On September 12 the Immigration Policy Center co-hosted a conversation with the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center titled “Is the Border Broken? Rethinking the Conventional Wisdom.” Featuring Josiah McC. Heyman, chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Texas El Paso and Terry Goddard, former Attorney General of Arizona, the conversation revolved around the need to reevaluate how we think of our borders and the concept of security.
Both presenters recently released papers that approach the concept of border security from different backgrounds. However, both come to a remarkably similar conclusion: the real threat to border security is not the flow of unauthorized migrants or terrorists crossing the Mexican border but rather transnational criminal organizations and U.S. policies that permit them the power to move guns and illegal substances across the borders with relative ease.
During the conversation, Heyman identified three potential “border wars” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could focus on: unauthorized migration, terrorism and the guns-drugs-money nexus. By over-prioritizing migration, DHS has misdirected government attention and left the border vulnerable to the work of the cartels which, unlike the flow of migrants, have real implications for safety.
Regarding terrorism, Goddard noted our unsettling national attitude that sometimes conflates immigrants with terrorists. Heyman observed that if the United States government was concerned about terrorists crossing the southern border, the best strategy would be passing comprehensive immigration reform; reform would allow government officials to track and understand who is entering the country, providing obvious security benefits. LIRS continues to call for comprehensive immigration reform and we urge you to join us in these calls by taking action at the LIRS Action Center.
Watch an archived webcast of the conversation.