As a country of laws, the United States needs to make sure that potential immigrants enter the country through legal channels, while respecting the rights of those who seek legal protection. How do we strengthen border security while staying committed to due process and family values? Sensible options exist, and we should act on them.First, we should increase investment in the asylum system at the border to make certain that legitimate claims can be heard and decided expeditiously. Before 2014, most attempted border crossers were economic migrants, overwhelmingly from Mexico. Today, U.S.-Mexico border apprehensions are at the lowest level in 46 years, primarily due to broad improvements in the Mexican economy, education, and healthcare systems that have made it more attractive to stay in Mexico.Most border detainees today are from Central America. The number of Hondurans, El Salvadorans, and Guatemalans attempting to cross the border jumped dramatically five years ago. While it has declined slightly, the number still remains high. This rise in the flow of Central Americans presents a different set of challenges because many are not purely economic migrants. Most are fleeing a toxic mix of poverty and violence in the region, and many hold legitimate grounds for asylum.
Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree that a significant investment in asylum officers and immigration judges to speed up processing at the border makes sense. More timely decision-making would likely help deter those without a substantiated case and provide a fairer process for those who deserve protection.