MANCHESTER, NH – On Thursday night at Backyard Brewery, Americans for Prosperity Foundation held a forum to discuss policy and law enforcement surrounding the topic of immigration and border security.
The forum, moderated by AFP State Director Greg Moore, provided details on the current state of immigration from retired Yuma Sector Border Security Chief Chris Clem as well as former immigration attorney and AFP Foundation Immigration Prosperity Fellow Jordan Fischetti.
Clem, who retired last year, said that immigration law enforcement at the border improved during five of the six presidential administrations he served under, only deteriorating under the Biden Administration. He said that from 2019 to 2022, his region went from 8,000 arrests to 310,000; jumping from 405,000 to 2.2 million in the same time frame.
He stated that border wall installations in some areas along with cameras, lights and towers in others would help stem the flow of migrants crossing the border illegally. Clem added that it would also take bipartisan changes in policy at the federal level to end the dangers faced by migrants that pay thousands of dollars to Mexican drug cartels to cross the border, with the migrant often finding themselves entered into economic or psychological bondage to those cartels.
However, he stated that instead, border patrol agents have seen the key patrolling functions of their jobs overwhelmed by administrative work by the migrants, who are coming from all over the world and often surrendering en masse at patrol stations.
Fischetti said that these migrants, also known as “give-ups,” are overwhelming the asylum process. While Fischetti said that outside of New York City and San Francisco, most migrants only have a less than 33% chance of gaining asylum. However, these odds are often better than those through other immigration avenues currently available to many migrants and migrants are often released into the United States with an order to return in several years for a hearing, in which time before the hearing can present a large increase in wage-earning opportunities than they would have found in their home countries.
“To come to the United States legally is really difficult,” he said. “For a lot of people, you have to wait in line until you die.”
Both Fischetti and Clem stated that congressional action will be needed to address the current flow of migrants coming over the border outside of legal channels.
Fischetti said that reform of the legal immigration process is needed to better reflect the demand for immigration into the country, including streamlining the process for temporary migrants that may be needed on a tight timeframe to help agricultural companies during harvesting season.
He added there would need to be more benefit for members of Congress to make minor fixes over time, stating that both parties have primarily been interested in grandstanding and addressing the nuts and bolts of the issue is often not valued by voters.
In addition to the infrastructural concerns, Clemm said that government shutdowns need to be curtailed given the deleterious impact they have to an already demoralized border patrol workforce. He also said that border patrol agents may have to be shifted away from the northern border of the U.S. to help stem the tide at the Mexican border, although this would have to be done in a managed way to avoid additional morale issues for those transferred agents.
He also said that Washington would need to re-take their responsibility of securing the border if they would not let border states do so and show that there are consequences for crossing the border illegally, which in turn would dissuade the cartels from their human and drug trafficking efforts and increase safety for both migrants and U.S. citizens.