There’s a basic chicken-and-egg problem that has long bedeviled the U.S. immigration debate: What comes first, a secure border or effective reform?
For decades, “securing our borders” has been the rallying cry among many Americans concerned about illegal immigration. The blueprint on immigration reform recently released by a bipartisan Senate group states that the path to legalized status for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. is “contingent upon our success in securing our borders and addressing visa overstays.” This sentiment is echoed by conservatives in the House and in many statehouses, particularly in the Southwest.
Unfortunately, this formulation has it exactly backward. To achieve a secure border, we must first have effective immigration reform.