| Contact Us

Immigration Basics | The ABC's of U.S. Immigration | The Real Solution | Family-Sponsored Immigration | Employment-Based Immigration | Naturalization 


Comprehensive immigration reform is essential to securing our borders, protecting our national security and making sure that America remains a beacon of freedom. Security experts tell us that the current situation has spun out of control and has left our nation less safe and less secure. And it is no wonder: with illegal immigration comes human smugglers, fake document sellers, and other criminal elements who exploit the millions of unauthorized immigrants living and working in the shadows—is the worst possible security policy.

We cannot continue to do nothing, or fool ourselves into thinking we can deport our way out of the problem. We need to enact an air-tight earned legalization program, along with the enforcement and visa reforms needed to make sure we are protecting the rights of individuals while keeping our country safe. We need real reform, and real solutions, to secure our borders.

We Need More Than Just Enforcement
Enforcement alone will not do the job of securing our borders. Enforcement at the border will only be successful in the long-term if it is coupled with a more sensible approach to the 10-12 million undocumented immigrants in the country today, and the many more who will attempt to migrate into the United States for economic reasons. The problem with the status quo is that we were not given the chance to screen millions of undocumented immigrants who crossed our borders. A smart enforcement regime should include smart inspections and screening practices, fair proceedings, efficient processing, as well as strategies that crack down on criminal smugglers, get tough with lawbreaking employers, and reduce illegality. A comprehensive approach to immigration reform will better enable the nation to know who is already here and who is coming in the future:


Over the last 20 years, border enforcement has ballooned

  • In 1986, the budget for the Border Patrol was $151 million. By 2002, the Border Patrol budget had reached $1.6 billion—a tenfold increase.
  • Between 1986 and 2002, the number of hours agents spent patrolling the border grew by a factor of about eight.
  • By 2002 the Border Patrol was the largest arms-bearing branch of the U.S. government, excluding the military.
  • Building a fence along the entire southwest border would cost roughly $9 billion—about $2.5 billion more than the total budget of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in FY 2005.

The border buildup has failed: Undocumented immigration has skyrocketed

  • Despite a dramatic increase in border enforcement, each year from 1990 to 2004 there were between 480,000 and 660,000 undocumented immigrants settling in the U.S. In all, more than 9 million undocumented immigrants were added to our population since 1990.
  • The increase in border enforcement has led to an increase in the number of immigrants dying while crossing the border. From January 1995 through March 2004, more than 2,640 migrants died. In the last four years there has been on average more than one death per day. A record 460 migrants lost their lives this past year, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.

Enforcement policies have backfired: We are spending more and succeeding less in controlling the border

  • The cost of making an arrest along the border has increased from $300 in 1992 to $1,700 in 2002—an increase of 467% in a decade. (For perspective, the consumer price index rose approximately 28% during this period.)
  • Facing increased costs and danger in crossing the border, migrants who used to go back and forth across the border now stay longer. With the average length of stay longer, and the migrant flow across the border undiminished, the result has been a rapidly rising undocumented population in the U.S.

Protecting the Rights of Individuals
We want to make sure that while efforts to restore the rule of law work, they fully incorporate the American tradition of respecting and protecting the rights of individuals to fair proceedings, government accountability, and due process rights. We need immigration reform that restores basic civil liberties and human rights, protects our core American values of fairness and justice, and defends the due process rights of everyone. Comprehensive immigration reform will bring our system into line with our tradition as a nation of immigrants and as a nation of laws.


  • Congress has made it more difficult for someone fleeing persecution and trying to enter the country to gain a hearing on their asylum claim. For those already in the U.S., Congress has made it more difficult for persons who fear persecution if sent back to their home countries to successfully gain asylum.
  • Congress has closed off avenues by which undocumented immigrants could adjust to legal status. New prohibitions against adjustment to legal status have been imposed on undocumented immigrants.
  • Changes to the law in 1996 and since then aimed to eliminate review of discretionary denials of relief from deportation; eliminate or greatly restrict review by the federal courts of deportation orders; eliminate review of detention decisions; and place other restrictions on the ability of immigrants to get a fair hearing in the courts.

Focusing on Those Who Mean Us Harm
The current flow of illegal immigrants and people overstaying their visas has made it extremely difficult for our border and interior enforcement agencies to be able to focus on the terrorists, organized criminals, and violent felons who use the cloak of anonymity that the current chaotic situation offers. We don’t know who these people are, or where. And security experts have told us that sending our border patrol agents after busboys instead of terrorists is a dangerous misuse of our law enforcement resources. Comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship would provide us with a way of separating those who come here to work from those who come to do us harm, and our law enforcement officials

When people are admitted legally, their identities, photos, and fingerprints are checked against watch lists and criminal databases. Potential security threats can be more easily indentified and either apprehended or deterred from entering the U.S. The key is intelligence—we must do a better job at gaining the intelligence we need to detect those who would do us harm.

President Bush: “As we improve and expand our efforts to secure our borders, we must also recognize that enforcement cannot work unless it's part of a comprehensive immigration reform that includes a temporary worker program. If an employer has a job that no American is willing to take, we need to find a way to fill that demand by matching willing employers with willing workers from foreign countries on a temporary and legal basis.” (President Bush’s Radio Address on Homeland Security, October 22, 2005)

Secretary Michael Chertoff: “… [F]or a Secure Border Initiative to be fully effective, Congress will need to change our immigration laws to address the simple laws of supply and demand that fuel most illegal migration and find mechanisms to bring legal workers into a regulated, legal Temporary Worker Program, while still preserving national security.” (Remarks by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff at the Houston Forum, November 2, 2005)

Secretary Michael Chertoff: “The effectiveness of our border security and interior enforcement is closely tied to establishing a workable and enforceable Temporary Worker Program. A well-designed Temporary Worker Program will provide legal channels for U.S. employers and foreign born workers to match needs in the best interest of the U.S. economy without disadvantaging American workers.” (Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff’s Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, October 18, 2005)

Princeton Professor Douglas S. Massey: “The attempt to stop the flow of Mexican labor into the United States through unilateral enforcement has not only failed miserably, it has backfired. It has not deterred would-be immigrants from entering the United States nor has it reduced the size of the annual inflow. What it HAS done is channel migratory flows away from traditional crossing points to remote zones where the physical risks are great but the likelihood of getting caught is small. As a result, the number of deaths has skyrocketed to a record 460 persons per year while the probability of apprehension has fallen to forty year low. We are spending more tax dollars to catch fewer migrants and cause more deaths.” (Douglas S. Massey, Ph.D Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, October 18, 2005)

Conservative activist Stuart Anderson: “Conservatives should not abandon belief in markets simply because the issue is immigration. Those who say we should not permit more people to work on legal temporary visas until we "control the border" have it backward: The only proven way to control the border is to open up paths to legal entry, allowing the market to succeed where law enforcement alone has failed.” (Stuart Anderson, Executive Director of the National Foundation for American Policy, Letter to the Washington Times, Market forces dictate the best immigration policy, October 26, 2005)

Conservative activist Tamar Jacoby: “In the wake of 9/11, it goes without saying: We need to find a way to enforce our immigration laws. But tempting as it is to talk tough and make a show of throwing money at the problem, we can't get the control we need just by cracking down — and any politician who promises we can isn't serious about solving the problem.” (Tamar Jacoby, Los Angeles Times, Op-Ed, “A Law That Means Business,” July 12, 2005)

NCLR President Janet Murguia: “Congressional leaders face a choice: We can beef up failed enforcement strategies for the umpteenth time, or we can do the hard work of passing comprehensive reforms that stand a chance of making a difference. Surely a nation of laws which is also a nation of immigrants can strike the right balance.” (Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, Op-Ed, October 26, 2005)