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Sinema’s immigration plan doesn’t work for Arizonans

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President Joe Biden walks with U.S. Border Patrol agents along a stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas on Jan. 8. Kyrsten Sinema — Arizona’s Democrat-turned-independent U.S. senator — traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border with two of her Republican colleagues, U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas recently, on the heels of Sinema and Tillis negotiating an immigration package that, in theory, could solve the worst border crisis in American history. Unfortunately, in practice, the package would do little to staunch the record influx of illegal immigrants. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

This month, Kyrsten Sinema — Arizona’s Democrat-turned-independent U.S. senator — traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border with two of her Republican colleagues, U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas. The trip came on the heels of Sinema and Tillis negotiating an immigration package that, in theory, could solve the worst border crisis in American history.

Unfortunately, in practice, the package would do little to staunch the record influx of illegal immigrants. If anything, it could make the problem even worse.

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Rusty Childress

Politicians in both parties agree that the border is a disaster. In 2022, border apprehensions totaled a record 2.4 million, with the Grand Canyon State accounting for over half a million of those. The Biden administration has been releasing many of those illegal immigrants into the interior United States, sometimes without even giving them notices to appear in court. As a result, there are well over 11 million illegal immigrants in this country. They now make up roughly 4% of Arizona’s population, according to the Pew Research Center.

The border surge started soon after President Biden took the oath of office, as would-be migrants from around the world realized that the new administration would do little to block their illegal entry. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Yuma sector, which includes Arizona’s easternmost counties, saw an extraordinary 1,200% increase in migrant encounters in 2021. The agency’s Tucson sector, covering the rest of the state, saw an 189% increase.

This inflow has strained our resources and infrastructure and pushed down wages. Illegal immigration makes life harder for working Americans, especially those with lower incomes. Arizona’s unemployment rate is 4.1%, higher it is for the nation as a whole. And even employed workers are struggling to keep up with rampant inflation.

Consider the impact of unchecked immigration on U.S. workers without a high school degree. In the last few decades, immigration increased the size of the low-skilled workforce by about 25%. As a result, Americans without a diploma saw their wages decline by as much as $1,500 per year, according to Harvard economist George J. Borjas.

Unfortunately, the Sinema-Tillis bill would do nothing to help these disadvantaged Americans.

Their proposed legislation does provide more border funding. And it would extend Title 42 — a Covid-era health measure still being used to expel migrants — for one more year. But it wouldn’t fundamentally reform the asylum system, which many migrants use to gain access to the interior United States by making false claims.

And because the bill’s other provisions would provide amnesty to millions of people who crossed the border illegally, the legislation as a whole would encourage even more people to come here illegally, actually making the border crisis worse instead of better.

Just consider the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, signed by Ronald Reagan, which gave amnesty to about 3 million illegal immigrants in exchange for promised border security measures. That law, though well-intended, set a precedent that only attracted millions more illegal migrants.

Senator Sinema claims she has the best interests of working-class Arizonans at heart, so much so that she left her party to prove her maverick credentials. But her immigration proposal doesn’t live up to those promises. It fails to fix the root problems in our dysfunctional immigration system. And by offering amnesty to illegal immigrants, it’d only entice more people to journey here unlawfully.

Rusty Childress is a Phoenix-based nature photographer. 

 

One comment

  1. Although I agree that incoming illegal immigrants poise a threat to low waged workers. I do think some type of asylum is needed for the Dreamers. Those kids are American the only things that says otherwise is a piece of paper.

    I think if you have been here for 10 plus years, graduated school, clean record, and apart of your community in a positive way. I see no reason you cannot have a path to citizenship for those kids

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