The new border fencing and additional troops proposed in the Border Security First Act (HR 399) introduced by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Austin, in January 2015 is an ineffective approach for controlling our border and is a waste of taxpayer money.
Although traditional and innovative command and control measures are a first step in controlling our borders, and we should maintain them at current baseline efforts, they have reached the point of diminishing returns in their implementation.
At this juncture, adding more troops and fences to our border is an ineffective stopgap measure; and its cost far outweighs the minimal reduction in illegal immigration and insecurity risk that they would yield.
An effective approach to reducing illegal immigration and insecurity on our southern border requires understanding and addressing the root causes of the problem: Poverty; a lack of legitimate economic opportunities; and its binational and international political and economic nature.
Adding to the stockpile of fences and boots on the ground, beyond what we already have on the border, only address racial prejudices and irrational fears such as crossover violence.
The realities are that, as reported by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, border communities have among the lowest incidences of violent crime. Fences and troops on the ground do little or nothing to reduce or control the forces that create illegal immigration and insecurity south of our border.
The more cost effective, productive and sustainable approach for controlling illegal immigration and reducing insecurity on our borders is a binational, coordinated strategy that creates legitimate economic development opportunities and jobs for the US-Mexico border region and in Central America.
We need to develop and implement a binational border economic development (BiNED) strategy that does not alienate Mexico but recognizes its importance as the US’s third largest trading partner and our strategic, economic and political ally.
Instead of wasting additional funds on the militarization of the border and the construction of additional fences, strategies that have been found to be ineffective and unsustainable throughout millennia, we should instead invest in creating competitive and prosperous border communities.
Diverting those monies to create communities that are innovative, integrated and collaborative binational border mega regions specializing in advanced, rapid response manufacturing clusters that create jobs in both countries would be a much better use of these resources. It would decrease unemployment and crime rates while simultaneously increasing education levels, earning capacity, and security.
A prosperous border region reduces the pressures on illegal immigration and provides legitimate opportunities for those that otherwise would engage in illegal activities in a much more effective and sustainable way than troops and barbed wire fences.
It is time we expand our conventional command and control border strategy to incorporate economic development opportunities along the border. Mexican president Pena Nieto recently proposed the establishment of Special Economic Zones along the southern border of Mexico to control illegal immigration and insecurity.
As an integral part of our border policy, the US needs to work jointly with Mexico to implement Special Economic Zones along the US-Mexico border ultimately enhancing economic opportunities and security along both sides of the border.