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Securing Our Borders Is the Humane Thing to Do

Securing Our Borders Is the Humane Thing to Do
A truck carrying mostly Honduran migrants taking part in a caravan heading to the U.S. drives from Santiago Niltepec to Juchitan, near the town of La Blanca in Oaxaca State, Mexico, on October 30, 2018. (Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images)

Alfonse M. D'Amato By Wednesday, 31 October 2018 03:36 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

The debate over immigration is coming to a head as the human caravan of thousands wends its way through Mexico towards the U.S. This is a stark reminder of the challenge we face in securing our southern border, and it brings into focus the failure of current immigration policy to stem the flow of illegal immigration.

For those of us living far from the Mexican border, the problem may seem distant, but its impact is felt across our country, and it needs to be dealt with in a firm and fair way. We’re a nation of immigrants, and our ancestors all came from somewhere else, seeking a better life here. It’s a tribute to our way of life that people from around the world want to come to America. But we must get a handle on the flood of illegal immigration or we face the danger of being overwhelmed with this human tide. And in communities across America that have been negatively impacted by the notorious MS-13 Latin American gangs, the threat is immediate and serious. It’s here, it’s now, and it’s real.

The countries from which many of the travelers heading north come from are disasters in almost all ways. Their economies are severely depressed; their governments incorrigibly corrupt; and their societies riddled with crime and gang violence. In Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador — and even much of Mexico — the domestic situation is so precarious that given the chance millions of people would head north to America.

The truly compassionate thing to do is to enforce a systematic screening process to allow a manageable flow of immigrants into the U.S. Instead, current policy encourages would-be immigrants to take terrible chances with their lives to cross dangerous territory often controlled by human smugglers and criminal elements. Immigrant caravans are supposedly organized to provide safety in numbers to make this dangerous journey, but they only encourage more desperate refugees to join the trek north, swelling the immigration crisis to even greater proportions.

That’s why the emergency measures being put into place by the Trump administration to deal with the crisis are not misplaced. It is essential that our government sends an unequivocal message that we will not allow our southern border to become meaningless.

Many of the people heading north right now intend to take advantage of a glaring loophole in U.S. immigration law to claim asylum status in the U.S. By simply making it to the border and declaring they are fleeing violence at home, these immigrants are automatically granted legal standing allowing them to stay here while their asylum cases are adjudicated. But because most are released until their legal cases can be heard, there is a powerful incentive for them to simply melt away and join millions of others residing here illegally. And for those who are not released, there is the wrenching problem of what to do with families crossing our borders with young children. The scenes of these children being separated from their parents, and of families held in detention centers, are heart rendering, but they are a natural consequence of a policy that encouraged the flood in the first place.

If potential illegal immigrants know in advance that they will not automatically be allowed cross our border and assert asylum status, many may decide to stay back home and try to come here the right and legal way. In this context, the decision to send U.S. troops to enforce a border separation makes perfectly good sense and may in fact be the only way to keep our borders from being breached by hundreds of thousands more asylum seekers.

Mexico can and should help with this effort to secure our mutual border. The Mexican government could emulate the system being put in place in Eastern Europe to stem the western flow of illegal immigrants. Immigration processing centers are being established closely outside Western Europe to receive migrants and determine their legal status before they will be allowed to travel west.

A similar orderly processing system south of our Mexican border would be the most humane way to handle the flow of migration north. It would be unfortunate though necessary if U.S. troops have to meet civilian migrants at the border and repel their advance into the U.S. The asylum loophole should be closed to require that before obtaining asylum migrants must apply outside the U.S. to qualify for this protective status.

These are the reasonable measures that can help stem the tide of human misery flowing our way.

This column was originally published in the Long Island Herald Community Newspapers.

Former Senator D’Amato served a distinguished 18-year career in the U.S. Senate, where he chaired the Senate Banking Committee and was a member of the Senate Appropriations and Finance Committees. While in the Senate, Mr. D’Amato also Chaired of the U.S. Commission on Cooperation and Security in Europe (CSCE), and served on the Senate Intelligence Committee. The former Senator is considered an expert in the legislative and political process, who maintains close relationships with Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. He is regularly called upon for his advice and counsel, and is recognized for his incisive analysis of national and international political affairs. The former Senator will share insights gained from his years in Washington “with a clear-eyed view of the political forces that shape the world we live in today.” To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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The debate over immigration is coming to a head as the human caravan of thousands wends its way through Mexico towards the U.S.
border, national security, immigration
Wednesday, 31 October 2018 03:36 PM
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