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Opinion: Border security vital for US safety, economy

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We are a nation of immigrants, but our laws – and our borders – must be respected. A government that cannot secure its own borders is a government that isn’t doing its job. Whether it’s protecting against national security threats, stemming the flow of illegal drugs or preventing human trafficking, securing our borders is about keeping Americans safe.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, nearly 17,000 criminals were apprehended at the southern border last year. U.S. Customs and Border Protection saw a 50 percent increase in apprehensions of known gang members and a 73 percent increase in seizures of fentanyl, a powerful opioid that is driving up the number of overdose deaths in this country.

That’s why I fully support President Donald Trump’s call for stronger physical barriers, which have a proven record of effectiveness, at the border. After barriers were improved or expanded in the El Paso, Texas, Yuma and Tucson, Arizona, and San Diego CBP sectors, illegal traffic has decreased by at least 90 percent. With more than 50,000 people crossing the southern border between ports of entry last month, physical barriers, including walls and fencing, should be built or strengthened along every mile where they’re needed. That should be done in conjunction with enhanced security technology and increased personnel.  

That’s not just my view. It’s the same position many Senate Democrats have supported in the past. In 2006, more than two dozen Senate Democrats supported the Secure Fence Act, which authorized 700 miles of fencing along the border. In 2013, Senate Democrat Minority Leader Chuck Schumer put forward a plan that provided $8 billion to repair or reinforce barriers along that 700-mile stretch. And, just last year, Schumer offered $25 billion to fully fund the border wall. If Democrats can be for $25 billion in wall funding, why can’t they be for the $5.6 billion Trump has requested?

For years, I’ve supported common sense proposals that would help fix our broken immigration system. I believe that any immigration legislation that reaches the president’s desk needs to address border security first and foremost. Giving Americans the confidence that we’re doing everything necessary to secure the border will help facilitate progress toward addressing other important immigration issues, like meeting the legitimate workforce needs of the country and determining a path forward for people who are currently in the country illegally.

Legal immigration is a fundamental part of who we are as a nation. It is vital for our economy and an asset to our communities. We need an immigration system that works, but we won’t get there unless the government meets its responsibility to secure our borders.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, can be reached through Blunt.Senate.gov.

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