NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Border Control Failure

January 27, 2004

President Bush's has proposed a temporary guest worker program to deal with the problem of those who are variously called illegal immigrants, undocumented workers or working semipermanent tourists, depending on one's viewpoint.

Beginning with the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, the federal government invested steadily more money and effort to stop illegal immigration. Since 1993, federal spending on border enforcement has more than quintupled from $740 million to $3.8 billion.

The number of border patrol agents tripled and the most popular corridors for illegals -- San Diego and El Paso -- were sealed off, says the WSJ. The IRCA traded amnesty for illegals currently in the United States in return for employer sanctions -- fines or prison terms if they hired undocumented aliens. These policies have been either ineffective or had unintended consequences:

  • Circular migration is now less common, human smugglers have increased their fees, there is a flourishing fake ID industry and hundreds of additional deaths from exposure in the mountains and deserts between San Diego and El Paso.
  • Illegal immigration has continued at a rate of about 500,000 per year, according to Walter Ewing of the Immigration Policy Center.
  • Between 1990 and 2000, illegal immigration -- 77 percent of which is from Latin America -- rose by 5.5 million people.
  • In 2001, undocumented workers filled 1.4 million jobs in the wholesale and retail trades, according to the Pew Hispanic Center; more than one million worked in manufacturing and another 1.2 million worked in agriculture.

Source: Editorial, "Our Border Brigades," Wall Street Journal, January 27, 2004.


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