A primer on American Immigration & Border Security Policy
When I began dating my wife, Patricia, she had an inscription on the mirror at her home that seemed profound to me then: “You can only control your actions and reactions.”
In the age of Twitter politics, it is even more profound today.
President Trump’s recent Executive Order regarding immigration and the public reaction to it reminds me of the spring of 2010, when Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070. Unfortunately, the public debate then, much like today, is neither enlightening nor productive.
The present discourse represents the professional victim classes who so vocally represent both extreme factions in the Democratic and Republican parties. No one benefits from these public tantrums, but the politicians themselves and the cable news networks who are playing the ratings game – more outrage, more revenue.
So, what should have happened in 2010 when Governor Brewer signed S.B. 1070 and what should happen today? These are relevant questions if we want to move beyond the partisan playbook, which fails miserably to address either the national security or economic issues presented by this very significant public policy opportunity.
Before we get to solutions, I am compelled to remind everyone that the border security situation with Mexico in 2016 has nearly no resemblance to that of 2010. From an experiential level, Maricopa County (the 6th largest metropolitan area in the country) was ground zero for illegal immigration in 2010. Multiple drop houses were busted per week, an Arizona rancher was murdered on his own property, and running gun battles took place along Interstate freeways and urban cores. Even our own federal government was posting signs in the desert, 50 miles from Governor Brewer’s office, warning citizens to stay away from these known drug-smuggling corridors. Seven years ago, illegal immigration was a tidal wave of humanity pouring across our unprotected and undefended southern border.
Today, because of measures taken by the Department of Homeland Security largely at the direction of the Obama administration, the porous border and waves of illegal immigrants swarming across our southern border is no longer the reality. In fact, it is mostly Central American and Haitian refugees being held on our border seeking asylum from violence, corruption, and natural disasters.
Drug-smuggling cartels are still busy at work, but interdiction efforts have been and continue to be much more successful than in previous years. To be clear, things have changed – dramatically. But our political narrative has not.
In 2010, right after signing S.B. 1070, Governor Brewer and her administration asked for a meeting with the leaders of Arizona’s Hispanic community – the meeting was held and hosted by the Anti-Defamation League here in Phoenix. Governor Brewer asked the leaders in the community to work with her administration to shape the policy discussion going forward.
Some of these policies included finding ways to create economic opportunity in Mexico, prioritizing the end of drug-smuggling and human trafficking, and addressing the root causes of economic migration throughout the region. These are common-sense areas of immigration where Republicans and Democrats should be able to work together.
Unfortunately, not a single person in that meeting offered to lead and work with her to mature the issue. Why? Simply look at how President Obama reacted to the signing of S.B. 1070:
“Local officials are allowed to ask somebody who they have a suspicion might be an illegal immigrant for their papers. But you can imagine, if you are an Hispanic-American in Arizona – your grandparents may have been there before Arizona was even a state. But now, suddenly if you don’t have your papers and you took your kid out to get ice cream, you’re going to be harassed.” – President Barack Obama
It’s this type of factually incorrect, overheated and misleading rhetoric from leaders who should know better that deters others from leading on major policy issues. Instead of taking advantage of an opportunity to present substantive solutions, leaders on both sides of the aisle fall back into bomb-throwing and name-calling.
We saw it in 2010 and we’re seeing it once again in 2017.
Our Congressional leaders again have the opportunity to lead on immigration. It will take courage, but by taking these steps our leaders will make progress toward finding solutions and calming the inflamed rhetoric Americans are witnessing:
1. Closely read President Trump’s executive order, and reflect upon the specific merits and deficiencies of each proposal;
2. Review the immigration reform legislation passed by the US Senate in 2013 and reflect upon the specific merits and deficiencies of that proposal.
3. Review and compare the Executive Orders passed by the Obama administration to address these issues from 2014 with those of President Trump and the 2013 Senate proposal, then…
4. DO YOUR JOB; Develop a Border Security and Immigration Reform proposal that reflects the values of the vast majority of Americans that want:
- A secure southern border that promotes legal trade and commerce
- An immigration policy that arrests and deports illegal immigrants who have been found guilty of a criminal offense;
- Improve and adopt a national E-Verify system which ensures that only workers legally in this country can be employed;
- Develop a policy which gives non-criminal illegal aliens an ability to work in the country, pay taxes, and after a lengthy period of time, a path to legalization if they remain law-abiding citizens;
- Adopt legislation which treats children brought into this country illegally by their parents an opportunity to earn citizenship and to be treated as they should be – Americans.
5. Finally, we must stop treating Mexico, Central America and South America with the soft bigotry of low expectations that have characterized our relationship with this region of the world since President Monroe established the Monroe Doctrine in 1823. These are not our colonies; they are independent nations, potential trading partners and allies in promoting economic freedom and liberty throughout the world. Mexico is, after all, is our states largest trading partner. The economic and political development of this part of the world is strategically important for continued U.S. economic growth and prosperity.
So, let’s all begin to control our emotional reactions and begin acting in ways which promote all of our best interests – not just those guys and gals in the peanut gallery of American politics. It’s time to grow up. Do your job, be a leader and Make America Great Again.
J. Charles (Chuck) Coughlin is the Founder and President of HighGround, Inc. who has worked for and on behalf of US Senator John McCain, Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, and former Governor Fife Symington and as the head of the transition team and chief political strategist for former Governor Jan Brewer.