I never see an immigration conversation on the right that doesn’t include some form of, “but we must secure the border first!” And only once the border is secure are we free to discuss immigration reform in opaque generalities. To be clear, I don’t disagree that border security is the paramount issue, where I deviate though, is that I don’t believe border security should be conditional for immigration reform.

The border should be secured at all times — period. To be sure, the issues are somewhat related. Border security strengthens our ability to mitigate would be illegal crossers, but I’d argue secure borders are predominantly a function of national security, protection of national sovereignty, and Constitutional obligation, none of which should be used as a bargaining chip for eVerify (or any other piece of immigration reform).

Reality doesn’t provide a scenario where in the context of immigration reform talks, troops are sent to secure the border and then comprehensive immigration reform is implemented. This will never happen. Not in this manner, anyway. Of course it’s worth mentioning such a promise was made as part of Reagan’s 1986 reform package and we all know how that panned out.

Yet the right collectively includes border security as a prerequisite to make other immigration concessions. I understand the logic, but why handicap ourselves right out of the gate? Reform without secure borders isn’t fixing every problem we have and certainly doesn’t address the influx of illegal immigration filtering through our southern border. However, using border security as a means to come to the immigration table seems short sighted and ineffective.

If we insist on continuing down the path of a 1986 style reform package (insisting on border security as a contingency for immigration reform), I foresee the following: we will not receive the type of border security we want, nor will we receive the type of immigration reform we want. We will be required to trade something egregious like an allowance of some type of amnesty in exchange for a secure border. It’s precisely that kind of exchange we do not want to make. We do not want to find ourselves in a situation where we are required to trade sensible reforms in order to obtain a secure border.

More advantageous would be a scenario where securing the border is a wholly separate discussion, not tethered to any reform preference du jour, but simply — secure the border. Regardless of where one falls politically, most will agree this is one of the primary reasons, if not the reason the federal government exists. Having this discussion on its own merits will likely produce more successful results in terms of actually securing the border and leave us free to have the immigration discussion we wanted to have, having traded nothing to start the conversation.

Furthermore, in the broader context of the coming election cycles in both 2014 and 2016, Democrats have already positioned themselves so that they’re defending the IRS, ignoring Benghazi, turning a blind eye to the current humanitarian crisis at the border, doubling down on Obamacare, the VA scandal, not to mention the atrocity that is our foreign policy. Make them explain why they refuse to secure the border. Make them explain why despite the dire humanitarian and safety situation, terrorist cells and cartels, they refuse to engage in protecting the border states. There is political capital to be gained should we handle this well.

Let the immigration debate be the immigration debate and in the mean time, force the federal government to fulfill its sole obligation by securing our borders.