A fair, responsible approach to the U.S.-Mexico border
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The American taxpayer deserves a good deal. One that reduces the tax burden, increases government efficiency and makes sure everyone is paying their fair share. 

President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republicans move to block Yemen war-powers votes for rest of Congress Trump says he's considering 10 to 12 contenders for chief of staff Michael Flynn asks judge to spare him from jail time MORE is right that immigration, including effective barriers on the border, is part of the road to a healthy economy that makes this deal possible. That means going beyond a wall.


Our safety and security are paramount, full stop. That said, we need effective approaches that are risk-based and not a drain on hardworking taxpayers.

We already have a physical barrier spanning all but 1 of the 652 miles the Border Patrol deems necessary to monitor. A record 21,370 agents patrol the border, an increase of 50 percent since 2006.

And we already spend more on immigration enforcement agencies, border and interior, than all other principal criminal law enforcement agencies combined. In fiscal year 2012, we spent nearly $18 billion on Customs and Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and technology. Meanwhile, that year we spent $14.4 billion on the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

A responsible border policy includes the strategic physical barriers (the aforementioned and perhaps others), eradicating invasive species along the Rio Grande River that run counter to security efforts, new infrastructure and personnel at ports of entry, and additional training and oversight that ensure accountability and clarify what resources are necessary to enhance national security.

And rather than making you and me foot the bill for border security measures, Congress should look to other revenue sources such as requiring undocumented immigrants to register for legal status, pass criminal background checks and pay fines and fees. That and the ensuing boost to the economy would generate billions of dollars of revenue we could invest along the border.

In 2013, the Congressional Budget Office looked at such mechanisms and found immense benefits to the U.S. economy: a decrease of $197 billion to the federal budget deficit over 10 years, an increase in GDP by well over 3 percent, and an increase the rate of return on capital.

Lower deficits, increased GDP, increased rate of return. That is a good deal for America’s workers.

Nor can our border policies overlook the cultural and economic benefits common to communities on both sides of the border. On the American side of the border, residents emphasize bridges, not walls: The region is one of the safest in the country and American workers in the area benefit from immigrants’ skills. They see as unnecessary an expensive, intrusive wall.

The incoming Trump administration has many decisions to make. Few are more important than how to address the border and immigration, from both an economic and security perspective.

The best answer for Americans? An effective barrier combined with bridges that enable trade, tourism and a healthier economy.

Ali Noorani is the executive director of the National Immigration Forum and author of the forthcoming “There Goes the Neighborhood: How Communities Overcome Prejudice and Meet the Challenge of American Immigration” (Prometheus Books, April 2017).

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.