Security concerns and immigration reform

Securing the Mexican border has been a concern for U.S. leaders crafting an immigration reform bill from the beginning. Because Mexico shares a 2,000 mile border with the U.S., there are constant worries about how secure the area is and what can be done to ensure that people aren’t crossing illegally. According to PBS, 124,000 people were caught crossing the border without permission last year, and Republicans have made it clear that they will not support an immigration bill that doesn’t address this issue. They stand firm on the idea that no one should be granted citizenship unless there is a new law in effect concerning the Mexican border.

Since the events at the Boston marathon, border security has become a key issue, prompting legislators to express their opinions regarding this topic.

“I respectfully request that the Senate consider the following two conditions as part of the comprehensive immigration reform debate: One, the Senate needs a thorough examination of the facts in Massachusetts to see if legislation is necessary to prevent a similar situation in the future,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, wrote in a letter to the Senate, according to The Washington Times. “Two, national security protections must be rolled into comprehensive immigration reform to make sure the federal government does everything it can to prevent immigrants with malicious intent from using our immigration system to gain entry into the United States in order to commit future acts of terror.”

Also addressed in talks about border security is the safety of the areas surrounding the border between the United States and Mexico, where many immigrants go to escape drugs and violence. According to NBC, patrols have focused their efforts to stopping drug smugglers from getting across state lines and reducing the number of trails available for immigrants without citizenship. Authorities say that this process has been greatly improved over the last few years.

“In Arizona we have been very successful in increasing border security,” Commander Jeffrey Self, of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told NBC. “Over the course of many years now we’ve been resourced with tactical infrastructure, technology and personnel and they’ve been employed in a fashion that’s gotten us greater results.”

Self also noted that putting vehicle barriers up had a large impact on the number of drivers trying to cross. He said that checkpoints often experienced zero immigrants crossing in full 24 hour periods, while before as many as 40 people would get past patrols.

However, others said that the border may be more secure, but there are still flaws in the system.

“The border statistically is securer than ever,” Gary Thrasher, a veterinarian and rancher in southern Arizona, told NBC. “That means nothing. That’s like saying we fixed this whole bucket, except for this hole down here. You know it’s still not going to hold water.”

Tony Estrada, sheriff in Santa Cruz County, Ariz., noted that the border is more secure than ever, and he thinks this is making a positive impact on the number of people who cross illegally.

“I have been there 45 years along the border with Mexico, and we have had more resources, more technology, more boots on the ground,” Estrada told PBS. “It just has improved tremendously. The urban area, we consider Nogales and Santa Cruz County as pretty secure. But it’s a challenge. The border with Mexico continues to be a major challenge that we’re going to have for a long time.”

With more resources and technology aiding border security, authorities are hopeful that fewer immigrants will cross the border in the future.