Americans for Prosperity Foundation is hosting a number of southern border visits throughout 2023. The Pennsylvania chapter just returned from McAllen, Texas, traveling with several staff, activists, coalition partners and members of the media, from Broad and Liberty to Harrisburg’s WHP580. Many of you listening will read or hear the accounts from these partners, but today I wanted to share a bit about our perspective on border security and provide my takeaways from the trip. Our vision for immigration is a system that prioritizes secure borders while providing orderly opportunities for legal immigration. We believe in an efficient asylum system that protects itself from exploitation and a streamlined legal immigration process that meets the needs of U.S. businesses and families. A process that is responsive to demands from U.S. sponsors who are willing to pay the costs of the petition and assume financial responsibility for the migrant is essential. America needs to change our laws and leverage technology and additional personnel so that our asylum system quickly accepts applicants with strong claims of persecution while quickly rejecting and removing applicants with asylum claims that lack merit. The years of asylum backlogs have incentivized people to make weak claims and stay in the country while their case is pending. Meanwhile, people with strong claims remain in limbo. Cutting through the asylum backlogs is imperative to restoring integrity to our humanitarian systems and ensuring that they are used as intended. An all of the above border-security strategy is needed and should include barriers in strategic locations, modernized technology and infrastructure, hiring more immigration judges and asylum officers and streamlining legal pathways so migrants have more options than applying for asylum.
There are several important needs that must be prioritized now:
- We know that more border patrol agents leads to fewer attempted crossings. We must fill our current staffing vacancies, which is roughly 2,700 agents.
- Visa overstays are over half of the unlawfully present population. We need a biometric entry/exit system to better track visa overstays.
- Our economy has doubled in size and our population has increased by 30% since the last major reform to our immigration system. Millions of jobs remain unfilled and it is imperative that we address work visas and opportunities so our immigration system is responsive to the needs and demands of the American market.
We had the opportunity to visit with Chief Chris Clem, a recently retired Yuma Sector U.S. Customs and Border Protection Chief Border Patrol Agent. He shared his mantra of “clear is kind,” meaning that when our laws and processes are clear, less people would be exploited and victimized by bad actors. He noted that floodgates were opened to abuse when President Biden issued his Executive Order suspending all deportations his first 100 days in office. He shared that in October of 2020 in Yuma there was an average of 25 arrests per day. By President Biden’s first year in office, by the end of 2021, they were averaging 1,200 arrests per day. The change in administrations transformed the reality along the 2,000-mile southern border.
As our time in McAllen came to an end, we visited Catholic Charities and had the chance to meet a number of individuals who just arrived to America. It was a mixed group of asylum seekers, migrants and sponsored adults. One thread connected their stories: they were elated to be here and were ready to work, an opportunity many of them didn’t have in their home nation. We are a nation that has exigent needs with individuals ready and willing to fill them, in search of their shot at the American Dream. Ultimately, a secure border and ample opportunities for legal immigration are complementary, not competing objectives. A secure border is foundational to national security. Strengthening our inherent welcoming culture while keeping Americans safe and secure is possible with political will and courage. Visit americansforprosperity.org to learn more. I’m Ashley Klingensmith, State Director with Americans for Prosperity-PA. You can connect with us on Facebook by searching @PAAFP and can follow us on Twitter by searching @AFPPennsylvania.
Ashley S. Klingensmith | State Director | Americans for Prosperity – PA