A new Rasmussen poll shows that 57 percent of Americans favor securing the U.S.-Mexico border above legalizing the statuses of the undocumented immigrants already in the country. The number is nearly identical to the outcome of an earlier Rasmussen poll conducted in March.
In the most recent survey, which polled 1,000 likely U.S. voters earlier this month, only 35 percent of respondents thought legalizing the statuses of undocumented immigrants trumped border security.
Reading the results of this latest poll, one word immediately comes to mind: duh. The only shocking bit of these figures is that support for border security isn’t higher.
In fact, much more revealing was a June poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, which showed that 53 percent of Latinos believe creating a pathway toward citizenship for undocumented immigrants should be the first priority of U.S. immigration policy; 35 percent said both border security and a pathway to citizenship should be equal priorities, while a mere 10 percent thought border security should be America’s main priority regarding immigration.
Ten percent is appallingly low, and it risks placing Latinos in an anti-American light.
The United States, as a sovereign nation, has the right and the obligation to define and defend its international borders from foreign threats. Since even before Plato described the ideal republic in the 4th century BCE, border security has remained one of the most paramount duties of government. So to suggest that the United States should establish a permeable border along the Rio Grande, where human beings and materials alike may easily come and go, is to deny America its right to nationhood.
Nor should providing a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented be viewed as equally important as border security; it’s not. Legally, the U.S. government owes nothing to the undocumented citizens who lead clandestine lives within one of its 50 states. Plus, providing a pathway to citizenship to the undocumented before we adequately secure our borders will only inflame the illegal immigration crisis — and it is a crisis, for citizens and the undocumented alike.
Nonetheless, America’s responsibility for providing a pathway to citizenship to the undocumented — specifically, those brought here as minors and raised as Americans — is not a legal responsibility, but a moral one. A failed U.S. immigration policy and a defunct immigration system has led to the number of undocumented Americans living inside the country so-called “illegally” through no fault of their own. We cannot punish them for their “illegal” status, just as we cannot condemn a child who accompanies a shoplifting parent. And, to be clear, allowing these children-now-adults to continue living without the basic rights and privileges afforded most people raised in the United States is a form of punish in and of itself.
Border security must be the main priority of America’s immigration policy. Only after the border is secure — which President Obama has done a fine job in getting us closer to — can the country fully focus on providing justice to those America’s immigration system has failed.