Resolute Enforcement is Not Just for Restrictionists: Building a Stable and Efficient Immigration Enforcement System

Martin, David A.
April 2015
Journal of Law & Politics;Spring2015, Vol. 30 Issue 4, p411
Academic Journal
In this essay I defend the importance of resolute enforcement in sustaining generous immigration policy, particularly America's singularly high lawful admission levels and relatively successful immigrant integration record. Drawing on my experiences in government service, I explore the risks to humane policy when the public perceives that migration is out of control. The public backlash to the 1980 Mariel boatlifi, Congress 's enactment of harsh enforcement measures in 1996, and the Obama administration's stern response to the child migrant crisis of 2014 illustrate the point. Though the current public reaction is relatively quiet, that situation is fragile, highly dependent on the relatively low net inflow of unauthorized migrants. I then examine specific ideas for building an effective and sustainable enforcement system. All would work better if accompanied by an expansive statutory legalization program; removing long-resident unauthorized immigrants as targets would facilitate resolute enforcement against newer violators. The specific recommended changes include: (1) mandatory E-Verify, but with added steps to address that system 's serious vulnerability to identity fraud, (2) stronger enforcement against visa overstays, which does not require that the nation build a wasteful biometric exit monitoring system; (3) revitalized and carefully designed cooperation with state and local law enforcement agencies, built upon lessons learned from Secure Communities - a fundamentally sound and efficient program that wound up losing support through mistakes in implementation, bad timing, and skillful litigation attacking immigration detainers; and (4) restoration of wider versions of discretionary relief from removal administered by immigration judges.


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