After decades of immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border, net immigration has fallen to zero — but Congress seems not to have gotten the memo.
“The Obama administration has been very clear about its interest in boosting border security. The way it manifests that is by throwing more resources at the agencies responsible for controlling movements across the border,” Cesar Cuauhtemoc Garcia Hernandez, professor of law at Capital University, told Mint Press News.
After decades of immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border, net immigration has fallen to zero. Despite the sharp declines in undocumented workers coming to the U.S., Congress is poised to send billions of dollars more to border security agencies as part of the immigration reform package currently being debated in the Senate.
The proposal calls for hiring an additional 3,500 border agents to supplement the roughly 25,000 agents already patrolling the border.
“[Legislation proposed by] the Gang of Eight includes an additional $6 billion for border protection. The communities along the U.S. side of the border are some of the safest in the country if you look at the FBI crime statistics. They are very safe places, I was born and raised in those places, I have family in those places. If anything we are facing the prospect of seeing more money devoted to border security policies that I don’t see a need for,” Garcia Hernandez said.
Much of this money will go to the e-verify program and other electronic programs to ensure the identity of workers.
A large portion is allocated specifically to resources along the border, including $4.5 billion worth of drones, ground sensors and increased funding to bolster the work of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). There is also $1.5 million allocated to expand border fencing.
The bill, which has stalled in the Senate, could fail to receive the necessary support because of proposals that would expand the number of work visas and create a 13- to 25-year path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented workers in the United States.
The U.S. today has more immigrants from Mexico alone — 12.0 million — than any other country in the world has from all countries of the world. Some 30 percent of all current U.S. immigrants were born in Mexico. Many returned to Mexico after the 2008 economic crisis when low-wage jobs become harder to obtain.
The Pew Hispanic Center found that in 2011 more Mexican immigrants left the U.S. than entered — the first time such a situation has occurred since the Great Depression.
“The factor that looms over all of this is the economy. The fact of the matter is people are having difficulty finding and keeping jobs. That economic pool has significantly diminished. People are less interested in quite literally risking their lives to cross the border when there is a possibility that they won’t have a job,” Garcia Hernandez said.
Because of the massive infrastructure already in place, immigration experts believe it will be difficult to dismantle in the short term. “I am hopeful that the violence will taper off in Mexico and that will make the trip through less dangerous, especially those from Central America trying to come to U.S. It’s very hard to reduce the financial investment that we have already made in law enforcement,” Garcia Hernandez said.