Stop scare tactics in immigration debate


U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, recently sent out a tweet claiming that a friend’s property was being overrun with illegal border crossers — 300 each night. Sen. Cornyn has yet to identify the friend or substantiate the numbers, which would add up to 110,000 undocumented immigrants each year in this single soft spot, wherever it is.

Texas border sheriffs and the Border Patrol found the claim implausible. In fact, the Border Patrol estimates that 51,517 illegal immigrants eluded capture along the Texas-Mexico border in 2011, according to the Dallas Morning News. For the tweet to be true, more than twice as many immigrants must be entering at this one spot than can be accounted for along the entire border.

The immigrant invasion tweet is similar to other tall tales we’ve recently heard about the U.S. border: Phoenix is the second kidnapping capital of the world; drug cartel violence is “spilling over” into American streets; Mexico is a gateway for Islamic terrorism.

The idea, of course, is to paint a menacing picture of an out-of-control border, bolstering the false premise that border control must be firmly established before Congress can turn its attention to meaningful immigration reform. And, as these border myths continually show, the government will never reach a level of security that’s good enough for those opposed to immigration reform. The stories never end, just like the installments on a payday loan.

Reform opponents have been playing this game for quite a while. In 2007, Republican lawmakers demanded that President George W. Bush deploy four drones to scan the border, build 105 radar and camera towers, raise the number of Border Patrol agents to 20,000, and erect 670 miles of fencing. After that’s accomplished, they said, we can take up reform.

Today, according to Businessweek magazine, the U.S. has 10 border drones, 300 towers, and 21,394 agents — 18,500 of them stationed along the U.S.-Mexico border. Fencing now covers 651 miles of the border, twice the length in 2009, and immigration agents have deported 1.5 million undocumented workers in the past four years, the most since Dwight Eisenhower was president.

Because of those numerous efforts and other factors, including the U.S. recession, Border Patrol apprehensions of all unauthorized immigrants are at the lowest level since 1971, according to a study by the Pew Research Hispanic Center.

But still for some, this is not enough. They say the border remains out of control; immigrants are illegally crossing all around us — in one spot 300 every night! — therefore we cannot yet take up immigration reform.

It is tragic for our nation that such attitudes persist, particularly at a time when comprehensive immigration reform appears to be within our grasp. There has been a renewed push, among both Democrats and Republicans in Washington, to reform our broken immigration system. The American people want action — 62 percent of us support reform, according to a recent poll by the Associated Press.

We certainly believe that public safety and American sovereignty are vitally important, but immigration reform is not about border security. To the extent that we must be smarter and more focused in that effort, by all means, let’s do so. But let us not hold the fate of millions hostage to anecdotes on Twitter and unsubstantiated terrorism claims at this critical juncture.

Immigration reform is the right thing to do, the fiscally responsible thing to do, and the humanitarian thing to do. Based on the role that immigrants have played in the history of our country, it is also the American thing to do.

Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, is chairman of the Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus; and Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, is vice-chairman of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus. Together, they represent approximately two-thirds (820 miles) of the Texas-Mexico border.

© 2013, McClatchy-Tribune

Read more From Our Inbox stories from the Miami Herald

  • Who pays the most on Tax Day?

    Which taxpayers experience the greatest tax burden — and who pays the most in taxes?

  • Attaching names to torture victims

    Are these the torture victims the CIA does not want us to know?

  • Why so many people die in ferry accidents

    Nearly 300 people are feared missing after a huge ferry capsized and sank off South Korea’s southwestern coast. Carrying a group of high school students on a field trip from a high school outside Seoul, the ship was en route to Jeju, a Korean resort island known as the country’s “Hawaii.” Scores of rescue divers have descended on the ship, and it is feared that the death toll will rise sharply in coming days. Survivors say many people remain trapped on the ship’s lower decks; 462 people were on board the ship, 281 of whom remain unaccounted for.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category