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    Speaking to Sputnik about President Donald Trump's request that Congress cough up $18 billion over ten years to expand and improve on security on the US-Mexico border, Jessica Vaughan, director of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, said that the money was crucial to enforcing the president's immigration policy.

    This week, US media reported that Trump had asked Congress to approve funds for the construction of over 700 miles (1,100 km+) of new and replacement barriers in the southwestern stretch of the US's 2,000 mile border with Mexico. Trump's plan essentially involves doubling the amount of fencing, and beefing up the border with some five thousand new Border Patrol agents, which adds another $15 billion to the proposal for a total of $33 billion.

    Speaking to Radio Sputnik, Dr. Vaughn, an immigration specialist focusing on the security implications of immigration law, explained that at the moment, there are just "vast stretches" of the US border with Mexico which remain unsecure, lacking any barriers to people just walking or driving vehicles across.

    "This leads to a big problem with human smuggling and drug smuggling and all kinds of contraband that can come through those relatively unguarded stretches of the border. So it's important to reduce those vulnerabilities for our security's sake," she said.

    Noting that the border wall remains one of President Trump's top priorities, and that he now has to make his case for funding from Congress, Vaughn suggested that Congressional Democrats seem more interested in passing legislation which would provide amnesty to the so-called Dreamers, a group of about 700,000 undocumented young immigrants brought to the US as children and have remained in the country with the help of DACA, the controversial  Obama-era immigration policy which delays these illegals' deportation and allows them to get work permits.

    Amid hints by the president that any deal to make DACA permanent would need to include funding for his border wall, Vaughan noted that Washington is now set for a "showdown" between Trump and Congress "over this DACA program versus the president's immigration agenda for border security and reducing immigration."

    Activists and politicians block traffic to protest the planned dissolution of DACA in Manhattan, New York City, U.S. September 5, 2017
    © REUTERS / Stephen Yang
    Activists and politicians block traffic to protest the planned dissolution of DACA in Manhattan, New York City, U.S. September 5, 2017

    Trump's $18 billion estimate, along with the accompanying plan outlining his vision for border security, was arrived at with the help of border security agencies, but has already been challenged by Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

    Vaughan noted that even as things stand today, Trump "has been able to pretty significantly increase immigration enforcement. Border Patrol agents are arresting more people at the border, and they've succeeded in decreasing the amount of illegal border crossings that take place." At the same time, the observer admitted that this figure too has "started to go up recently, because people are starting to realize that there is no wall and there's a limit to what the president can do."

    Asked what has differentiated Trump from his predecessor on immigration up to this point, Vaughan said that "the biggest difference we're seeing is in the interior of the country, where President Trump's administration has dramatically increased immigration enforcement in our cities and towns. They're seeing about 40% more people [arrested] than was the case under the Obama administration, and those deportations are happening faster in the immigration court system. It's been focused mostly on criminals, but also people who are located with criminals, who are also being subject to deportation. So that's been very helpful for public security."

    "But there's only so much the president can do on his own," the expert said. "He really needs some money from Congress to pay for officers and agents and programs, and he needs some changes in the law that would make the deportation system more efficient, and not have it be tied up with lawsuits and court cases and so on that allow people to extend their time here legally."

    U.S. border patrol agents detain two men from India after they entered the United States by climbing over the border wall from Mexico in Calexico, California, U.S. February 8, 2017
    © REUTERS / Mike Blake
    U.S. border patrol agents detain two men from India after they entered the United States by climbing over the border wall from Mexico in Calexico, California, U.S. February 8, 2017

    Ultimately, Vaughan stressed that while most Americans generally approve of a generous immigration system, many are also upset about the presence of a large illegal population, "and that there hasn't been more of an effort to enforce immigration laws" under previous administrations. "And there are also others who are concerned that our legal immigration system isn't meeting the needs of our country – that it needs to be modernized and replaced with a system that allows people in based on the skills and education that they have…"

    As for Trump's budget request to Congress, Vaughan suggested that while there's likely to be a lot of back and forth, and Democrats are going to put up a fight, lawmakers will be almost forced to reach an agreement this spring, given the fact that the DACA work permits expire in March and the program will begin to be phased out. 

    "Congress works best when it has a deadline, and has to get something done. So I think that when all the posturing is said and done, they're going to find some solution that is a consensus, and that most people can support," Vaughan concluded.

    The views and opinions expressed by Dr. Jessica Vaughan are those of the expert and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Related:

    Trump Seeks $18Bln Over 10 Years for Border Wall With Mexico – Reports
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