The major focus now in the US Senate debate on a comprehensive immigration bill is on border security.
There are two views on how the country's borders are key to passage of a comprehensive new law:
1. Secure the Borders as Part of the Comprehensive Plan
This point of view sees the entire comprehensive plan as a single package, and each of its elements is related to the other. All elements get set in motion once a law is signed by the President. But no element is contingent upon completing any other element when the law goes into effect.
This is the view supported by the Catholic Church in our country because there are already sufficient time delays in the proposed plan to make sure that by the time an unauthorized person is eligible for a green card, at least 10 years or more will have past.
With the recent border security amendments now in the bill, making the southern border totally secure will happen. The doubling of Border Patrol agents begins at once, and the other border elements will follow quickly. With the addition of more Border Patrol agents, one could actually station one agents every 250 feet from one end of the southern border to the other.
Keep in mind that the number of unauthorized persons attempting to enter the U.S. looking for work has dropped to a mere trickle. In fact, the "bad guys" far outnumber people looking for work. Drug dealers, money launderers, and human traffickers make up the majority of persons now apprehended.
2. Secure the Borders Totally Before Other Parts of the Plan Take Effect
This point of view focuses upon target percentages or trigger numbers of apprehensions before any of the other elements can take effect.
But how can one know that 90% of all unauthorized persons are actually apprehended? Since most unauthorized persons cross through five of the eleven Border Patrol Sectors, it will be easy to focus most of the new agents in those key Sectors.
It is feared that the proponents of this second approach are really not in favor of a comprehensive immigration reform plan, and see the use of triggers as a way to halt the implementation completely. All of the anti-immigrant groups in the country tend to favor this second approach.
I urge each one of you to contact your U.S. Senator and urge him/her to support the bill in the Senate which retains border security as one of the interlocked elements of a comprehensive approach to reform.