One of the loudest arguments for locking up the border in the name of security is the idea that the border is porous and dangerous to Americans. The argument being that tougher restrictions and a wall will solve the dangers to America. However, lost in the discussion about border security is that the laws currently on books are often overlooked by border officials because enforcing them would lead to severe economic problems for Americans, or enforcement could have an adverse effect on influential Americans.

Outside of terrorists sneaking across the border undetected or drugs being smuggled in is the debate about immigrants taking jobs away from Americans. Most Americans equate job losses to lower wages or unavailable jobs because of undocumented immigrants.

In the case of Mexicans, most Mexican undocumented workers crossed the border with now expired visas, not through the desert or the river. One of the common visas is the Border Crosser Cards now known as the “laser visas” and previously known among Mexicans as the “mica”.

The Border Crossing Cards allows Mexicans to enter the United States border regions for up to 72 hours to shop and frequent entertainment areas. They do not allow the bearer to work in the U.S. However it is an open secret among fronterizos on both sides of the border and border officials that a significant number of border crossers use the border crossing cards on their way to work as gardeners, waiters, domestics and other labor-intensive low-wage work.

Officially, the U.S. government’s position is that it lacks the manpower to strictly interview all border crossers to determine their true intention while crossing the border. When they do interview the border crosser, they are normally satisfied with the answer of “shopping,” “meeting friends” or going to Walmart.

Why not do a more thorough interview? Because it stalls the process of entering the U.S. When traffic at the border stalls, it is the local chambers of commerce, i.e. the influential local business people that are the first to complain about the stalled lines.

Coincidentally, the workers violating their visas to go work for the same people complaining about the impact of the long lines at the border.

And thus, the game of pretending to enforce the law is played out each day on the border, with the border crossers pretending to go shopping while the local American leaders pretend to want stronger borders and stricter immigration policies.

But keeping gardeners and maids from their work is nothing compared to the money that mysteriously makes it way into American businesses on the border. Money for luxurious homes in the poorest zip codes in the United States or money that funds mostly empty commercial developments that do not make economic sense in other cities across America.

It’s the money that makes border officials look the other way on certain violations even though the official line is that there are not enough resources to pursue all violations.

Arresting helpless undocumented immigrants via workplace raids makes for great television sound bites but arresting business owners hiring the undocumented makes for bad press, and thus the endless circle of immigrant bashing continues unabated.

If Americans really cared about border security, they would demand that the laws be applied equally. Undocumented workers would not have a job if the person hiring them wasn’t breaking the law as well.

But American sensibilities love demonized immigrant threats even though the problem is not the immigrant workers but rather the system that protects the influential people in the community.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...