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Immigration and misunderstandings

William Miller | Monday, November 14, 2011

Immigration is without a doubt the most misunderstood and overlooked (with the exception of education, about which I have also written) issue in the current election cycle. Mitt Romeny claims that Rick Perry was lax on immigrants; Rick Perry claims that Mitt Romney hired illegals to cut his yard; Herman Cain wants to electrify the fence; Michelle Bachmann is just generally scared of minorities.

Meanwhile, President Obama has done little to truly solve the issue. His administration has cracked down on employers who hire illegals, and more illegal immigrants are being deported than ever before. However, the fence remains unguardable, drug traffickers cross with ease and millions of people around the world continue to wait in line hoping for the chance to come here and live the American dream.

The unfortunate part of this issue is that the two sides — secure the border vs. let more people in legally — are actually on the same side. People want to come to the U.S. legally because the economic opportunities are enormous. But people decide to come illegally for two reasons:

First, the process for coming here legally is a long, bureaucratic nightmare that few understand. Second, the fence is not well-guarded and crossing is relatively easy.

Solving one without the other will not fix the problem. If we make the process less bureaucratic without securing the border, then people will still have an incentive to cross illegally just because it’s so easy. What’s more, drug cartels will continue to smuggle drugs into America with ease, fueling the violence that currently plagues Mexico and Central America.

However, if we only secure the border, then immigrants will just try to find new ways of coming here illegally, either by swimming, digging ever-more-elaborate tunnels or hiring drug cartels to smuggle them in.

Neither of these is a good outcome. That’s why we should secure the border while also streamlining the process for coming to work here. Securing the border has numerous benefits.

First, it will make us safer — it’s not good that a terrorist could currently sneak into the U.S. with little chance of getting caught.

Second, it will slow (though never totally eliminate) the stream of drugs coming into the U.S. This would reduce the supply of drugs in the U.S., driving up the price and leading to fewer users. It would also reduce the flow of money heading to Mexican drug cartels, who use that cash to fund a campaign of intimidation and violence.

By streamlining the process for coming here legally and simultaneously securing the border, we could significantly reduce the need and desire for immigrants to cross illegally. This would dramatically reduce the amount of time and money that law enforcement spends catching and deporting illegal immigrants. It would also supply American businesses with the seasonal workers they need. That’s one reason that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is such a big proponent of immigration reform.

This issue isn’t that tough. The benefits to immigration reform would be enormous. The costs would be small. Sadly, Washington isn’t working very well at the moment. As a result, our border will remain insecure, millions will continue to come here illegally and millions more will continue waiting in line around the world, hoping to one day live the American dream.

William Miller is a freshman. He can be reached at wmiller3@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.