Policy Summary
President Trump recently  carried out a purge of the senior leadership of Department of Homeland Security –in order to replace them with individuals who will carry out his reform wishes. President Trump and Stephen Miller, political advisor and architect behind Trump’s immigration agenda, are angry that  changes are not being made fast enough to keep out migrants trying to enter the US at the Southern border. Miller believes that asylum screenings are biased and the interviewers need to tighten up and have less sympathy because too many people are passing the initial credible fear screenings.

Last week, DHS Secretary Kiersten Nielsen met with President Trump to discuss the US Southern border. After refusing to shut down the border – like many others, she found this request to be inappropriate and unnecessary – and  she was forced to resign. Below her, was an existing undersecretary, Claire Grady who had been acting as Deputy Secretary since April 2018. So, according to law, she would become acting Secretary whenever Nielsen would resign; however, Grady was given her walking papers to leave around the same time. With Grady officially out of the way, Trump can and has instilled Kevin McAleenan – Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection – as the new acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

President Trump’s no shame attitude comes at a time when his actions are almost walking the fine line of cronyism – the appointment of personal relations to office to carry out a specific agenda. It was reported that Trump told McAleenan that he would pardon him if he ran into legal problems, but he has since denied it on Twitter. While he has legally dodged any repercussions as he has swapped out leaders to better do his bidding, it poses an interesting question: how much can he get away with in this purge and will he? Will he continue to find loopholes in the existing laws and exploit them to get his way – all while enraging a large chunk of the American public?

Trump’s effort to purge the senior leadership of DHS, just like his impractical and offensive  border wall proposal, are not going to result in a more sensible border security system. Instead he should consider the steps like the following  to make the border more secure.

  • Renovate land ports of entry. The vast majority of illegal drugs that cross the US-Mexico border do so at “ports of entry,” the 48 official land crossings through which millions of people, vehicles and cargo pass every day. We need to make use of modern technology to monitor and apprehend drug cartels  that dominantly pass through legal ports of entry despite what Trump claims This could include cameras, fixed towers and aerial underground sensors, and better detection devices.
  • Increase border security personnel and personnel support at Ports of  entry and elsewhere . This includes  more screeners and polygraph administrators are needed, relocation and retraining for existing and willing border patrol members could also be an option if there is not enough funding to hire more personnel.
  • Improve the US-Mexico relationship through improved trade, joint patrols along the border and responding to border violence, and coordination of interdiction efforts.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform
The US Mexican border is facing increasing numbers of immigrants especially from Central America. Steps to increase border security, such as those outlined above, are urgently needed. But improving border security procedures are just one part of a much bigger need for comprehensive immigration reform.

Comprehensive immigration reform would marry increased border enforcement with legalization for unauthorized immigrants and the ability to bring in future workers needed by the U.S. labor market.

Comprehensive immigration reform legislation would:

  • Modernize the U.S. immigration system by broadening pathways for people to enter the country legally to work and reunite with their families
  • Provide an accessible path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants
  • Prioritize smart and effective enforcement that improves public safety, supports legal immigration channels, and prevents discrimination
  • Support the successful integration of immigrants into our society

Congress sadly has lacked the political will to tackle comprehensive immigration reform. This is partly because there is split Congressional leadership with the House being controlled by Democrats and the Senate controlled by Republicans. But even within Democrats there are differences of opinion regarding how best to deal with immigration policy. More conservative-minded Democrats tend to focus on incremental steps they think could get done—like improved border security and fixing the DACA(Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)  and TPS (Temporary Protective Status) programs. More progressive-minded democrats favor a whose systems approach to immigration reform.

What the Candidates Propose

Presidential candidate, Julian Castro – former mayor of San Antonio and grandson of Mexican immigrants – has put forth various immigration reform ideas and have made them a key part in his campaign. Castro intends to reverse the Muslim Ban and reverse the wall spending thus far, decriminalize the act of crossing illegally, and end the Family Detention Policy. He thinks ankle monitors could be used as an alternative to detentions and deportations, so that migrants may live freely in the US while they await trial.

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