Froma Harrop: America needs both parties to secure the border

From the commentary: America needs both parties to secure the border. Democrats have started, and Republicans are invited.

Texas National Guard troops block immigrants from entering a high-traffic border crossing area along Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022, as viewed from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Texas National Guard troops block immigrants from entering a high-traffic border crossing area along Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022, as viewed from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
(John Moore/Getty Images/TNS)

Donald Trump's solution was to build a wall and insult migrants. Left off his playbook for curbing illegal immigration was any punishment for employers who hired undocumented workers. That would inconvenience farmers, he said.

Froma Harrop Commentary
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As it turned out, the wall wasn't built, and those entering illegally didn't care about the insults. They wanted work, and they got it.

Fixing immigration requires two things. One, we must remove the job magnet by punishing employers who hire the undocumented. Two, we must determine how many immigrants we need and with what skills. That will mean accepting more people legally.

Neither solution relies entirely on police, horses and miles of wall. And that brings us to the unexpected quiet at the border following the end of the Title 42.

Under Trump's Title 42, purportedly designed to stop the spread of COVID-19, migrants were quickly turned back at the border. What sounded stern was nothing but a revolving door. Title 42 came with no consequences for illegal entry. Anyone turned away could try again and again and probably succeed.


The Biden administration's new policy seems actually tougher. Someone caught coming over the border illegally would face a five-year ban on reentry. And those breaking the law could also face deportation and possible criminal prosecution.

More than anything else, that five-year ban on even trying to get here illegally is probably bringing more peace to the border.

But here is a dilemma that may persist: The great majority of migrants come here for economic reasons, not fear of persecution at home. There are pathways for economic migrants to apply for legal status, but getting a green light might take years or fail. A way to jump the line has been to show up at the border and ask for asylum.

Up to now, the initial bar for establishing a credible fear of returning to one's country of origin has been fairly low. Those who pass it are given a court date for a final decision where a grant of asylum is much harder to obtain. But because of the court backlog, such migrants would have years of working in this country before their case is heard.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas insists that it's now harder to make that first credible claim at the border. We will see what happens. In the meantime, Biden is opening new pathways for legal immigration in regional processing centers throughout Central and South America.

Note that illegal immigration to the United States hit its lowest level in 40 years under Barack Obama, not Trump. Obama was not afraid to deport people or confront personal attacks by the open-border forces on his left. Biden will have to do likewise.

And Republicans will have to stand up to the cheap-labor right. Trump's apparent rival, Gov. Ron DeSantis, has yet to show that courage.

DeSantis recently signed a law that required big Florida companies or those doing state business to check the legal status of all hires with an electronic database. Left out were most restaurants, tourist operations, maintenance services -- the very businesses that employ large numbers of undocumented workers.


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Florida Republicans recently passed a bill that hands DeSantis $12 million to fly undocumented migrants to such liberal places as Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. Wouldn't that money be more usefully spent enforcing labor practices in the kitchens and on landscaping trucks in Miami? (That assumes they really care.)

According to the Migration Policy Institute, Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties are home to nearly as many "unauthorized" people as the entire state of Massachusetts, which has well over two times the population.

America needs both parties to secure the border. Democrats have started, and Republicans are invited.

Froma Harrop is an American writer and author. She can be reached at or on Twitter @FromaHarrop.

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