Migration studies say Border Enforcement Alone
WASHINGTON , Dec. 6 – The number of unauthorized migrants in the United States has risen from about four million to almost 11 million over the past 20 years, despite a 519 percent increase in funding and a 221 percent increase in staffing for border patrol programs, according to a series of studies released today by a leading migration group.
The studies, prepared for a blue-ribbon immigration panel of former US government officials, elected representatives and experts, give solid evidence that border enforcement alone has not slowed illegal immigration. Doris Meissner, director of the bipartisan Independent Task Force on Immigration and America’s Future, said “a picture is emerging from our research that a package of reforms is needed, including workplace enforcement as a key ingredient.”
“The experience of the past 10 years demonstrates that border enforcement alone has not been enough,” said Meissner, whose panel is sponsored by the prestigious Migration Policy Institute. “Unfortunately, it is practically the only aspect of immigration policy that draws a consensus in Washington today.”
Meissner, commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1993 to 2000, noted that research shows employment is the primary motivation for illegal immigration to the United States. While acknowledging the needs of American employers, Meissner said any effective policy to stem the flow of illegal migration must also focus on workplace enforcement, which requires an effective way for employers to verify that those they hire are authorized to work in the United States.
“More robust interior enforcement combined with border control and a practical system for new work visas to meet the ongoing labor needs of U.S. employers are inseparable elements of a well-functioning immigration system,” said Meissner, whose panel is co-chaired by former Sen. Spencer Abraham, R-MI, and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-IN. “While the Task Force has reached no conclusions, our research so far is driving that point home.”
According to an MPI study of appropriations from 1985-2002, funds for border control jumped from $700 million to $2.8 billion per year; funds for detention and removal skyrocketed from $192 million to $1.6 billion, while funds for interior investigations rose from $109 million to only $458 million.
Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, which is a partner institution in the MPI task force, said in a companion study released today that that new technologies and additional resources could form the backbone of a system to stop the hiring of unauthorized migrants. Employers will go along with such a system, Jacoby said, providing they are able to fill needs for essential workers with migrants who are in the country legally.
Marc Rosenblum, a visiting scholar at MPI, laid out six critical reforms necessary to construct a coherent worksite enforcement system, including limits on documents proving identity and work authorization, changes to shift the burden of applicant screening from employers to the government, and more efficient use of employment databases to target non-compliant employers.
The Migration Policy Institute also released a 20-year overview of border enforcement by Senior Policy Analyst Deborah Meyers and a review of three pilot programs designed to improve employer verification by former MPI Analyst Kevin Jernegan.
Unauthorized Migrants: Numbers and Characteristics
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