President Obama has taken important steps to provide relief to millions of families who have been living and working in this country but who have lived in constant fear of unjust detention and deportation. Tens of thousands of parents have been separated from their children. Hard-working employees and entrepreneurs have been deprived of livelihoods. Millions who just want a chance for a better future have been denied opportunity.
If Congress had done its job, the President’s action would not have been necessary. Longstanding flaws in our immigration system would have been addressed, giving even more people the legal protections they deserve and a path to citizenship. We all need to keep working toward the goal of comprehensive immigration reform.
As an organization that has done extensive research on border issues, we have documented the costly border buildup and dramatic increase of Border Patrol agents in recent years. We have now reached a point of diminishing returns: about 21 migrants per year are now apprehended per Border Patrol agent, down from over 100 ten years ago and over 300 in the mid-1990s. The President’s recommendation that Congress add 20,000 new agents to the border is overkill, as are proposals to deploy the National Guard, fly more drones, or build more fencing in remote areas. Instead, we hope that the administration will focus on an approach to border security that improves coordination, intelligence-sharing, accountability, and respect for human rights.
Moreover, as the administration moves to reduce the backlog in deportation hearings, it will be important to ensure due process and identify claims for asylum, refugee status, or other protections, especially for children and families fleeing violence.
Overall, this is a moment of new possibilities. The President’s actions will offer millions of people a chance to live with dignity and without fear of being separated from their families. This is the most important action taken on immigration in the last three decades.