Forum calls for more resources at US border, more legal pathways for immigration | News, Sports, Jobs


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Americans for Prosperity Utah visits the McAllen, Texas, border in April. AFP held an immigration forum on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in Provo with speakers presenting concerns about illegal border crossings and solutions to move forward.

Courtesy Americans for Prosperity Foundation

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Chris Clem, former border chief in Yuma, Arizona, speaks at an immigration forum organized by Americans for Prosperity Utah on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in Provo.

Courtesy Americans for Prosperity Foundation

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Americans for Prosperity Utah visits the McAllen, Texas, border in April. AFP held an immigration forum on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in Provo with speakers presenting concerns about illegal border crossings and solutions to move forward.

Courtesy Americans for Prosperity Foundation

Dozens of people gathered Oct. 18 for an immigration forum in Provo held by Americans for Prosperity Utah, during which a former border chief in Yuma, Arizona, a former immigration lawyer and an immigrant from Canada called for higher border security paired with an increase in legal pathways for immigrants to come to the U.S.

The speakers also shared concerns about illegal border crossings and addressed solutions to move forward.

AFP is a conservative political affairs organization. Concerning the issue of immigration, the national group is “focused on improving border security and immigration policies for a more effective and fair system,” according to its website.

The consensus across the forum was the need for a balance between opportunities for legal migration and effective border security. Jordan Fischetti, immigration policy fellow at AFP and a former immigration lawyer, said that “legal migration (and) border security (are) complementarities, not competing objectives.”

Paraphrasing former Sen. Fred Dalton Thompson of Tennessee during a 2008 presidential primary debate, former border chief Chris Clem said, “Tall fences and wide gates. … That’s what our border should be about. Tall fences is a metaphor for our security: personnel, technology (and) infrastructure where it makes sense, and wide gates are our ports of entry and our legal pathways.”

Clem, who retired Dec. 31, 2022, said during the forum, “Walls do work where they make sense.” He explained there are three operating environments for border security — urban, rural and remote — and said each environment requires different methods of security, ranging from constructing a wall, to placing vehicle barriers, to increasing agents at the border.

In an urban environment, the “vanishing time” for someone to cross the border and escape apprehension by getting lost in the city is seconds to minutes, Clem said. In a rural area, it is minutes to hours, and in a remote area it is hours to days, giving security more time to find them.

The level and type of border security needs to match the vanishing time of those crossing the border illegally, he said. For example, he explained, in an urban environment with a high density population, a wall is an effective tool to funnel immigrants through a legal port of entry.

Clem said that while former President Donald Trump’s idea to have a wall across the entire border is unnecessary, having no walls and low border security also causes issues.

After President Joe Biden took office in 2021, he signed an executive order to stop construction of the wall at the southern border. Clem shared how immigration numbers reportedly changed after the switch in administrations, saying arrests of illegal migrants rose from 8,800 in 2020 when he started at the Arizona border to 114,000 in 2021 and 310,000 in 2022.

The Associated Press reported last month that “The Biden administration announced they waived 26 federal laws in South Texas to allow border wall construction on (Oct. 4), marking the administration’s first use of sweeping executive power to pave the way for building more border barriers — a tactic used often during the Trump presidency.”

Fischetti said the high amount of people crossing illegally is caused by low border security and a lack of resources and is exacerbated by the difficulty of coming to the U.S. legally.

While some things in regard to immigration will not gain bipartisan support, Fischetti said the call for and the need for more personnel, better infrastructure and better technology at the border “should be able to get bipartisan support.”

Fischetti said some immigrants want to come into the country for a season to work then go back home, and some want to come legally to stay and make the U.S. their home. He said, “Streamlining, expanding pathways for both of those (groups) would definitely reduce pressure at the border.”

Clem agreed, saying that if there is only one pathway to get to the U.S. legally, and the line is so long that people are not willing to wait in line, they will find a quicker way to come, which is crossing illegally. “So, if you widen or create more lines or more lawful pathways,” he said, “that would just reduce that flow that’s trying to come in the wrong way.”

With so much pressure at the border and continually rising numbers of people crossing illegally, it stretches thin border security resources and creates a backlog in the immigration system, the speakers said, which results in those who are trying to enter the U.S. legally having to wait longer for their documents and applications to be processed.

Adding to Clem’s and Fischetti’s comments about the need for more lawful pathways for immigrants, Mike Sylvester, senior grassroots trainer with AFP, said, “The beauty of that too is it frees up Border Patrol and people at the border and it frees up their resources and their capability of going after people who are threats to national security and people who are human trafficking, really going after a lot of the bad.”

After his mom received a job transfer, Sylvester and his family immigrated to the U.S. from Canada in 2009. They got their green cards in 2012, and on Oct. 25, 2018, he became a U.S. citizen. His process from immigrating to the U.S. to becoming a citizen took nine years, he said, but “I was one of the lucky ones. There are people who wait their entire lives just to get approval for green cards.”

Sylvester continued, “The reality is that there are a lot of people around the world who want to come to the United States as a land of opportunity and live their version of the American dream, but it’s so important that we have the proper legal immigration system in place that allows for people to come.” One of the biggest issues, he said, is the low number of work visas and other visas or authorizations that are given out each year for people to immigrate legally.

Through his nine year process of becoming a citizen, Sylvester said, “Ultimately, what I think could be a little better is the clearness and the consistency within the policy.” He explained a common scenario that happened to his family: When preparing to cross the border, what lawyers, customs or other immigration organizations told them was required was different from what was asked of them at the border.


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