Addressing Immigration

Immigration has been a long-standing controversial issue throughout American history, let alone the world. A touchy subject in the House and the Senate, the U.S. has not had too many bills and laws regarding immigration. One particular bill created massive change for the future of immigrants, especially during its time, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. It sought to preserve jobs for American citizens and aliens who are authorized to work in the United States. This law “aimed to secure the U.S.-Mexico border against illegal crossing with new surveillance technology and bigger staff.”[1] The bill’s objectives became a bipartisan compromise for “effectively” dealing with illegal immigration while “establishing a reasonable, fair, orderly and secure system of immigration into the country,” said former President Reagan.[2] However, what policymakers and leaders worldwide need to realize is the lives impacted by policies such as the one mentioned above. As the number of refugees only increases, the lives of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers are put in high levels of danger. 

In Georgia alone, refugees and migrants make up more than 10 percent of the population, meaning at least 63,000 refugees, with 2,500 to 3,500 being resettled every year.[3] Clarkston, a city in Dekalb County, has one of the largest immigrant communities, welcoming approximately 1,500 refugees each year with the help of resettlement agencies and the surrounding community. Resettlement agencies such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC) greatly assist and empower refugees across the state. In 2021, the Georgia House passed HR 11, a bi-partisan bill that established a committee to assist with developing, distributing funding, and supporting the economic contributions of Georgia migrants and refugees.[4] This resolution created impactful change by increasing access to education, expanding childcare access, and more. Fast forward to 2024, the Georgia House has recently passed HB 1105, which, like the Immigration Control Act of 1986, seeks to implement strong laws on the detention and criminalization of immigrants in Georgia.[5] This bill comes in the wake of a new upcoming election, where immigration and border portals are amongst the most sought-after policy topics.  

Naturally, the question becomes, is this the right solution? If the immigration and migrant population will only increase, is more border security, surveillance, and arresting undocumented migrants the solution to this never-ending problem? One thing is certain: immigrants comprise a considerable part of Georgia’s working population, with 701,962 immigrant workers making up 13% of Georgia’s workforce in 2018.[6] Thus, as with any comprehensive bill that has ever been able to pass, the need for bi-participation support and compromise is essential for better immigration policy; more policies like HR 11, which provide resources and support the migrant community that makes up much of our state. 

The best solution, I would argue, begins at the very lines where there are contentions. As it currently stands, the “issue” at the border stems from many reasons. There is a lack of humanitarian assistance, a shortage of border patrol workers, and a lack of funding to ensure that individuals seeking asylum can do so by means that abide by the law. Seeking asylum is argued to be done better when individuals can seek asylum at a port of entry.[7] However, this has been made difficult, if not impossible, by different administrations that restrict access to asylum or enforce policies such as “metering,” which limits the number of migrants who can access asylum each day. This policy, implemented during Trump’s presidency, has exacerbated wait times and has been argued to incentivize attempts to cross the border between different ports of entry illegally.[8] Although the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has rescinded this policy, new initiatives by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) now require an app to allow individuals to schedule a time and place for inspections at ports of entry. To many, this may seem like an efficient policy; however, for the migrant community that often seeks refuge with little to no possessions, having access to technology is far from attainable. In addition to this initiative is the “final rule,” where those who fail to use this system are deemed ineligible to seek asylum.[Ibid] 

Therefore, many of our policy and legislative efforts toward improving the immigration crisis can start by tackling these very issues at the border. With strategic investment and oversight in CBP’s Office of Field Operation, resources such as infrastructure and technology, as well as a change in these new initiatives that make the asylum process difficult for immigration, will allow for a more straightforward, faster, and more feasible process for asylum-seeking individuals.[9] This is beneficial on many levels as it creates a safer means of migrating, encourages more legal entry into the country, and will help reduce humanitarian issues such as poor medical assistance, lack of access to food, and inhumane living conditions, which are a result of overcrowding and lack of funding. The U.S. will only continue to experience an increase in refugees and migrants; the genuine concern is how we make those individuals who contribute so much to our society live a life of dignity.