, almost 380,000 people were deported.
While the southern border is a hot button issue, the greater problem may actually be people who enter the United States legally, but fail to leave when their visa has expired. The Government Accounting Office estimates that of the 11 million undocumented aliens in the U.S., almost 4 or 5 million are here as a result of overstaying their visas. While these undocumented aliens may pose less of a burden upon the U.S. economy, many more of these individuals are likely to present a national security concern.
These issues have come to the forefront as the Obama administration prepares to introduce its immigration reform package. The President has spoken about providing a “clear path to citizenship” without triggers related to border security or other immigration issues. The Republicans led by Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio, have proposed a path to citizenship, but one that is linked to enhanced border security.
As Congress and the President prepare to hammer out new immigration reforms, I am eager to see which side will get what they desire. As an immigration lawyer in Austin, I understand clearly the need to provide the 11 million undocumented aliens residing in the country with some form of legal status. Not only will this help raise taxes and lower crime, but it will benefit the nation’s economy.
If you have questions about the immigration reforms being proposed, my office is available at (512) 215-5225 to discuss them.