Why our approach to immigration ‘borders’ on the absurd

IMAGE - Flickr (BY: Elvert Barnes)
IMAGE - Flickr (BY: Elvert Barnes)

RANCHO SANTA FE, Ca., July 14, 2014 – Our political “customs” are in evidence as we see the immigration issue unfold. Recently, over 39,000 families and 52,000 unaccompanied children have been detained for entering our southern border illegally. This latest surge adds to the 11-13 million individuals who are estimated to already reside in our country illegally. Yet, our elected officials are calling for emergency measures as if the problem represented a new phenomenon.

To put things in perspective: If these 11-13 million people were to reside in a single new State, it would have a greater population than all but seven of our existing 50 States, and on the high end, it would exceed the population of all but four States (California, Texas, New York and Florida). Roughly speaking, it would also qualify for somewhere between 16 to 18 members of the House of Representatives to go along with its two Senators. That represents real political power even when distributed among the existing States.

Now, you should understand how politically disruptive blanket amnesty could be.

Conversely, for those who would like to deport every individual who resides in this country illegally, here is some additional insight. According to a 2010 study by the Center for American Progress, it would take at least five years and cost approximately $285 billion dollars to apprehend, detain, prosecute, and deport even the lower estimated number of violators (i.e., 11 million) under our current law (assuming it was even possible).

Now, you should understand why blanket deportation is not a realistic option.

Why would our country not pursue an intelligent way to address the immigration issue that would protect the sanctity of United States citizenship, avoid threatening our Nation’s economy, and preserve the opportunities within our borders that attract more people to our shores each year to pursue citizenship legally than those who choose to immigrate to all of the other countries in the world combined?

The answer is easy: Our elected officials are driven to make political decisions rather than rational ones.

The actual issue is relatively complex and neither our Legislative Branch (which is vested with the responsibility under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution “To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization”) nor our Executive Branch (which controls all of the Departments and Agencies that are vested with the responsibility and authority to enforce the related laws that are on the books) seems to be able to conscientiously address it.

The Legislative Branch (particularly with respect to its Conservative members) appears to be stymied by the word “comprehensive” in any discussion pertaining to immigration reform while the Executive Branch appears to believe it can pay limited deference to the Constitution and attend to the subject with a high degree of autonomy.

For purposes of simplicity, let’s examine the Obama Administration’s foray into addressing immigration given that enforcement is ultimately its responsibility.

As a starting point, here is an excerpt from a speech the President delivered in El Paso, Texas on May 10, 2011:

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  “So, here’s the point. I want everybody to listen carefully to this. We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement. All the stuff they asked for, we’ve done. But even though we’ve answered these concerns, I’ve got to say I suspect there are still going to be some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time.”

AUDIENCE MEMBER: “They’re racist!”

PRESIDENT OBAMA: “You know, they said we needed to triple the Border Patrol. Or now they’re going to say we need to quadruple the Border Patrol. Or they’ll want a higher fence. Maybe they’ll need a moat. (Laughter.) Maybe they want alligators in the moat. (Laughter.) They’ll never be satisfied. And I understand that. That’s politics.”

“But the truth is the measures we’ve put in place are getting results… And even as we have stepped up patrols, apprehensions along the border have been cut by nearly 40 percent from two years ago. That means far fewer people are attempting to cross the border illegally.”

Two years later on February 13, 2013, then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano reaffirmed the President’s point during her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s first hearing on immigration reform by saying: “I often hear the argument that before reform can move forward, we must first secure our borders. But too often, the ‘border security first’ refrain simply serves as an excuse for failing to address the underlying problems. It also ignores the significant progress and efforts that we have undertaken over the past four years. Our borders have, in fact, never been stronger.”

Obviously, these assessments were flawed. So, what has gone wrong?

The Administration chose a path of selective enforcement. Rather than enforcing the immigration laws as written, the Department of Justice went to great lengths to pick and choose from among those laws. It spent taxpayer money to sue border States that had the audacity to attempt to protect their citizens and property rights in the absence of Federal enforcement. Meanwhile, the DOJ blatantly ignored the concurrent violations of Federal law by certain “sanctuary” cities.

While the DOJ’s position was upheld by the courts on a basis of the Supremacy Clause and the Federal Government’s usurpation of the field under Article I, Section 8 (as previously cited), the courts did not rule on the issue of selective enforcement. That opportunity might arise if the House moves forward with its recent threat to sue the President for exceeding his authority (with respect to the administration of the Affordable Care Act).

Other Departments and Agencies were also ordered to “stand down” with respect to the enforcement of the immigration laws as written, which brings us to the President’s most recent rhetoric and action.

President Obama declared the most recent surge in illegal immigrants to have created “an urgent humanitarian situation.” This is particularly true with respect to the unaccompanied minors who are being sent here with the belief that the current Administration will offer them amnesty.

The United Nations agreed with the President and demanded that the United States receive these children as refugees due to the violent environments in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala from which many of them have fled. You should ignore the fact that the homicide rate on a per-capita basis in the south-side of Chicago rivals anything seen in these countries. You should also assume that the U.N. has no greater global crisis upon which to comment; just ask the citizens of Israel, Palestine, Syria, Iraq or Ukraine.

While the President has visited nearly every other “urgent humanitarian situation” that has occurred during his two terms (i.e., the aftermaths of hurricanes, mass shootings, etc.), he avoided visiting a detention center in Texas during his recent trip to Austin for a political fund-raiser and a relatively meaningless platform speech. Perhaps it’s because the situation continues to broaden (unlike a hurricane or shooting), or maybe it’s because the Administration’s past decisions may have contributed to the chaos.

The President offered the following clarification about his decision not to visit the detention center: “This isn’t theater. This is a problem. I’m not interested in photo ops. I’m interested in solving a problem.” Unfortunately, his subsequent political stops did not necessarily reinforce that refrain.

However, the President did take action. First, he followed the time-honored tradition of blaming the other Party (which a Republican President would have done as well). Next, he called upon Congress to pass a $3.7 billion supplemental spending bill to provide the obligatory Band-Aid. Then, he washed his hands of any responsibility and shifted that charge to Congress in the event the bill didn’t pass.

The President’s $3.7 billion supplemental bill asked for:

  • $1.8 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to provide housing for the detainees along with medical treatment for those who might be bringing communicable diseases with them;
  • $1.1 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to increase border security;
  •  $433 million for Customs and Border Protection to cover its labor costs and pay for additional detention facilities and air surveillance capabilities;
  • $64 million for the Department of Justice to hire additional immigration judges and lawyers to process more cases; and
  • $303 million for other expenditures the Administration believes might be necessary (including paying repatriation funds to countries to which deportees are returned).

Here is the challenge: Part of the responsibility of the Executive Branch is (or should be) to prioritize the expenditure of approved Department and Agency funds for administering the laws of the United States.

The Departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security (and Customs and Border Protection, which reports to DHS), and Justice, for which the President is seeking supplemental funding, have tens of thousands of employees and tens of billions of dollars in their cumulative budgets that are specifically allocated to address immigration issues. Someone should ask:

  • Why have these resources been so ineffective?
  • How will the supplemental funds be directed to solve the current problem rather than just mask its symptoms? (Note: The stipulated uses of funds seem to predominantly focus upon handling the logistics of processing individuals who are entering the country illegally rather than preventing the occurrence.)
  • What is the obligation of the State Department to address the issue directly with the countries that are permitting and, in some cases, even encouraging the violation of our borders (i.e., the application of possible sanctions such as reducing aid on a per-capita basis with respect to the cost of detention, arraignment, disposition, etc. associated with each country’s contribution to the problem)?
  • What is the root cause of sudden surge in illegal entries particularly among children?
  • What alternatives exist to address the root cause to prevent the problem from expanding?

These are legitimate questions. Unfortunately, they remain unanswered as we are expected to accept partisan attacks and political posturing in their place.

The current dilemma is a petri dish from which child endangerment, human trafficking, potential pandemics, criminal activity, and even terrorism might be expected to grow. It’s our money and our country, and we will be directly impacted if this “urgent humanitarian situation” is not resolved quickly and completely.

If you haven’t read this column’s July 4, 2014 article (It’s called the ‘Declaration of Independence’ for a reason), you should.  There is a certain level of irony when you compare the situation we are facing today with several of the indictments against King George, III that led to the Revolutionary War.

For example: King George was charged with acting independently to create or delay legislation that negatively impacted the colonies. He was also charged with having failed to protect the borders of our country, which placed lives and property at risk. It would appear that little has changed in the 238 years that have ensued.

While there is little you can do with respect to the actions of the Executive Branch prior to 2016, you can at least address the ineffectiveness of the Legislative Branch. All 435 seats in the House and 33 seats in the Senate are up for election on November 4, 2014. Don’t just vote for the “D” or “R” after a candidate’s name. Take the time to become informed and cast a responsible vote rather than a partisan one. It’s the best chance you’ll have in the near-term to prevent situations like the immigration crisis from spiraling out of control.


A Civil Assessment has been designed to serve as an Op-Ed forum for you. You are invited to offer your opinion and to discuss your position in the Comment Section. Please be sure that your “assessments” remain “civil” so that they may earn the respect of others.


TJ O’Hara provides nonpartisan political commentary every Tuesday on The Daily Ledger, one of One America News Network’s featured shows (check local cable listings for the channel in your area or watch online at 8:00 PM and Midnight PM Eastern / 5:00 and 9:00 PM Pacific. His segment appears about 35 minutes into the program. In addition, he will be hosting the entire show this Friday, July 18, 2014.

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TJ OHara
T.J. O'Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States. Along the way, he earned the first Presidential endorsement of the Whig Party since the 1850s, his website was archived by the Library of Congress for its historic significance, and he won the first on-line “virtual” Presidential election (conducted by We Want You) by a commanding 72.1% and 72.7% over Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, respectively. His column explores our Nation’s most pressing issues, challenges conventional thinking, and provides an open forum for civil discussion. Learn more about TJ at his website and connect with him on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter (@tjohara2012). To order his books, go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords or Sony Reader.
  • Eric N Keya Erickson

    I’ve often thought we made a huge mistake 170 years ago by not adding Mexico to our territories. It might have solved some of the problems we now face with immigration. Or, maybe the problems would have just moved farther south. Ultimately the problem stems from the terrible conditions many people live in south of our border. They want to go somewhere better, and who can blame them? I often think about moving somewhere better.

    As for the problems we have enforcing the border (or any other politically charged problem), I believe your ideas on term limits would go a long way to bring in people who could actually work together to get things done. But as this election comes upon us, are there actually enough new candidates who will not blindly follow their party? I doubt it. Probably the best thing that could happen is to vote out every single incumbent. At least then we would have new idiots to complain about.

    • Thank you for your comment, Mr. Erickson.

      There are several components to the problem. One (as you have suggested) is the deplorable conditions that exist in many other countries. However, without the opportunities that exist within the United States, there would be no reason to attempt to migrate here. Additionally, in today’s political environment, the risks of entering the country illegally seem to be outweighed by the potential rewards.

      In response to your comment about the possibility of having added mexico to our territories, I would direct you to the tongue-in-cheek solution to our border issues I identified in the third paragraph on page 124 of “The National Platform of Common Sense.” That satirical solution is one of my personal favorites. :o)

      As for the upcoming elections, I hope to speak to that issue on “The Daily Ledger” this coming Friday, July 18th. The link to that television program is posted at the very end of the article above. I think you might enjoy my “Final Thoughts” on that show.

      • Eric N Keya Erickson

        I took a class in college entitled, “Geography of the Developing World.” In this class I first became aware that the US is no the only country with an illegal immigration problem. Anywhere neighboring countries exist with a significant differential in opportunity, safety, and/or quality of life, human migration occurs.

        It seems like it would be beneficial for our government and private enterprise to invest in equalizing these factors between the US and our southern neighbors (preferably to our standard, not theirs). The main hindrance to this is the corruption that exists in many of these governments (our own being no exception), which diverts money into the pockets of the powerful and away from those who really need it. This usually occurs with government aid.

        Microlending and other small scale programs can help enterprising individuals move up, but these are on too small of a scale to be useful to the country as a whole. What they really need is a change of government from oppressive to permissive. I’m not in favor of “nation building” at least not as the US has done it historically, but something needs to be done, or immigration will always be a problem.

        From that perspective, immigration is less of a criminal crisis, and more of a humanitarian one. It seems like we should be able to solve this humanitarian crisis without posting armed guards in towers on the one hand and draining our nation’s wealth supporting them on the other. I don’t know the answer.

        I’ll try to catch the show.

        • Andrew Evans

          Great article T.J. Eric N Keya Erickson, you make a good point about immigration issues across the globe. Microlending and small scale programs I think could work on a national scale, but to minimize corruption the focus and connections would have to be the same as they are on a small scale. I think you and I would agree that the desire of a person to make lives better for themselves and their family is a powerful motivator. If we can as individuals and as the American nation help put tools in the hands of those who will use them. That is a good thing.

  • hellbentgerbils

    good review

  • Murph Johnston

    Eighth-grader Ruben Morfin was brutally murdered by an illegal alien in Salinas, California.

  • Jay Lipo

    I was with you and then my mind was wiped out by a fallacious assertion that South-Side Chicago politics are related whatsoever to general American environments or Honduras, or anywhere except maybe West Side Baltimore & similar regions…

    It’s particularly inflammatory when you consider our own historical imperialism in “Banana Republics” as you’re making light of…

    • Thank you for your comment, Mr. Lipo.

      It is your choice if you choose to dismiss the entire premise based upon one analogy with which you might disagree. However, that particular analogy did stated a fact with regard to a specific geographic area (South Chicago) and was never extended to the rest of the United States. Had it been extended to reflect upon the entire country, it would have been grossly inaccurate.

      The reference was only meant to reflect upon the reasoning the United Nations used to justify granting refugee status to the children who were fleeing El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras (in particular): Violence. The U.N. cited gang-related violence in these countries as a reason for demanding refugee status and humanitarian aid. The point is that the same circumstance (gang-related violence) exists within small pockets of the United States (such as in South Chicago).

      One might also wonder aloud why the United Nations doesn’t step in to address the humanitarian side of the issue (as opposed to the the legal one, which purely resides with the United States). Why doesn’t the U.N. offer to intercede on behalf of these displaced children and families and offer them sanctuary among 193 member nations on a pro-rata basis as opposed to suggesting that only the United States has such a humanitarian responsibility?

      Interestingly enough, the United States represents one-half of one percent of the total United Nations’ member population yet provides 22 percent of that organization’s general funding and about 27 percent of its peace keeping budget. One might argue that the other member nations should be expected to participate on a more equitable basis when it comes to providing sanctuary to individuals whom are defined by the U.N. as “refugees.”

      Thank you again for your comment.

  • Ash Berger

    Around 70% of the births at Parkland Hospital in Dallas are of illegal aliens.

  • Learner

    “The United Nations agreed with the
    President and demanded that the United States receive these children as
    refugees due to the violent environments in Honduras, El Salvador and
    Guatemala from which many of them have fled. You should ignore the fact
    that the homicide rate on a per-capita basis in the south-side of
    Chicago rivals anything seen in these countries.”

    Poppycock. The southside (a very small area with huge density) is only what, 40 per 100,000? Gary over the border in Indiana is about 45.

    Basically a few small districts may have comparable homicide statistics to Guatemala or El Salvador (not Honduras), but guess what would happen if you broke these Central American countries [again, not Honduras it’s already a lot higher] down to city and sub-city level like you’re doing with Chicago? Magically, their murder rates are suddenly much higher than Chicago’s southside or Gary. Quite amazing huh?

    “The reference was only meant to reflect upon the reasoning the United
    Nations used to justify granting refugee status to the children who were
    fleeing El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras (in particular): Violence.
    The U.N. cited gang-related violence in these countries as a reason for
    demanding refugee status and humanitarian aid. The point is that the
    same circumstance (gang-related violence) exists within small pockets of
    the United States (such as in South Chicago).”

    I think the ‘level’ of gang violence is what they’re talking about. Fairly obvious.

    Apparently you also think London or Toronto are as bad as Chicago given they have ‘gang violence’, regardless of the level. Or are you going to say they’re not as bad as Chicago? If you do, then we’re back to your initial and most curious assertion that Chicago is the same as Central America.

    Chicago is safer than Mexico City, never mind San Pedro Sula.