Putting aside politics is the key to stabilizing the US-Southern border with Mexico. There are key national interests at stake.
In addition to concerns over security, public health and sovereignty, the disruption of illegal migration flows at the border distracts from focusing resources on the clear and present danger of transnational criminal cartels and gangs whose tentacles reach from deep in Latin America to cities in the U.S. heartland.
Further, a properly functioning border is an economic engine that creates prosperity by promoting the free flow of goods and services. The negative consequences of border mayhem ought to be a top concern for Washington. Bringing stability to the border ought to be job one. That can’t be accomplished by just playing for political advantage. Solving the problem has to start by dealing with the problem, not making it worse—and by putting first steps first.
Step 1. DACA must go. The president’s 2012 policy for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, regardless of the Oval Office’s intent, sets a precedent that encourages further unlawful migration, particularly among minors. It leaves those in the program mired in uncertainty as to their future status. It resolves nothing, encourages the problem to grow and is a detriment to establishing fair, consistent and sustainable immigration policy. Dumping DACA, on the other hand, would send a strong and unequivocal signal there is no advantage in rushing to the U.S. to shortcut the line and receive legal authorization to remain here.
Step 2. Resist the urge to throw money at the problem. Addressing the challenge at the border through emergency appropriations is inappropriate. The White House requested more than $4 billion in emergency spending, but most of the funds requested will do little to stabilize the border. Further, it exacerbates Washington predilection for fiscal ill-discipline. The Budget Control Act, said Heritage analysts Romina Boccia and David Inserra, “in an effort to constrain the administration and Congress from exploiting a safety valve designated for true emergencies to needlessly increase spending, established criteria to identify emergencies.” The president’s problem on the border doesn’t meet that criteria.
Step 3. Work within the existing budget and appropriations process. Congress and the administration first must work together to re-allocate appropriated funds to meet critical short-term needs. Then, they must work in a deliberate manner to provide for sustained and effective solutions that can be funded through the regular appropriations process.
Step 4. Facilitate expedited removal. The U.S. has much experience in the expedited removals of minors in a manner that ensures their safety and humane treatment. The 2008 law, which often is cited as restricting expedited removal of minors, was intended to combat human trafficking. The law never envisioned flows on the scale currently being experienced on the southern border. Further, although the president has authority under current law to facilitate the expedited removal of minors, the administration seems reluctant to fully exploit that authority. Congress could send the White House a strong signal of support for expedited removal, in a safe and judicious manner, by revising the 2008 law. More importantly, the government should aggressively develop responsible agreements with countries for the expedited return of their citizens, as well as greater cooperation from Mexico in combating illegal migration pipelines from Latin America to the U.S.
Step 5. Use the tools at hand. Meeting many of the challenges for stabilizing the border can be undertaken under existing law and with the resources the president has at hand. For example, the president has the authority to deploy the military, in particular the National Guard, to the border to provide assistance and support.
As important as dealing with the current situation is thinking about where the nation goes from here. The larger issues in fixing our broken borders and flawed immigration system don’t require a massive comprehensive sledgehammer of a bill that might do more harm than good. There are practical, effective, fair and compassionate alternatives that Washington simply has not tried. If the president and the Senate would be willing to drop their demands for amnesty, Washington could adopt a problem-solving road map that addresses the key issues.
Rather than accept the politics-as-usual approach of just doing “something” to say a crisis has been addressed, Congress and the administration should take a disciplined and nonpartisan approach that would provide more than a Band-Aid for the problem and talking point s for campaign speeches.