As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump pledged to reduce illegal immigration from Central America, and since taking office he has paired that vow with professed concerns about not just the flow of asylum seekers into the United States, but the smuggling of drugs and the potential entry of terrorists, too. That, in his telling, is why he wants $5 billion from Congress for a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
But what if there were other—better—ways of achieving the president’s goals than spending $5 billion on a wall? Here are a few possibilities.
Fix the Asylum System
The surge of asylum seekers from Central America has put further strain on an already stretched system that processes their claims, resulting in what is now a years-long backlog.
“The system is neither fair to legitimate claims nor timely,” said Andrew Selee, the president of the Migration Policy Center, a Washington, D.C., institute that studies migration.
An overhaul would involve hiring more judges and lawyers associated with the asylum process. This would reduce the backlog, allowing quicker deportations of those applicants whose claims have been denied. (At present, they are allowed to work legally in the United States until their case is heard by an immigration judge, which can take two to three years.) It would also have the effect of allowing Customs and Border Protection, the agency that first encounters the asylum seekers and more and more is being tasked with dealing with them, to focus on its core mission: “protecting the public from dangerous people and materials.”