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Incentives and Perception Drive Immigration

Posted by on May 4, 2013
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The stars have aligned once again for Congress to confront America’s illegal immigration problem. An estimated 11 million people are residing in the U.S. without legal status according to the Department of Homeland Security DHS.   It is worth noting that a significant number of people are interested in coming here from Mexico at some point in the future.  A recent Pew Global Attitudes study of 1000 Mexican citizens conducted in-person finds that 35 percent of those surveyed would come to the U.S. if they had the means and opportunity.  Byron York did the math, “The population of Mexico is about 110 million. If the Pew numbers are correct, that means about 38 million would like to live in the U.S.”  Additionally, the study claims that 20 percent of Mexicans, or 22 million citizens would come to the U.S. without legal authorization.

The very act of discussing legislation causes a surge in crossings at the southern border. According to CBS, the number of illegals attempting to cross has tripled in recent months.  People in Mexico and Central America are attuned to our political debates and they are motivated to time their entry for maximum benefit.  The Senate bill will not permit anyone to stay who arrived after 2011 to compensate for those who crossed recently or who enter in the future.  As with every action, this rule will create a vigorous market for documentation showing individuals arrived prior to the cutoff date.

The ethical conflict confronting many U.S. citizens is offering those who entered illegally a more favorable option than the millions who are navigating the legal immigration process.  In addition, human nature and the desire for a better life ensures that any legislation perceived (the critical term) as amnesty will produce a new wave of illegal immigrants.  In 1986, Ronald Reagan provided amnesty to approximately 2.7 million people here illegally, encouraging millions more to make the journey. Reagan lamented his decision as Democrats scrapped border security while neutering promised workplace enforcement.

This time, we are assured the process and outcome will be different. Senator Rubio and the “Gang of Eight” Senators protest the claims that their 844 page legislation offers amnesty while promising DHS and the border patrol will provide 100 % border monitoring, called “persistent surveillance” and 90% apprehension rates of those attempting to cross illegally.  Conservatives and Republicans are rightly concerned that politics will trump serious efforts to secure America’s border as neither DHS nor the border patrol can accurately measure the number of people attempting to enter the country. As Manuel Padilla Jr., chief patrol agent for the Tucson area, puts it, tallying the number of people who slipped through “is not an exact science.”

The list of issues addressed by the Senate in S. 744 is long, complex and packed with compromise as comprehensive legislation tends to be. Attempts to provide a fair and balanced account of the bill is tedious at best.  Senator Rubio claims the process is now open to every Senator and numerous amendments will come forward. He is an articulate salesman with ample funding to sell this plan including an effort kicking-off  May 1 to sway opposition to the Senate legislation.

Millions are being spent to convince Americans this is not amnesty.  At the end of the day, it’s a matter of semantics – 11 million people will remain after meeting the requirements and begin a 13 year process that could lead to citizenship (in its current form, the bill will issue up to 30 million green cards over the next decade).

True border security means no one enters or exits the U.S. without contact at a designated point of entry.  Politicians discussing immigration are offering many interpretations of border security, but knowing who and why someone enters is the only definition that really matters.

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