Obama and Immigration

Earlier in May President Obama gave what was billed as an "immigration speech" in El Paso, Texas.  What he said was factually misleading and politically motivated.  He said nothing about the drug violence in Mexico, which is destabilizing the entire country and spilling over the border into the United States.  Furthermore, his most misleading statement was "borders first, borders first, that's become the common refrain...we've answered those concerns."  American Thinker interviewed those knowledgeable about border security and immigration reform to see if border security concerns no longer exist.

All interviewed agree that the border is more secure today; yet, believe this issue is far from resolved.  The Government Accountability Office issued a report that stated 44% of the Southwestern border was secure with only 16% considered airtight.  Congresswoman Candice Miller (R-MI), chairwoman of the Subcommittee for Borders, cited the Department of Homeland Security's own statistic, that approximately 30% of the Southern border is operationally under control which "means, to most people, that we do not have a secure border. We have a long way to go."

This was the first visit by President Obama to the Southwest border; yet, he did not go there to assess the current situation.  Congressman McCaul (R-TX), Chairman of the Homeland Security Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, believes that the President just came down "to give a political speech and said the border is secure, mission accomplished.  Let's check the secure box so we can get on with our immigration agenda for the 2012 election."  Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) said these words in July, 2010, which remains relevant today, "First and foremost among the necessary steps is the imperative task of securing our borders. I was disappointed to hear the president give short shrift to border security concerns by saying that our nation's southern border is more secure today than at any time in the past 20 years. That is not a sign of progress; it is a statement on the poor job we have done in securing the border for the past two decades."

More needs to be done considering that drug violence is spilling over into the US.  All interviewed agree with Congresswoman Giffords' comment that the drug violence "both directly and indirectly affect us ... national security begins with border security."  Douglas, Arizona Police Chief Alberto Melis wants Americans to understand that there are many rugged areas that are hard to secure.  He agrees with Congressman McCaul's proposed legislation, to designate the Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations, since "a secure border means that 100% of the criminals are kept out."  Congressman McCaul feels that the President misled the American people when he stated, "El Paso and other cities and towns along this border are consistently among the safest in the nation."  McCaul regards Juarez, Mexico as the most dangerous city in the world, just across the river from El Paso.  He explained that El Paso is considered safe because Homeland Security classifies "spillover violence by leaving out key matrices such as kidnapping, extortion, and cartel versus cartel violence."  Sebastian Rotella, a journalist who has covered the border extensively and wrote books about border security, emphasized that in 2012 Calderon will no longer be the Mexican President and the next President is likely to be more sympathetic and more willing to deal with the cartels since "the next President may not be willing to make this bloody commitment.  Our window of opportunity is shutting."

To secure the border, what is needed, is the proper mix of boots on the ground and technology, but the most important aspect is for the US Government to focus, take the offensive, and have a sense of urgency.  McCaul wants the Colombian model, based on joint intelligence-military operations, applied to Mexico.  Congresswoman Miller suggests having a striker brigade on the border to "protect our border and make the drug cartels think twice about coming across."

Besides border security the President also spoke about immigration reform, accusing his opponents of using the immigration issue for partisan advantage: "We've seen a lot of blame and a lot of politics and a lot of ugly rhetoric around immigration." Texas Hispanic Republican Representative Jose Alisedas resents the President's speech since "I had to wait all this time to become a citizen; yet, people can cut in line to get amnesty.  The Democrats have mastered the thinking that if you are against illegal immigration you are against Latinos.  The reality is if you look at the Democratic platform they have been very good at portraying themselves as supporters of the little people.  These policies hurt the low-income legal constituents since having illegal immigrants as cheap labor brings down wages. We should not make it easy for the uninvited and should kill the incentives by enforcing laws that says employers cannot hire illegals."

Just as legal low income Americans are hurt by illegal immigration so are those legal Americans who want to attend college. American citizens, including Latinos, have college spots and tuition grants taken away from them by illegal immigrants.  Congressman Brian Bilbray (R-CA), the chairman of the Immigration Reform Caucus, criticized the President for not addressing this issue and cautions that "Americas have fewer rights than somebody living in the States illegally.  There is no political activism for those who are here legally.  For example, Martinez is suing the University of California, Davis, because he was not given in state tuition as a US citizen; yet, California was granting in state tuition to illegals."

According to Congressman Bilbray, border control should not be the sole focus of an immigration enforcement policy.  He wants to see congressional and Presidential action that includes mandatory workplace verification of immigration status, measures to curb misuse of Social Security and IRS identification numbers, real ID, and partnerships with state and local law enforcement officials.  For Congressman Bilbray President Obama in this speech only "addressed the symptom of the problem.  The real problem is the employment and benefit magnet in the cities, the illegal employers.  E-Verify and Real ID are issues that are not anti-immigrant and can be bi-partisan.  These do not place a burden on the Latino community."  He also wants to end the ability for employers to claim a tax deduction for their employees.  Currently there are a vast amount of illegals that are listed as employees, which means that the IRS knows the name, address, and place of employment of these illegal aliens.  Essentially employers are taking tax deductions for wages paid to illegal employees.  It appears that Congress and the Supreme Court are doing what the President and Federal Government should have done.  After the Supreme Court ruled that Arizona could deny employers a business license if they are repeatedly caught hiring illegal immigrants, Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) decided to put forward a bill requiring all employers to use E-Verify.

The speech was both sarcastic and political.  It showed that the President enjoys being a candidate and not a leader or he would never make statements such as, "You know, they said we needed to triple the Border Patrol.  Or now they're going to say we need to quadruple the Border Patrol.  Or they'll want a higher fence.  Maybe they'll need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat.  They'll never be satisfied.  And I understand that.  That's politics."  Pete Hoekstra, a former ranking member of the intelligence committee felt that "the Republicans are willing to work with the President to secure the border.  If the President believes the most effective way is to build a moat with alligators that is his decision.  He can start building it now.  We don't want to hear 'I have given you what you want.'"  What Americans want is a secure border and to send a clear message to illegal employers, that it is unacceptable to hire illegals.