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Nine Things Congress & the Biden Administration Could Do to Address the Border Emergence

March 26, 2021


Council on National Security and Immigration

The humanitarian emergency at the southern border is the result of decades of inaction and dated policies that failed to address the root causes of borders surges and how to respond when they do occur.

As Americans watch the increasing numbers of unaccompanied minors and asylum seekers risk their lives for the chance at a better life in the United States, it seems as if Congress views solutions further and further out of reach. This recurring issue has challenged Democrat and Republican presidents alike as well as multiple Congresses. It is also highly politicized, with some lawmakers falsely claiming that these migrants pose a great threat to U.S. national security.

The Council on National Security and Immigration convened immigration leaders throughout the United States Tuesday to cut through the noise and talk solutions as to what can be done to mitigate the current emergency and fix our immigration system.

Across the board, leaders agreed that Congressional action has been dangerously absent, yet is absolutely necessary. If we are going to enhance national security, promote economic growth and live up to American values as a global humanitarian leader, our lawmakers must act, or we will be faced with the exact same challenges in the years to come.

Below are 9 of the many solutions leaders identified that Congress and the Biden administration could enact to address the border surge and finally take meaningful action on immigration. These experts offered multiple potential solutions so if you want to hear more, you can listen here.

  1. Address security vulnerabilities: Pathways used by migrants are being exploited by bad actors. These vulnerabilities must be remedied through strategic reforms that support our long-term national interests. They require legislative changes to ensure we have the necessary security and vetting policies, maintain a competitive workforce, establish safe and durable refugee and asylum programs, and provide pathways to citizenship for Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants who have built their lives in the United States and serve our country.  – Elizabeth Neumann, Council on National Security and Immigration

  2. Listen to people who work and live at the border: This is not a Republican or Democrat problem, it is an American problem that is made vastly more complicated by congressional failure to address it. We need more immigration judges immediately, stronger border security with a combination of virtual and physical fencing, and PPE and vaccinations for border patrol officers. We will never achieve border security without Congress fixing this problem and they must listen to local officials and law enforcement on the ground.  – Monica Weisberg-Stewart, Chairwoman of the Immigration and Border Security Committee, Texas Border Coalition

  3. Modernize the border: Use technology, infrastructure improvements and personnel to better facilitate the $1 billion to $2 billion in commerce that crosses the southern border each day.  – Stephanie Hall, Director of Innovation Policy, National Association of Manufacturers

  4. Think beyond the border: Border security is not just at the border. Engage with foreign leaders, law enforcement and cooperate with Central American and Mexican governments to begin securing the border long before the issue is at the U.S. border.  – Matthew Rooney, Managing Director, Bush Institute – SMU Economic Growth Initiative

  5. Expand legal pathways: Create new legal pathways for immigrants who want to come to live and work in the United States and enact policies that facilitate trade.  –– Laura Collins, Director, Bush Institute – SMU Economic Growth Initiative

  6. Address root causes and be better prepared: Do more to ensure children, families and other prospective migrants are able to live safely in their home countries by addressing the root causes of migration abroad. Do more to ensure we’re prepared and have the capacity to humanely house and process unaccompanied children in the event of a border surge at home. It should not be an ad-hoc response every time.  –– Danilo Zak, Senior Policy & Advocacy Associate, National Immigration Forum

  7. Build and improve border facilities: Build facilities where families and children can access age- and culturally appropriate mental health and health care. Maintain these facilities in case of natural disasters or future increases in the number of migrants coming to the United States.  –– Kristie De Peña, Vice President & Director of Immigration Policy, Niskanen Center

  8. Assure valid asylum seekers have the opportunity to make their claims: The government should open ports of entry to allow more asylum applicants. The only group categorically granted asylum right now are unaccompanied kids. We will accept 100 percent of them, but only if they cross illegally. Current policy encourages more violations of the law and more inhumane treatment.  –– David J. Bier, Immigration Policy Analyst, Cato Institute

  9. Get to work on reforms: The American people want reforms [to our immigration system]. It’s time to act to address the status of immigrants already in-country, secure our border and welcome those who want to come and contribute to the United States. It is time to act.  –– Jorge Lima, Senior Vice President of Policy, Americans for Prosperity

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