When we think of illegal immigration and its impact on America, opinions are sharply divided. The images invoked are “kids in cages,” large caravans, border rescues, and wild border chases between law enforcement and illegal immigrant smugglers.
The U.S. southern border is just a waypoint for migrants along a much larger journey. One that usually ends far from the deserts of Arizona, the brush country in Texas, or the beaches and mountains near San Diego.
According to the Pew Research Center, most of the undocumented immigrants within the United States live in just 20 major metropolitan areas. Ranking number one is the New York metro area which is home to 1.1 million illegal immigrants. Ranking number two is the Los Angeles metro area — home to an estimated 925,000 illegal aliens.
There is no reason to believe that future illegal immigration patterns will trend away from these select metropolitan areas considering many, including New York and Los Angeles, are sanctuary cities. What is interesting is the outward migration from these areas.
During the COVID-19 Pandemic, New York’s wealthiest residents left the city in record numbers. U.S. Census Bureau statistics indicate over 126 thousand residents left New York state between July 2019 and July 2020. Many of them seeking states with no state income tax such as Texas or Florida.
The same data shows over 135,000 residents left California. Prominent tech giants Oracle and Hewlett Packard announced the relocation of operations from California to Texas. Tesla CEO Elon Musk followed suit.
So far, President Joe Biden promised an immigration plan that will include a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the shadows. His recent executive orders ending the “remain in Mexico” program, also known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, and his executive order reducing interior enforcement of immigration laws have all but decimated the strong anti-illegal immigration measures of the Trump administration. In essence, the welcome mat has been laid out.
So far, the new president has not defined any real position on increasing border security or that it is of any relevance to him. The Immigration Reform and Control Act contained provisions to increase the size of the U.S. Border Patrol by 50 percent each year during the two years after its passage. As a deterrent to future illegal immigration, significant employer sanctions measures were put in place. This clause was largely to garner bi-partisan support in Congress.
In stark contrast, The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which President Biden has presented to Congress, lacks any substantial enforcement strategy to curtail future illegal immigration once the amnesty portion is concluded.
Far from increasing efforts to deter future illegal immigration, a fact sheet on Biden’s immigration plan provided to reporters by the White House focuses more on providing pathways to relief from our current immigration laws than identifying ways to properly enforce them.
According to the fact sheet:
The bill codifies and funds the President’s $4 billion four-year inter-agency plan to address the underlying causes of migration in the region, including by increasing assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, conditioned on their ability to reduce the endemic corruption, violence, and poverty that causes people to flee their home countries.
Rather than any increase in personnel needed to ready the Border Patrol to deal with the almost certain influx the bill will promote, the plan lays out enhancements to internal investigation capabilities and oversight.
The fact sheet continues:
The bill provides funding for training and continuing education to promote agent and officer safety and professionalism. It also creates a Border Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee, provides more special agents at the DHS Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate criminal and administrative misconduct, and requires the issuance of department-wide policies governing the use of force.
Much of what little the bill’s fact sheet does say about border security is related to narcotics smuggling at ports of entry and little if any definitive way towards enforcement between the ports of entry. As experience has taught us along the border, if the Border Patrol Agents are processing and caring for thousands of illegal immigrants, very few are patrolling the border. The references to smart technologies are moot if the Border Patrol cannot deploy an adequate response that smart technology will require.
What Biden’s plan does not do is change in any way the existing immigration laws that place people in the shadows in the first place. When all is said and done, it will still be a criminal offense to enter the United States illegally.
Much like the last attempt to provide relief to the illegal immigrant population in 2013 proposed by the “gang of eight,” Bidens plan will surely face significant opposition from certain members of Congress. It is far from a bi-partisan bill at this point.
The mere fact an amnesty plan has been proposed and the lax tenor of other executive actions related to immigration will have implications miles from the border. In states like New York and California, where tax revenues plummeted due to the exodus of wealthy residents, a new wave of illegal immigrants will pose significant financial impacts as they continue to battle COVID-19 and its effect on employment opportunities.
As many businesses look to automation to reduce labor costs and other businesses are suffering COVID-19-related closures, President Biden added tens of thousands of workers to the unemployment line by canceling permits to the Keystone Pipeline.
Biden’s intention to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour poses another risk to the viability of many small businesses.
Many factors influence illegal immigration to the United States. Changes in our economy or the economies abroad, security concerns, and existing employment opportunities in the home country will play a role in future migration to the United States. Although some may disagree, any hope of amnesty in the future will likely cause a future influx as well. For those who currently reside in those major metropolitan areas that historically attract most illegal immigrants, the financial impacts may be felt for years to come.
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas Sector.