(NewsUSA) – In recent years, the U.S. has attempted to enforce
its way out of its immigration issues by directing more money toward the border. But as the
Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) budget balloons, so does the undocumented population,
begging the question: Do enforcement-only immigration policies really work?
Since 1993, the number of Border Patrol agents has increased by 273 percent. The Customs
and Border Patrol budget grew from $6 billion to $9.3 billion between FY 2004 and FY 2008.
In February 2008, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff announced that there were 302.4 miles of
fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, and vowed that DHS would reach the 670-mile mark by the end
of 2008. According to a 2006 report from the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers estimated the cost of constructing the fence at over $1.2 million per mile -; not
including the cost of buying the land.
At the same time the U.S. has inflated budgets for border security, the undocumented
population has tripled, from roughly 3.5 million in 1990 to an estimated 12 million presently. A
recent study from the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies interviewed over 3,000 migrants
and potential migrants from four Mexican states and cited three major findings:
1.A fortified border does not deter migrants. Perceptions of difficulties and
dangers in crossing the border had no statistically significant effect on the intent to migrate.
2.Repeated attempts equal eventual success. Studies by the Mexican Migration Field Research
and Training Program found that fewer than half of migrants who come to the border are apprehended,
and those who are have a 92 to 98 percent success rate of eventually crossing.
3."Coyotes" virtually guarantee success. As border security has tightened, 80
percent of migrants now rely on human smugglers to cross the border safely. Consequently, average
"coyote" fees have jumped from $978 in 1995 to $2,124 in 2007. Because migrants are spending more
to cross the border, they are more likely to remain in the U.S. to work and save money to bring
their families across.
It is clear that pouring more dollars into border security will not end undocumented
immigration by itself. We must reform our nation's immigration laws to require undocumented
immigrants to earn legal status, allowing them to contribute fully to America's economy and become
productive, assimilated members of society. For more information, visit www.aila.org.