Homeland Security: Border Security and Illegal Immigration

In evaluating immigration to the United States, it is vital to comprehend the diversity of “push” and “pull” factors, which drive the global migration process. Pull factors, or factors that attract immigrants to come to the United States, include the fact that the U.S. has a superior economy with a high probability of gainful employment compared to the migrant’s mother country. Furthermore, there are people who move to the U.S. hoping to unite with their relatives who had moved to the U.S. earlier. Nevertheless, push factors or root causes that make migrants leave their country to other countries and, in this case, the U.S. has been disregarded for a long time. A number of factors influence an individual’s decision to leave his or her country for unknown foreign land. Their mother country may be in political chaos, escaping high levels of poverty, war, or low levels of development that make its citizens less productive.  Unless these issues are comprehensively understood, no meaningful laws and policies on immigration, especially on illegal immigration will be effective (Paleri, 2008).

Seventeen years after the devastating 9/11 terrorist attack on the American soil, the American government has faced a myriad of challenges as it endeavors to protect America. This is evident on the high number of terrorist attacks that have been thwarted in the period following 9/11. The federal government in conjunction with the state and local governments has made great strides in major aspects of Homeland Security, but there have been major shortcomings in some areas, which need to be addressed or stopped. September 11 2001, is the single worst terrorist attack ever experienced by any country in the world. The attack altered Americas approach towards securing the American soil. The first step was the passing into law of the Homeland Security of 2002 on 25 November 2002. Since then the country has managed to prevent over 56 acts of terrorism that Islamist planned to carry out in the U.S. Indeed, the terrorist attacks in all classifications aimed at the U.S. have recorded a decline (Martin, 2011).

Steps taken towards curbing terrorism funding and terrorists’ movement across borders have paid off. The successful completion of passenger name record data transfer agreements with the EU between 2004 and 2007, the secure flight program, development of a more integrated, as well as, a comprehensive terrorist watch list and international cooperation through various programs has made it extremely hard for international terrorist groups to move terrorists and resources necessary to carry out terror attacks. The immense investment towards border security has enhanced national security. The cooperation by state and local governments under the stewardship of various initiatives such as the Nationality and Immigration Act and programs for secure communities has also significantly improved national security. Such determinations have reduced cases of illegal border crossing and the presence of unlawful persons. The government has also been regularly reviewing its fight against terror, enhancing practices that improve security, while others have been discontinued (Haddal, Library of Congress & Federation of American Scientists, 2010).

Nonetheless, the progress in ensuring America is safe by the Department of Homeland Security has been unreliable and sometimes failed. The amnesty-first approach adopted by the White House to issues of national security such as border security, workplace enforcement, and immigration policy is contrary to the provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This significantly erodes gains made in localities in identifying illegal immigrants and terrorists hiding in places that are less policed. It has also weakened the great strides that have been achieved in making the U.S. borders less porous. The government has failed to curb transcontinental crime that is perpetuated by Mexican cartels. The number of illegal immigrants passing through the Mexican borders is growing at an alarming rate, yet the government has not taken any serious or punitive measures to stop the trend. Generally, policies currently in place to curb illegal movements that endanger the lives of the American people are poorly formulated and do not serve the purpose of enhancing immigration and security in our borders (Levy, 2010).

Many localities have reported increased incidences of crime and drug abuse that can be attributed to a high number of immigrants without proper documentation. Majority of the immigrants are jobless, homeless, and cannot access medical care in our health facilities, which further, endangers the lives of the American people. They can easily be recruited by terror groups that assure them of better living conditions provided they can share intelligence information that will be used to launch attacks on the American soil. For instance, the Mara Salvatrucha criminal gang that was bribed between $ 30,000 and $50,000 to illegally smuggle weapons and terrorists into the US made possible the September 11 2001, terrorist attack. The gang members ensured Al Qaeda operatives safely passed through the porous borders to launch an attack that shocked the nation and the whole world. The group that also carried out an attack on a military base in New Jersey was composed of three perpetrators who had entered the U.S. illegally through the Mexico border. Indeed, illegal immigration was identified as the major challenge in the fight against terror. The immigrants also tend to concentrate in poor neighborhoods in our locality where law enforcement agencies rarely venture enabling them to roam freely performing heinous acts or collecting information to be relayed to terrorists. Majority of the criminal gang members tend to be illegal aliens and dealers in drug smuggling, gang violence, trafficking in weapons, as well as, trafficking women for forced prostitution (Phelps, 2013).

Congress attempt to deal with illegal immigration has been uninspiring. For example, the demand to have all incoming containers thoroughly checked is yet to be implemented. The Congress too does not have a central committee to address the porous borders and illegal immigration. The fact that the Department of Homeland Security comprises of different agents such as FBI and CIA that previously used to operate independently, hamper the department’s effectiveness in handling illegal migration and border security. The Congress has also focused too much energy on the failure of the executive to curb illegal migration, yet they have not passed sufficient legislation that would enable the executive to carry out its mandate (Martin, 2011).

The complicated immigration system and the long wait before approval has not aided in averting illegal immigration. There are many kinds of visas, lotteries, waiting time that sometimes last several years and special visas; these numerous factors and tracks motivate many people to opt for the illegal entry into the country. There is also the issue of sanctuary cities that demands a hands-off approach to illegal immigration issues. The sanctuary cities share only part of their immigration information with the federal government that makes it hard for the government to know the actual number of illegal persons in the country. This creates conflicts among government agencies aimed at streamlining immigration laws and the implementation of these laws to ensure the number of illegal persons in the U.S. decreases to acceptable levels (Phelps, 2013).

The fact that the U.S. is advanced economically compared to Mexico has encouraged many Mexicans to migrate in search of greener pastures but terrorists and other criminals have taken advantage to cross into the U.S.  Attempts to deny funding to sanctuary cities have failed as this would also mean denying millions of deserving people much-needed relief they receive from government in terms of grants and provision of affordable social amenities such as housing and infrastructure.

The U.S. will continue grappling with the issue of terrorism, high levels of poverty among immigrants, as well as, pressure on existing social infrastructure if it fails to rein on illegal immigration. The porous vast border with Mexico continues to present major challenges to the Homeland Security department in securing the federal republic. Smuggling of drugs, women on forced prostitution, and illegal arms trade continue unabated. The states of Texas and California have high incidences of gang violence due to their close proximity to Mexico. The gang violence has been attributed to a high number of immigrants the majority of whom are jobless and do not enjoy government subsidies for the poor. The country will continue feeling the pinch of illegal immigrants until proper legislation and coordination among the federal, state, and local government improves (Levy, 2010).


Haddal, C. C., Library of Congress., & Federation of American Scientists. (2010). Border security: The role of the U.S. Border Patrol. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service.

Levy, J. (2010). Illegal immigration and amnesty: Open borders and national security. New York: Rosen Publisher.

Martin, G. (2011). Terrorism and Homeland Security. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE.

Paleri, P. (2008). National security: Imperatives and challenges. New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.

Phelps, J. R. (2013). Border security. Durham: Carolina Academic press

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