Should crossing the United States border be illegal? If so, what should the punishment be?

_Eben Kiesow_, _Herald Contributor_

College Republican view

Yes, improper entry into the United States is illegal. First time offenders can be fined and/or imprisoned for up to six months, and repeat offenders can be fined more heavily and/or imprisoned for up to two years. There are also civil penalties for crossing the border “at a time or place other than as designated by immigration officers” according to the U.S. Code under Title 8.

What should the punishment be for crossing the US border? To answer this question, one must consider the why. Why would we punish someone for entering the United States?  

Sex Trafficking. Smuggling drugs. Hurting our economy. The list of poor arguments goes on and on and on. Sex trafficking and drug smuggling are crimes of their own. Any person attempting these atrocious acts should be met with the full force of the law; their fine for crossing the border will be the least of anyone’s concerns. 

This brings me to another important point; according to the TRAC immigration report in 2018, less than one-third of apprehensions at the border resulted in prosecutions. Though the number of people being prosecuted under criminal charges for crossing the border has soared under President Trump, the government does not and can not charge everyone who crosses our border illegally; there are far too many immigrants.

Regardless of citizenship, undocumented immigrants pay sales, property taxes, and because the process for legalization includes “good moral character” and “paying back taxes” outlined in the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, they often pay income taxes too. Those without social security codes use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to pay the IRS. 

Undocumented immigrants cannot participate in the SNAP program, Medicaid, or most other public benefits. A study by the National Research Council showed that “the average immigrant pays nearly $1,800 more in taxes than he or she costs in benefits.” The notion that undocumented immigrants take jobs away from citizens and commit more crimes has long been debunked. The acrimony felt for immigration in the U.S. is not one of sound argument, but of xenophobia.

The border needs to be protected. As a developed nation we cannot allow human trafficking or drug smuggling to take place at our border. We cannot allow convicts to enter the U.S. and commit crimes within our borders. Study after study has shown that illegal immigrants do not commit more crimes than citizens; we can take in immigrants while keeping our border safe. 

Allowing crime at our border is unacceptable, but allowing immigrants should be our priority. We have historically been the land of opportunity. Protestors in Hong Kong wave American flags because our country represents the liberty they desire. We should encourage immigration, not criminalize it. The last time we opened our borders, immigrants and their children built our automobile industry, founded our biggest businesses and fought under our flag in both world wars. 

With rising economic and political competition coming from China and the E.U., the United States can stand to accept another wave of immigrants. We should not punish law-abiding persons for aspiring to become American.