Hajo de Reijger cartoon

(Hajo de Reijger illustration / caglecartoons.com)

For the last two months, the roiling immigration debate has centered around President Donald Trump’s executive orders that slowed some legal migration and suspended until the end of 2020 most employment-based visas.

During the period, Trump scored a major victory over H-1B globalists when he forced Tennessee Valley Authority executives to turn back their outsourcing commitment that would cost high-skilled American workers their jobs.

Meantime, however, down on the still-porous Southwest border, illegal immigration — the contentious issue that propelled Trump into the White House in 2016 — is worsening. Since April, and despite his efforts to curb illegal immigration in light of the coronavirus pandemic, unlawful entry arrests have soared 237 percent, according to Customs and Border Protection.

In March, pursuant to the urging from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, border officials turned back migrants that included those who claimed asylum.

For more than 90 percent of the migrants, the normal timeline for returning unlawful border crossers dropped from a period of several weeks to a mere hour and a half. The White House relied on the Public Health Safety Act’s Title 42 that permits temporarily barring the entry of persons into the United States “when doing so is required in the interest of the public health.”

In his compelling documentary, They Come to America: The Politics of Immigration, filmmaker Dennis Michael Lynch, in interviews with experts, gives an overview of the challenges that decades-long ineffective methods of slowing illegal entry present to the nation. Among them are drug smuggling, national security, environmental degradation and population growth.

But Lynch also focuses on illegal immigration as a labor variable that is especially harmful to low-skilled U.S. workers who have less than a college education. CBP acting Commissioner Mark Morgan acknowledged that, during the spring, surge jobs are illegal immigration’s biggest pull factor.

“Single adult Mexican nationals, who are generally seeking economic opportunities, accounted for almost 80 percent of the encounters,” Morgan said.

Based on the latest available federal statistics, Pew Research Center estimated that 8 million illegal immigrants are in the labor force, mostly employed in agriculture but also in sectors that would present hiring possibilities for America’s under-employed, like construction, hospitality, business services and manufacturing.

While there’s been much fanfare, both positive and negative, about Trump’s “big beautiful wall,” Lynch makes clear that no structure can protect the nation’s waterways from illegal entrants. As an example, he cites the CBP’s Miami sector that’s assigned to cover Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

The Miami sector consists of approximately 187,000 square miles and has 1,203 miles of Florida’s coastal borders along the Atlantic and Gulf shores.

In his statement, Morgan advocated for Trump’s wall. But as Lynch pointed out, a wall is meaningless with such a vast expanse of unprotected shores and waterways that migrant smugglers can easily penetrate. At the time Lynch’s documentary went into production, a mere 111 CBP agents, and only two with boats, were assigned to the Miami sector.

Trump’s wall-blustering is empty talk. Even if a wall were erected, the effect of deterring illegal immigration would be, at best, minor, and a flat zero for water arrivals.

While talking about migrants in search of “economic opportunities,” Morgan missed a chance to promote E-Verify that, since the program confirms individuals’ lawful authorization to work, is a proven illegal immigration deterrent.

U.S. ineptitude at immigration enforcement is known to prospective migrants worldwide. Lynch’s documentary featured a local CBS broadcaster who reported that the Miami sector alone had apprehended aliens from 64 nations.

Labor Day will mark the official kickoff for the 2020 presidential campaign. Voters will be subjected to a nearly unbearable torrent of speeches that promise more jobs for Americans.

But just as reporters asked Democratic primary candidates if they supported open borders and Medicare for illegal immigrants, Trump and challenger Joe Biden should face an equally probing question: Would you, if elected, demand that Congress pass mandatory E-Verify?

— Joe Guzzardi is an analyst and researcher with Progressives for Immigration Reform who now lives in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at jguzzardi@pfirdc.org, or follow him on Twitter: @joeguzzardi19. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Joe Guzzardi is an Institute for Sound Public Policy analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. A California native who now lives in Pittsburgh, he can be reached at jguzzardi@ifspp.org. The opinions expressed are his own.