I am an immigrant, and I oppose open borders

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In the past few years, many activists and politicians on the left have conflated the idea of liberal immigration policies with open borders. This has confused many Americans to the point where many have distanced themselves from the idea of embracing more immigrants. Rather than creating a more inviting environment for immigrants, advocating for open borders has emboldened anti-immigration figures such as President Donald Trump to demonize immigrants and call for the construction of a border wall.

 As an undocumented immigrant, I fully support the free movement of people,  but I oppose the notion that the United States should have open borders. Open borders will make conditions more dangerous for migrants and will not answer the cultural and economic questions surrounding immigration.

Advocates of open borders suggest immigration should be deregulated and unlimited. Even though the U.S. shared an open border with Mexico until 1924, the movement of people in the 21st century has become too complex to completely disregard the role of the state in managing the movement of people. If the state does not play a role in immigration, other entities such as cartels will. In fact, the Sinaloa Cartel has already consolidated its monopoly on illegal border crossings in areas where the border patrol is not present. The industry of exploiting migrants traveling north is now worth as much as $3 billion  a year.

The journey to the United States is more dangerous than it has ever been before. As noted earlier, Mexican cartels have targeted Central American migrants who seek to cross the U.S. border. In areas of the U.S.- Mexico border that lack the presence of the state, cartels have asserted control and have essentially become the only vehicle for border crossing. Vulnerable migrants are left with no choice but to submit to the power of cartels in order to even have even a small chance of crossing the border. Open borders would exacerbate this issue by indirectly transferring power from the state to powerful cartels. The intention of open borders is to give these exploited migrants a chance to enter the U.S., but this overly optimistic approach overlooks this issue.

When I crossed Guatemala and Mexico to come to the United States from Honduras, I did so at the mercy of smugglers who were connected to Mexican cartels. There were many uncertainties in that journey, and it is a miracle I am alive and made it to the United States. I would have been safer if I had crossed through a port of entry, away from dangerous cartels and under the protection of the U.S. government. Other children do not have the same luck.

The U.S. does not need open borders; rather, it needs a more open immigration system. Restrictive immigration legislation in the 1990s and other executive measures in recent years have compromised the legitimacy of the immigration system, which has fueled nativist sentiments on the right and a call for open borders on the left. In order to address the economic and cultural questions on the left and right, Congress must pass immigration legislation that allows more migrants to come through a legal port of entry. In other words, the U.S. must regain control of its borders and provide more legal pathways so it can protect migrants and prove to both nativists and pro-migration activists that migration is a manageable and positive institution.

From unsustainable case backlogs to putting children in cages, the immigration system has failed migrants. Open borders will not repair this broken system. However, open immigration policies will bring migrants out of the shadows and restore Americans’ trust in the immigration system. This is the most responsible approach.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual writers in the opinion section do not reflect the views and opinions of The Daily Campus or other staff members. Only articles labeled “Editorial” are the official opinions of The Daily Campus.

Thumbnail photo courtesy of @jontyson on Unsplash.com


Michael Hernandez is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at michael.g.2.hernandez@uconn.edu

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