The bipartisan framework for immigration reform proposed by a bipartisan group of 8 senators would provide 11 million undocumented immigrants with a pathway to citizenship only “upon securing the border and combating visa overstays.” The plan establishes a commission of border state governors and other officials to monitor security measures and increases the number of unmanned aerial vehicles, surveillance equipment, and agents at the border. Once the Department of Homeland Security meets its enforcement targets, undocumented immigrants will be able to earn green cards and eventually achieve citizenship.
And while security can be enhanced, the U.S. has more resources deployed than ever before and illegal border crossings have dropped dramatically:
— Billions spent on enforcement: The U.S. spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement in the 2012 fiscal year, which is more than every other federal law enforcement agency combined.
— Border crossings are at 40-year low: At the same time, illegal border crossings have dropped to their lowest level since the Nixon administration, and net undocumented migration is at or below zero. Meanwhile, annual deportations at a historic high.
— Most parts of the border are already secure: Even with fewer people apprehended at the border, border agents now patrol every single mile of the border every day. The vast majority of the border already meets one of Homeland Security’s highest standards of security, and there are 21,370 agents, along with six unmanned aircraft systems.
The ACLU has also warned that the existing lack of “meaningful accountability and oversight” over Border Patrol actions has contributed to “cases of blatant human rights violations, such as 19 or more uses of “lethal force”’ since January 2010.
The senators expect the border commission to play an advisory role in determining the enforcement of the border security provisions, though Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has said that the “commission’s recommendation will be a central component” to certifying if security is adequate and immigrants can begin achieving permanent legal statuses.
During a press conference announcing the proposal, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) admitted that the security along the border has dramatically improved. “There is no question, there has been a significant reduction in illegal crossings over the past five years,” he said. “Apprehension by the border control have dropped 70% from 2005 to 2012. But their work is not yet complete. Greater focus need to be paid to drug traffickers and criminals that cross the border.”