Infographic: Why We’re Ready for Immigration Reform

Written by Marshall Fitz, Philip E. Wolgin

One of the most common refrains voiced by opponents of immigration reform is that it must wait until the federal government has secured our border with Mexico and enforced the nation’s current immigration laws. Ten years ago those claims carried some force. At the time, there had been large-scale undocumented migration for a sustained period, the border was relatively porous, and immigration enforcement in the country was less organized than it could have been. Ten years later, however, the facts on the ground have changed dramatically.

The need to do more to control the border became a basic building block of the 2006 and 2007 congressional attempts to pass what became known as comprehensive immigration reform. Though these bills did not become law, border security itself has grown exponentially since. Through administration policy, congressional appropriations, and passage of discrete enforcement legislation such as the Secure Fence Act, the federal government has deployed massive enforcement resources at the border and in the interior. The impacts have been profound:

  • Net undocumented migration is now at or below zero.
  • The number of people apprehended crossing the border has decreased, even as border agents now patrol every single mile of the border every day and in many places have 100 percent eyes on the border—meaning that they can view nearly all attempts to cross the border in real time.
  • Annual deportations have reached historic levels.
  • There are more “boots on the ground” at the border than there have ever been in history.

The fact of the matter is that the border is more secure now than it has ever been. And yet some members of Congress continue to insist that the border is unsafe, and as such, that they will hold immigration reform hostage until we have secured the border. With more than $17 billion spent each year on immigration and border enforcement, this is not only a misguided approach but an expensive one as well.

To combat a lack of understanding, this infographic attempts to shine a light on the current state of immigration and border enforcement. Here we compare the current state of the border with border-security benchmarks included in both the 2006 and 2007 Senate bills. Those benchmarks have now been met, and in most cases surpassed, by the investment of unprecedented resources in border security efforts.

The safety and security of our border with Mexico means that it is time to move beyond the paradigm of immigration reform as first and foremost an enforcement strategy, as it was in 2006 and 2007. Not surprisingly, public opinion has shifted in line with the massive changes at the border. While in 2006 and 2007 a majority of Americans believed that “halting [the] flow of immigrants” to the United States should be the top priority of immigration policy, these beliefs have since flipped. Now, when asked the same question, 55 percent of Americans believe that the United States should first and foremost “deal with illegal immigrants already in the U.S.” Likewise, in national exit polling from Election Day, a full 65 percent of Americans argued that undocumented immigrants should be “offered a chance to apply for legal status.”

Instead of a security-first paradigm, the new thinking on immigration reform should instead embrace the potential gains from immigration reform, particularly the social and economic benefits. Indeed, passage of comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship would add $1.5 trillion to cumulative U.S. gross domestic product over the next decade, while passage of the DREAM Act, which offers a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants, would add $329 billion to the economy by 2030. Starting immigration reform with anything but a pathway to citizenship would run counter to the facts on the ground, counter to public opinion, and counter to plain, old-fashioned common sense.

This post was originally published by the Center for American Progress.


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Photo: fusionpanda/flickr


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

some of them come here with no other choice, leave quickly or starve to death. My ex husband's family came here illegally when he was 3, he was the only surviving child of 4. His parents came here legally, on work visas, but could not afford to pay for him to come here legally. They had nothing. So, they snuck him over. He is 23 now and paying dearly, $1600 for application and filing fees just for his case to be LOOKED at, another $1300 for the residency application, after the results on that there will be more fees for permanent residency applications, green card applications ect, thousands of dollars and easily a decade of waiting. It isn't easy or cheap, and it isn't as though he ever had a choice. He was 3. They say "go back to Mexico" but he has no family there. He has no memory of Mexico. It is as foreign to him as Africa would be to me. It is a dilemma, and people who think all illegal immigrants are stealing from us are ignorant. He works HARD, pays his taxes, pays child support, and so do the other children in his family (cousins and such) who were unlucky enough to be brought here very young. If my son were starving and had no access to medical care, and he was dying, and I had no money, if sneaking him into a bordering country illegally was the only way to save his life, and give him a future, we'd be packed in less than an hour. No question.

Harley Williams
Harley W5 years ago

Before we do anything we should make a way for people who have been working here and following the law to become citizens. This president helped when it was time to get elected and now seems to have forgotten some of the people who got him elected. There are many honest hardworking people making lives here and we have more people threatening them then working to help them. I am not Hispanic but I work and live with many people who just want to become legal citizens. So fine them or whatever but make a way for them to stay, live and work here.

To me that is part of my Christian duty to advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves out of fear. I ask that others speak for people to get this congress to do what Bush tried to do. And this president seems to forget to do when not courting votes.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thank you for the article

Scott haakon
Scott haakon5 years ago

Sue companies who hire illegal aliens! Make them responsible for the cost of deportation. Right now many companies still get away with hiring illegals. If the money dries up the illegal migration will end.

Robert H.
Robert Hamm5 years ago

Let's just prohibit employers from hiring illegals.

Now THAT I could get behind. The fines for hiring them should be HUGE. Corporate employers think of profit ONLY. They simply don't LIKE American wages and no one is stopping them from making a mockery of our system, because BUSINESS rules the country. THis country has turned into a cesspool in so many ways during my lifetime. Honest wages for an honest days work is simply laughable anymore. we are young back to the early 1900's
And business makes sure that there is no real border protection. THey are the ones recruiting the illegal workers,

Daniel Garcia
Daniel Garcia5 years ago

at over $22,000 per deportation average, and in some cases people being in private detention centers without any charge for well over a year costing taxpayers over $200 per night (average cost per person held in a detention center), there is a far better way to use that money as Betsy puts it.

We are struggling to retain certain programs because we have so much debt, and here we are turning around and saying that the solution is to line privatized detention center conglomerate CEOs with money as they hire unqualified guards and cut corners to detain immigrants for extended periods of time without charge at $200 per person per night, and whenever they want to build a detention center they throw a multimillion dollar lobby in the city to ensure they get their way (look at crete illinois and now joliet illinois).

While there is a buck to be made, there will be people with money and power trying to buy people's votes, and trying to convince people that the best solution is to spend tax money on their product of incarcerating people for many months for something that is not even considered a federal crime, not even considered a criminal act, but in legal terms it is just a civil wrong.

I think they are doing a phenomenal job, considering they have been able to keep that fact away from the public eye and peg all the economic problems on the group of people least likely to acquire any kind of representation.

Daniel Garcia
Daniel Garcia5 years ago

@ ernest: I meant, fear to authority results in people fearing to even report a crime, not that the crimes are committed by undocumented individuals. If you hare the choice of reporting a crime with the potential consequence that you will be placed in a detention center broken away from your family and shipped to some other state while the law drags their feet, or stay quiet and stay with your family, which would you choose? Right now, as it stands, undocumented immigrants are probably the perfect candidate to become the victim, you can steal from them, you can force them to work well beyond the legal limit, you can exploit them, and they will not report you because unless you are threatening the life, as some of them might be threatened in their home countries they will not report any crime.

Its not talking about watering down the laws, but about using common sense, people live in this country, the borders have been adequately enforced.

Betsy M.
Betsy M5 years ago

This money could be better spent enriching the whole country... medical, education, roads, new energy, new construction...

Ernest Roth
Ernest R5 years ago

@ Karina M. “don't think that all of them are aliens, some of them are tourists”. Someone should inform those tourists that they don’t have to pay coyotes to sneak them across the border in the dead of night.

Ernest Roth
Ernest R5 years ago

@ Daniel G. “ Such alienation causes more distrust, more fear against authority and more crime that goes unreported” Are you suggesting that illegals commit crimes? Of course these problems could be easily solved not only by allowing illegals the same priveleges as legal immigrants, but also by making other crimes legal as well. That would reduce the numbers of illegal criminals in our prisons from the present numbers of some 20 %.Too bad that won't help with the unreported crimes you mention.