Homeland and Security Issues

A key homeland security issue affecting the United States is border security. The American borders are ever-busy handling tens of millions of goods and millions of lawful travelers entering the county. At the same United States faces a wide range of threats to its borders (Riley, 2005). This includes terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, transnational criminal smuggling gangs and counterfeit goods, and the unauthorized migrants focused to live and work in the country. This has prompted the Department of Homeland Security and the Congress to shift their attention to the process of risk management that entails carrying out a risk assessment and distribution of resources based on a cost-benefit analysis. Through such a system, DHS is able to categorize the threats as per their level of risks (Rosenblum, 2012). The classification of these risks as either high or low leads is essential in the planning process and budgeting exercises and in the implementation of specific border security initiatives. This paper will analyze the risk of unauthorized immigrants facing border security and analyze the countermeasures installed in place to improve border security.

Unauthorized Migrants

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The Immigration and National Act categorizes unauthorized immigrants as inadmissible aliens with some health-related issues, aliens with some foreign policy concerns. The term is also used to refer to any alien with a potential of becoming a public charge, certain employment-based immigrants with no necessary labor certifications, those who arrive at an illegal time or place, and with no possession of a valid entry document. The illegal immigrants, just like the legal migrants, are attracted by an array of factors such as employment opportunities, need to improve their economic status, seeking family ties, and hostile conditions in their home countries. This category of people commits mainly immigration-related offenses through the illegal entry or the use of fraudulent documents when acquiring employment. While some may never engage in criminal offenses, some may become entangled with transnational criminals during the process of entry or when seeking employment. A key difference between terrorists and unauthorized immigrants is that unlike the terrorists, the unauthorized immigrants are not motivated by extremist ideologies and will thereby not engage in terror-related activities. The unauthorized migrants are said to be motivated by personal opportunities, which prompts them to enter the country illegally or overstay their visa period (Rosenblum, Bjelopera, & Finklea, 2013).

The population of the undocumented migrants in the United States between 1986 to 2008 rose from three million to 12 million people. This increase was experienced despite a five-fold increase in Border Patrol officers, a four-fold increase in the border patrol hours and a 20-fold increase in nominal funding (Massey, Durand, & Pren, 2016). It has been observed that the issue of illegal migration has been a nagging problem since 1965 when the Congress made changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act. This led to the cancellation of the guest worker agreement that had been longstanding with Mexico. The law placed a limit to Mexico of just 20,000 legal residents for every year and no issuance of temporary work visa. This was a huge reduction from numbers allowed in the previous years where 50,000 permanent resident entries were issued and approximately 450,000 temporary work permits granted. This created a problem since there was a connection that had already been created between the Mexican workers and the US employers. The opportunities that had been there did not reduce but were instead, granted to the undocumented immigrants and in return fueling the illegal migration (Massey & Pren, 2012). 

It has been indicated that the issue of the illegal migrant is caused by the set-up of the US economy. This is because the US economy is mainly propelled by the foreign immigrants. A study had pointed out that the country generated about 161 million job opportunities across the United States but the country only had 156 million workers to match this (Alexander, 2009). The immigrants are located in various American fields, in office towers, restaurants, classroom, and justice centers. These undocumented workers are viewed in different perspectives from different stakeholders; as people living with no permission, workers who fill job positions not desired by other people, and criminals posing a risk in the neighborhoods (Yee, Davis, & Patel, 2017).   

Countermeasures to Deal with the Issue of Unauthorized Immigrants

This United States has struggled in keeping the number of immigrants into check for decades. In 1976, the Commissioner of US immigrant and Naturalization Service termed the immigrants as illegal aliens and made arguments for the passage of restrictive immigration laws. It was President Ronald Reagan who however declared the issue of undocumented migration as a threat to national security. The danger as he put it was that terrorists and subversives would use the route of the border crossing to gain access to the country (Massey et al. 2016).

The United States Customs and Border Protection is an agency within the Department of Homeland Security that is tasked with the responsibility of preventing people from entering the country illegally or introducing any illegal stuff into the country. Another important agency that has been put in place to enhance border security is the United States Border Patrol (USBP) whose main focus is to prevent the entry of terrorists, weapons, and illegal aliens into the country. Over the last ten years, the border patrol has received an increase in its budget and human resources to more than triple. This was mainly due to increased concerns by the Congress on the status of illegal immigration. The USBP works with a team of approximately 20,000 agents and uses vehicles, aircraft, watercraft and other forms of technology in their quest to defend the borders (Haddal, 2010). 

In an effort to determine the effectiveness of border control, a study by Massey et al. (2016) revealed that the increased level of border enforcement all the way from 1986 had limited effect on reducing the occurrence of the undocumented migration but rather lead to pushing of migrants away from normal points into hostile environment in the Sonoran Desert across Arizona. This led to the increased need for these undocumented immigrants to be assisted by paid smugglers (Rasmussen, 2011). My personal opinion on these countermeasures is that they have produced mixed results in their attempts to safeguard the borders of the country. However, the issue of border security has become a hot political topic with waring political facts having different views. President Trump has indicated his position and proposed the measure of building a wall along the US-Mexico Border. In his Executive Order, President Trump admitted that the insurgence of illegal migrants from Mexico has put a strain to the Federal resources and overwhelmed the agencies tasked with the duty of border security (Executive Order, 2017). There has been a continuous increase in the population of illegal immigrants despite a five-fold increase in Border Patrol officer, a four-fold increase in the border patrol hour and a 20-fold increase in nominal funding (Massey, Durand, & Pren, 2016). This poses questions about the effectiveness of border patrol as a countermeasure to illegal migration. I would suggest that the United States reaches an amicable solution with Mexico on labor exchange. This will create a legal means of immigrants to gain access into the United States. Otherwise, the immigrants have proved that they can go through any means including crossing deserts and digging tunnels to gain their entry into the United States.  

References

Alexander, R. (2009). US Policy Toward Illegal Immigration and Border Security: Summary and Evaluation. Politics, Bureaucracy & Justice1(2).

ORDER, E. (2017). Executive order: Border security and immigration enforcement improvements.

Haddal, C. C. (2010, August). Border security: The role of the US Border Patrol. Library of Congress Washington DC Congressional Research Service.

Massey, D. S., Durand, J., & Pren, K. A. (2016). Why Border Enforcement Backfired. AJS; American Journal of Sociology121(5), 1557–1600.

Rasmussen, T. R. (2011). National Security Threats at the US-Mexico Border. Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy Medford Ma. 

Riley, K. J. (2005). Border control. The McGraw-Hill Homeland Security Handbook, 587-612.

Rosenblum, M. R., Bjelopera, J. P., & Finklea, K. M. (2013). Border security: Understanding threats at US borders. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved from https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=731927

Rosenblum, M. R. (2012). Border security: Immigration enforcement between ports of entry. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved from https://fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/R42138.pdfYee, V., Davis, K., & Patel, J. K. (2017). Here’s the Reality About Illegal Immigrants in the United States. New York Times6.

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