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President Trump has ended the family-separation policy, after the enormous outcry from inside and outside the United States. But the underlying problems driving immigration pain still remain.
While all the noise and drama and heartache are understandable, they don’t really help solve the underlying problems that have led to this point. Some members of Congress have actually made suggestions worthy of discussion and action.
For example, Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) provided a rough outline of four priorities during a June 18th interview on NPR. He said we need more immigration judges in order to speed up the process; we should work with the governments of Central American countries to address what he called the root causes of migration into the U.S.; we need to pursue alternatives to detention; and we need to have “smart border security.”
“This is a symptom of a much larger problem. And we should be addressing the larger problem,” Hurd told NPR.
America does indeed need more immigration judges – fast. My organization, the Immigrant Tax Inquiry Group (ITIG) actually has a way to generate funds that could be used for this in the long term. But in the short term, Congress should act immediately to beef up the adjudicative infrastructure for more expeditious – and fair – processing of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
There must be a balance between two extremes: We don’t want to continually be an invading superpower, nor do we want to retreat under the covers of our own bed and suck our thumb while the world outside creates new monsters for us to fear.
Pursuing alternatives to detention sounds like a good idea, and in fact prior administrations have done that, using technology like ankle bracelets and smartphone apps to ensure that people who have entered the U.S. unlawfully can be held accountable and get their day in court.
As for needing “smart border security,” I’m not sure what Hurd meant by “smart,” but here’s a thought: Why not treat our border as a zone rather than as a line in the sand? Why not broaden how we think of our border, such that it becomes an effective buffer in addition to being a delineator between two nations?
Why not place in this zone services, programs and resources that would-be immigrants need: health care, social services, work permit registration, and perhaps the Family Case Management Program Hurd mentioned? ITIG’s Five + Five would generate adequate funds to support this approach.
As Hurd noted, “we should be prioritizing this rather than spending the time of building tent cities and trying to separate kids from their parents.”
The family-separation strategy is counter-productive to wise policy and violates our humanitarian principles. It needs to end immediately. Then, let’s think calmly and clearly about the real issues and reason creatively about solving the real problems.
Mark Jason is director of the policy advocacy organization Immigrant Tax Inquiry Group.