Border security

This is a debate about concrete data, not anecdotes or vague remarks

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said a few days ago that she does not support any immigration reform until there is border security. When asked what her definition of a secure border is, she was unable to explain it.

The expression “border security” has become a favorite catchphrase to put conditions on tackling an immigration law. It is an excuse that opponents of the reform are using to demand fulfillment of a vaguely defined objective as a condition to examining other aspects of the law.

The idea of hermetically sealing a border like the U.S.-Mexico one is as impractical politically as it is detrimental in economic terms and geographically impossible. However, the subject has been raised whenever possible for years, consequently ensuring that the federal government does nothing.

The reality is different. In the past 26 years, since the 1986 reform until 2012, almost $187 billion were spent on federal immigration enforcement, according to a Migration Policy Institute report. This report also shows the relevance of border security for the Obama administration; in 2012, the administration allocated $18 billion to border security, almost 25% of the federal government’s total expenses on law enforcement agencies at various levels.

To this we must add the record number of deportations reached last year. There are those who question the numbers, claiming they get inflated with border detentions. The discussion about cold numbers hides the drama of families torn apart; these separations increased because of more restrictive policies.

When discussing border security, the fact that immigration also depends on factors that are unrelated to the number of agents who are deployed on the ground cannot be ignored. The meager U.S. economy has reduced the immigration flow from the south, while the aging of the Mexican population is a change that—according to political demographers—will naturally reduce immigration into the U.S.

Therefore, the debate over border security within the context of immigration reform can be based on anecdotes or general impressions repeated ad nauseam. Concrete data is needed; and according to that, border security within the immigration context is more solid than ever. In addition, the prospects of increased immigration have been diminishing. It is time to talk about security without demagoguery and with reality in hand.