‘Border Trigger’ Puts the Breaks on Finding Real Answers for Immigration

Yahoo Contributor Network
‘Border Trigger’ Puts the Breaks on Finding Real Answers for Immigration

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Gov. Janet Napolitano at the opening of the Loop 202 in Mesa, Arizona

Janet Napolitano, the former Arizona governor and current U.S Homeland Security Secretary, has rejected the notion of a "border trigger," which would mandate that the United States secures its border with Mexico before it can offer citizenship to illegal immigrants living in the country. Yahoo News asked Arizona residents to share how their experiences and observations have shaped their perspectives on a border trigger.

FIRST PERSON | Forty years ago, my father emigrated from Tunisia. I was born there while my parents waited for his visa to clear and their new life in upstate New York to begin.

My father immigrated to this country "the right way," which didn't take as long as it might have had he been from another country because America had reasonable quotas for Tunisians at the time.

I am fortunate; the system worked for us.

I am American. My mother, born and raised in upstate New York, guarantees my American citizenship. I am grateful. But I think about the Dreamers (the young illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States at an early age) often, and what it would be like if someone showed up today and sent me back to Tunisia. Don't get me wrong; I love Tunisia and my family there, but I've lived in America for 40 years. I barely speak the Tunisian language and I can't read Arabic. I have no idea how I would begin to build a life there.

Today I live in Mesa, Ariz., located in Maricopa County, Sheriff Joe Arpaio's stomping grounds. I've heard stories of school kids screaming and crying when they hear the sound of a particular van engine, afraid that their loved ones would disappear during the height of immigration sweeps (also known as the 287(g) program) from 2008 to 2012 before the Obama administration revoked the program in Arizona.

When Mesa and other city governments stood up to Arpaio, his supporters accused them of being sanctuary cities -- those that protected illegal aliens. The term "illegal" used to make migrant workers without the proper paperwork feel like criminals, like a sub-culture of beings. They sacrifice to bring much-needed financial support to very poor families back home. Some Mesa locals treat them badly once they get here to work, but the workers put up with it in order to do what they need to do -- work.

Still, Mesa, like all of America, is a place of laws, where ostensibly there are no rewards for breaking the law. However, there comes a time to review laws that are broken often to see if they meet their intended purpose. Many immigration laws need another look. For example, why place quotas that differ so much between the demand of needed labor and the number of those who want to work? This creates an unreasonable situation. It invokes human nature and encourages immigrants to get around the law, much as they find a way around the wall. In so doing, they find themselves in an environment that necessitates further law-breaking to obtain false documentation needed to do what they intended to do - find honest work.

I believe if a reasonable legal way to work in the United States were readily available, most people would use it. There would be no need for identity theft and forgery, no need to deal with an underground system of rape and exploitation, and no need to subject themselves and loved ones to a horrible system, if there was a rational system to transport migrant workers to American farmers and manufactures for work and then come home as they wish to do.

This is where the so-called "border trigger" loses sight of the reality of the situation. Proposing to seal the border before doing any of the complex work of comprehensive immigration reform is part of a concerning trend. It is a shortsighted denial of what's happening on the ground.

It ignores the reality that comprehensive immigration reform will require a delicate dance of diplomacy with many nations. Divisive wall-building is not the best place to start international discussion. Changing migrant workers' behavior also takes time to implement. So does reviewing worker quotas and forging diplomacy on immigration, which can negate the need for "Berlin-style" heavy militarization of the border.

One thing about walls: Humans who want to get around walls bad enough will. Law enforcement can slow trafficking down, but not stop it completely when people are desperate to get to the United States for work. That is why I do not support the border trigger. All it will accomplish is to put the brakes on before we can arrive at real answers that are good for Arizona and good for America.

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