The Truth About Border Security and Detention
In an election season fraught with claims of building a wall along the Mexican border and making Mexico pay for it, the importance of an effective border security plan that serves national security concerns but also ensures due process rights for all becomes even more apparent. The truth about border security and detention is not necessarily what the political dialogue would lead one to believe.
Over the last 15 years, the demographics of border crossers have changed significantly. Instead of Mexicans and single adults attempting to cross the border without authorization, more families and unaccompanied children are arriving in the United States in an attempt to flee violence and poverty in Central America. For the first time in 2014 and again in 2016, Central Americans apprehended at the southern border outnumbered Mexicans. In fiscal year 2016, total border apprehensions increased over fiscal year 2015, but decreased from fiscal years 2014 and 2013. Border apprehensions decreased significantly from the 1980s through 2008, thus indicating a lower number of attempts to cross the border illegally.
The southern border of the United States is more secure now than ever before. Although Donald Trump claims that the Obama administration has revived a practice known as “catch and release,” where those apprehended at the border are released rather than detained while their immigration proceedings progress, this practice actually ended in 2006. In fact, under the Obama administration, the Department of Homeland Security has dramatically increased the use of detention and fast-track removal procedures. Since the end of “catch and release,” there have been record-high levels of immigration detention; the average number of people detained for immigration purposes has increased 74%. This is especially significant in light of the fact that fewer people have attempted to enter the United States illegally over the past decade.
Not only has the number of those detained increased, but accelerated deportations, including such processes as “expedited removal” and “reinstatement of removal,” give border officials the authority to detain and remove a foreign national before he or she has the opportunity to see an immigration judge. The use of these processes has increased 62% since 2006. Few foreign nationals are able to obtain legal counsel when subject to these fast-track procedures, and their inability to see a judge brings due process concerns to the forefront.
With illegal immigration at an all-time low, and considering the due process concerns of prolonged detention and/or fast-track deportations, border security is not the concern that many politicians are making it out to be during this election cycle.