As a veteran border patrol officer, I can say without any reservations that our immigration system is completely dysfunctional. Immigrants permitted to come to the United States have a cumbersome and expensive time doing so. Those who aren’t permitted to enter waltz across the border by the tens of thousands, and those not allowed to remain here elude deportations, even after committing serious crimes against our citizens.
Hillary Clinton has put forth a multipronged immigration plan that contains the worthwhile suggestion of creating a Center for Immigration Affairs, designed to provide tools, services and resources for newly arrived immigrants. It would help them adjust to their new home and expedite their assimilation. Unfortunately, the plan also contains many suggestions that will exacerbate illegal immigration and stretch immigration enforcement resources to the breaking point.
While America is a nation with a legacy of welcoming immigrants, it is also a nation of laws. The Clinton plan would excuse illegal immigration by citing our immigration history, an idea that is not only reckless and irresponsible, but also dangerous. We live in a dangerous world, as recent events here and in Europe have shown, and now more than ever, public safety depends on immigration security. The Clinton immigration plan would offer not only amnesty for illegal immigrants already here, but seemingly for any who might want to come in the future.
The plan would also allow illegal immigrants currently in the United States to enroll into the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare. By offering benefits to those who come here illegally, the plan puts in place even greater incentives to violate the nation’s immigration laws.
The Clinton plan proposes to close private detention facilities and prohibit the detainment of anyone with family ties in the U.S. Taken together, these two initiatives would not only push current immigration enforcement staffing levels beyond the breaking point but also send a signal abroad that our borders are open once again to anyone and everyone who wants to enter. Those suggestions, without substantial investment in new agents, training and equipment, including vehicles, communications and technology, are not only irresponsible but dangerous.
Any discussion of illegal immigration and how to handle the large number of illegal immigrants currently in the country must first begin with effective border enforcement, since the safety of our families, security of our communities, and strength of our economy are all contingent on effective border security.
We failed to recognize this dynamic relationship with the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) in 1986. This law granted a blanket amnesty to several million illegal aliens and made it illegal to hire an illegal immigrant. But the mere discussion of an illegal alien amnesty in the United States had a dire impact on border enforcement.
The year after the passage of IRCA, the Tucson sector deported more illegal immigrants than the entire population of the city of Tucson. Our southern border was pressed from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico with a new wave of illegal immigrants determined to get into the country in time to benefit from the recently granted amnesty. Lesson learned: The mere mention of an amnesty caused increased illegal immigration.
President Obama’s administration, which has floated the idea of an amnesty for years, has been dogged by surges in illegal immigration as well. This was a crisis of his own creation. The administration repeatedly failed to recognize that the lack of consequences for those who crossed illegally only exacerbated the problem. Through social media and word of mouth, the message spread to villages and major cities across Mexico and Central America that if you got to America, you could stay.
This perception motivated hundreds of thousands of our neighbors to the south to take the dangerous journey to America. And many of these journeys are still being made, oftentimes by minors who are now attempting to join their illegal alien relatives in the United States. The border surge this year might soon eclipse the surge in 2014, the year the Obama administration referred to the issue as a humanitarian crisis. This unlawful influx is driven by poverty and corruption in Latin America and high expectations of an amnesty in the U.S.
The Obama administration tripped over the same mistakes made in 1986 by failing to address border security as a necessary precursor to comprehensive immigration reform. Mrs. Clinton’s immigration plan replicates this mistake once again and this is cause for great concern. Until her immigration plan addresses meaningful border security, it can’t be taken as a serious proposal.
• Brandon Judd is a border patrol agent with 17 years of experience and president of the National Border Patrol Council, representing more than 17,000 border patrol agents.