PRINCIPLES

We are a coalition of American national security leaders who believe that immigration reform is critical to our national security. 

These are the principles we believe in.

The Council on National Security and Immigration believes that broad-based immigration reforms are necessary for America’s security needs and long-term national interests, including its economic future. We advocate for immigration reforms that accomplish the following policy goals:

To ensure the national and economic security of the United States, we must identify and channel resources to the most urgent, contemporary threats while simultaneously shoring up vulnerabilities in our immigration system that could yield security risks.

Legitimate immigration is not a threat to national security, even though it is often discussed through a national security lens. As a result of this framing, critical resources have been allocated (or withheld) in counterproductive ways that do little to enhance our national security. For example, it is not strategic to divert the finite resources needed to tackle evolving 21st century threats — such as cyberattacks, transnational criminal organizations, espionage, weapons proliferation and disease — to expensive and ineffective policies, such as immigration enforcement against unauthorized immigrants who do not pose a risk to public safety or national security. 

That said, vulnerabilities in our immigration system could undermine our national security if left unaddressed. For instance, resources should be allocated to improve border security, modernize ports of entry and promote orderly, efficient adjudication and processing of migrants and asylum-seekers. Modernizing our border management system will ensure that the Border Patrol is equipped to detect bad actors and mitigate security threats. Similarly, we should improve our vetting and screening procedures for refugees by investing in the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and strengthening the National Vetting Center. Expediting refugee security screenings, and reducing the length of time for overall processing, will leave refugees less susceptible to exploitation by bad actors who target the desperate or hopeless.

To safeguard the U.S. immigration system against potential national security concerns, we must ensure effective and orderly screening, vetting and border policies. We must also continue to leverage cost-effective technologies between and at ports of entry and for interior enforcement.

A vast, interagency vetting and screening infrastructure is key to securing our immigration system and safeguarding almost every immigration process. Vetting and screening procedures must be properly resourced so that migration pathways cannot be exploited by threat actors. But improving screening and vetting does not necessarily mean making procedures more extreme or continuous. Screening processes that are overly complicated and time-consuming can raise new and compounding security concerns as a direct result of their inefficiency. Implementing effective screening and vetting requires improving interagency coordination and streamlining slow, bloated procedures.

Decades of investment — in personnel, state-of-the-art technology and physical barriers — mean that America’s borders are more secure than ever. Further improving border security is a matter of allocating resources effectively and adopting solutions tailored to meet the specific problems and risks that each border sector faces. In most circumstances, building additional physical barriers is not a cost-effective approach to improving border security. Instead, effective policy at the border includes concentrating further investment in ports of entry to curtail drug smuggling and promoting more orderly, efficient and humane border processing. A reformed immigration system that promotes safety and security and creates new legal immigration pathways also would advance security and order at our borders.

A strong economy is essential to national security — not simply for the purposes of fortifying our military, but as a means of building social trust at home and global influence abroad. As workers, consumers and entrepreneurs, immigrants have been essential in furthering American prosperity for centuries. Immigrants will continue to be essential to the American economy, particularly considering the United States’ escalating competition with China and our growing labor-market demands due to changing demographics. Ensuring legitimate trade and travel is critical to a substantial part of our nation’s economy and workforce. Encouraging people to legitimately work, study and travel here also helps export American values.

One way to fortify our military would be for a permanent legislative solution to grant Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants the opportunity to earn legal status that would allow them to contribute fully to American society and even pursue military service.

To ensure the United States remains competitive in the ongoing, strategic competition with China, forward-thinking immigration policies and administrative structures should be put into place to prioritize our economy and encourage innovation. The U.S. government should make efforts to attract, welcome and retain high-skilled foreign nationals and entrepreneurs.

On the other end of the spectrum, policies that provide legal status, or the opportunity to earn citizenship, to unauthorized agricultural workers are also integral to our national security. With approximately 78% of farmworkers born outside the U.S., and over 1.5 million undocumented workers in the food supply chain, immigrants largely ensure food security for the American people. Policies that safeguard our agricultural workforce, and the broader food supply chain, will bolster the physical, economic and social well-being of communities across the country.

The world has looked to the United States as a nation of freedom and opportunity, particularly in providing protections to those fleeing danger. Our longstanding history as a global leader on immigration and refugee resettlement has long been a source of strength and an example to our neighbors and allies. It is essential that the United States work to bolster our global relationships, coming to the table to help address international security and humanitarian concerns. Advancing our global relationships in this way will raise America’s global stature while encouraging U.S. leaders to ensure that our immigration laws reflect our values.

International cooperation is also essential in maintaining a 21st century vetting and screening system. By cooperating with our foreign partners on information sharing and providing technical assistance, we can help our partners improve their vetting capabilities, while helping secure the U.S. homeland. Strengthening our global relationships in this manner helps us better facilitate information and intelligence sharing with our global partners, preventing bad actors from entering the U.S. and helping us meet national security priorities.

Strong refugee, asylum and humanitarian protection systems are a boon to national security. By safely welcoming the persecuted and the vulnerable we can lead by example, championing ideals of democracy, freedom and human rights and signaling to oppressive regimes the futility of their practices and ideologies. Robust refugee resettlement also contributes to maintaining geopolitical stability, easing pressures that can spark violence and extremism in other parts of the world. Demonstrating humanitarian leadership includes honoring our commitment to protect and provide for foreign nationals who have risked their lives to assist U.S. armed forces in missions abroad.

The U.S. should not be alone in responding to the needs of the most vulnerable, and we should work with other countries around the world to allow them to do their part to safely welcome and protect refugees and forced migrants. We should also invest wisely in aid programs that will reduce push factors that cause people to see migration as the only path to stability and the ability to flourish. Effective diplomacy, aid and engagement with international organizations are tools that allow us to work collaboratively to prevent and respond to humanitarian crises and to treat those fleeing persecution with compassion and dignity.

The United States should be a global leader in this area and a beacon of hope and freedom to people around the world.