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Politics & Current Affairs

Border Security: A Step Towards Immigration Reform?

The Obama administration has announced plans to bolster security along the U.S. border with Mexico, The New York Times reported today. In a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday, President Obama detailed the specifics of his plan: he asked for at least $500 million in emergency funds in order to hire an additional 1,000 Border Patrol agents, 160 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and two more aerial drones in a coordinated attempt to patrol the 1,969 mile border. 

According to Times, President Obama’s letter asked this request to be considered an emergency, saying that it “responds to urgent and essential needs.” Despite the Obama administration’s assertion that the border is more fortified than ever, calls for increased border security have reached fever pitch in recent months. In March a prominent Arizona rancher was slain, with suspected links to nearby Mexican drug cartels. The next month, Arizona responded by signing into law the nation’s toughest bill on illegal immigration, allowing police offers to detain individuals whom they suspect might be in the country illegally. President Obama criticized the Arizona bill as “misguided” but emphasized that federal immigration reform remains a necessity.

The President’s latest move is motivated no doubt by the upcoming midterm elections. Immigration threatens to be a potent issue in November, and members of both parties have clamored for increased security, The New York Times reports. The President has pushed to revamp federal immigration law but, like his predecessor George W. Bush, has seen his efforts stalled. This increase in border security is a concession to Republicans and some within his own party, yet comprehensive reform still seems to be his ultimate goal. 

But what exactly will comprehensive immigration reform look like? Here at Big Think, many of our experts have weighed in on this debate. Jorge Castenada, Professor of Politics at NYU and former Foreign Minister of Mexico, argues that the US and Mexico need to adapt their law to reality rather than vice versa, by legalizing immigrants already in the US and creating a migrant worker program to prevent more illegal immigrants from entering in the future. Katherine vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, believes that the solution lies in improving the economic situation in Latin America. Scott Kleeb, the former Democratic Senate candidate from Nebraska, says that efforts should be made, at home, to counteract illegal hiring practices. And law professor Lenni Benson discusses the possibility of outsourcing immigration decisions to the private sector.


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