Obama and the border…how to hold on to Latino voters and secure the border at the same timeby Hugh Holub on May. 10, 2011, under border issues, immigration law reform, politics
From the White House:
The President delivers a speech on importance of fixing the broken immigration system for our nation’s 21st century economic and security needs so that America can win the future
Local Event Time: 1:30 PM MDT
Chamizal National Memorial
Found a transcript at the White House web site of a “Press Gaggle” aboard Air Force One on its way to Obama’s speech in El Paso about immigration issues…..
Carney is the President’s Press Secretary. Question are from the rporters on the plane….
Aboard Air Force One, En Route El Paso, Texas12:14 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Well, I assume I’ll have questions about what the President is doing in El Paso today. Briefly, obviously, he’ll be giving a speech to talk about the need for comprehensive immigration reform, about the need to increase support, why it’s an economic imperative, in particular, to keep us competitive in the 21st century.
And he’ll also — I think as you know, he’ll be touring the Bridge of the Americas commercial cargo facility in El Paso. Of the four crossing that comprise the El Paso port of entry, the Bridge of the Americas is the largest, facilitating both passenger and commercial traffic. On average, 1,200 to 1,600 trucks a day import commodities through this location.
President Obama will be led on the tour by Ana Hinojosa, the director of field operations at the Bridge of the Americas, and he’ll be accompanied by the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin.
During the tour the President will be shown a mobile truck X-ray and be given an overview of large-scale technology designed to protect and prevent radiological threats. He will also view a demonstration of border patrol personnel searching commercial cargo.
And with that, I’ll take your questions.
(after questions about Boehner trillon dollar threat)….
….MR. CARNEY: Governor Perry turned down our invitation to meet the President at the airport.
Q He wanted a more substantial meeting and didn’t want to have to go 800 miles all the way to El Paso to discuss the wildfires and border security and all that.
MR. CARNEY: Again, we invited him to meet with the President and he declined the invitation. We have also in the past offered him a National Security Council briefing on immigration; he declined that as well.
Q Is his request for a thousand more National Guardsmen under any kind of consideration at all?
MR. CARNEY: We have substantially increased the number of border patrol agents twice — more than 20,000 now — twice the number that there were in 2004. We have tripled the number of intelligence agents — analysts who are working on border patrol. We have — let me just get out my trusty fact sheet here — we’ve deployed unmanned aerial vehicles that now patrol the border from Texas to California. For the first time, we are screening 100 percent of southbound rail shipments to seize guns and money going south, even as we go after the drugs that are heading north. We’ve forged a partnership with Mexico to fight the transnational criminal organizations that have affected both of our countries. And I would add that in terms of the presence of the National Guard there, we intend to maintain that presence and to work with Congress to get the funding necessary to maintain the border — the National Guard presence.
Q On the immigration reform that the President is going to discuss today, will he be discussing specifics — for instance, hurdles that illegal immigrants would face in order to get on the path to citizenship?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t want to steal the President’s thunder. I encourage you to listen to the speech. But he will talk about all the issues that encompass comprehensive immigration reform, from the need for border security, the need to deal with this underground economy that depresses wages, that allows bad actors in business to compete unfairly with those who follow the rules and obey the law, and the need to reform our legal immigration laws so that we’re making sure that we essentially take advantage of the enormous talent that we find in our universities and not train the competition, but have those immigrants who are here studying at the best universities in the world start companies here in the United States instead of taking them overseas to our competitors.
Q Does the White House intend to submit its own legislation on immigration reform, or are you going to leave the work to Congress?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to preview our legislative strategy from here, but we’re — the approach we’re taking is we are trying to — recognizing the hurdles that we have faced legislatively, we are trying to build awareness and support for the need for comprehensive immigration reform, to fix this broken system. And I’d just remind you that the stakeholders that we have talked with represent Republicans and Democrats, businesses, a variety of interest groups. This is — the need for this, as in so many cases, the train is leaving the station and Washington is still trying to find the train station.
I mean it’s — this is something that we’re hoping that we can push from the outside in here to get Congress to address the fact that this is a broken system that needs to be fixed, and that used to have bipartisan support. And one of the reasons why we’re told — we’ve been told, all of us in the United States have been told, that those who used to support comprehensive immigration reform in the Republican Party backed away from that support because they wanted borders first.
So, again, everything that was demanded has been provided in terms of increased border patrol, increased efforts to secure our borders, and so we look forward to some of those supporters returning to the table to try to figure out this problem and fix the broken system.
Q So if it’s so urgent, why aren’t you providing a timetable then?
MR. CARNEY: Because, as you know, Hans, there are a lot of ways to skin a cat in Washington when you’re talking about getting things done. And we have a strategy here to try to get another hard thing done, and we’re following that strategy because we believe it gives us the best chance of success.
Q Can I ask, if it’s so urgent, why did the President wait almost two and a half years since he took office to visit the border?
MR. CARNEY: Well, come on — I mean, there have been quite a few things going on in the last two and a half years — the worst recession since the Great Depression, two wars, the hunt for Osama bin Laden that ended successfully a few days ago, among many, many other issues.
What is notable — the irony of your question, if I may, is that I was getting the opposite questions: Why are you bothering when you know it’s so politically difficult to achieve this. Are you really serious?
And just like people said the same thing about whether or not the President was serious about fiscal reform, the answer is yes. Is he serious about comprehensive immigration reform? The answer is yes. He feels that he was hired to try to do some hard things, and he’s going to try to do them.
From the Washington Post May 10, 2011:
President Obama will stand on the U.S.-Mexico border Tuesday and try to take credit for something that eluded predecessors in both parties: successfully cracking down on illegal immigration.
It is a record that Republicans roundly dispute. And it has drawn fire from many in Obama’s Latino base, who say the president has stepped up enforcement measures such as deportations while failing to deliver on his pledge to create a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.
But in using a speech in El Paso to highlight his enforcement record, Obama will signal that he intends to try turning the immigration debate into a political winner among conservative swing voters who back tougher immigration policies.
The president is expected to reel off what his aides say is evidence of an unprecedented focus on border security: hundreds of millions of dollars spent since he took office on high-tech fencing, aerial drones and a doubling of the border patrol since 2004. The result, aides say, has been a steep decline in illegal incursions and plummeting crime rates in U.S. border communities from Texas to California.
A flurry of White House activity on the issue in recent weeks, though, underscores the administration view that immigration could play an important role in the president’s reelection campaign next year — with Obama needing to revive enthusiasm among Latinos while boosting his standing with centrist swing voters.
McCain skewered Napolitano last week, questioning her assertions during a hearing and saying that up to 200 “spotters” sit atop mountains in the Arizona desert guiding smugglers across the border — an assertion that Napolitano rejected. Others in the GOP have cited a February finding by the Government Accountability Office that less than half of the border was under full “operational control” by the government.
“And then we’re supposed to believe that the administration is serious about securing our borders. Well, I don’t think so,” McCain said.
The problem is Obama is relying on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and her magic bag of statistics to justify a more secure border.
As Senator John McCain pointed out recently, the border is not secure when there are drug cartel spotters sitting on mountain tops in Arizona guiding loads of drugs and caravans of illegal immigrants around the Border Patrol’s scattered deployment.
The GAO reported a large area of the border still was not under “operational control” and that includes the area west of Nogales and a large portion of the Texas border.
The core problem for Obama is he is trusting Napolitano to guide US border security strategy, and Napolitano is trusting an embedded Border Patrol bureacracy to secure the border. Unfortunately for Obama there are a lot of retired Border Patrol agents pointing out nasty little truths like DHS is cooking the books on apprehensions by looking the other way when encountering illegal aliens.
Obama’s problems with border security go even farther into the hole with the ATF “gunwalker” scandal. Letting thousands of guns get “walked” into the hands of the Mexican drug cartels is not a pretty picture. With two of those “walked” guns ending up at the murder scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, the ATF has blood on their hands. Rather than clean out the entire mess in ATF and at the Department of Justice, Obama’s team is busy trying to cover up the scandal and burn the lowets level people they can to escape responsibility for a really botched law enforcement effort.
If cooking the books on border apprehensions and allowing guns to “walk” into the hands of the drug cartels was not enough, the highly touted program to deport criminal aliens via ICE is another failed border security effort.
Instead of actually deporting real criminals, the ICE effort is a federal version of Joe Arpaio’s infamous sweeps in front of Home Depots, grabbing anyone and everyone they can deport to pad the statistics.
Again, Obama is trusting his down-the-line command structure to make it look like he is tough on the border when in fact he has a lot of managers in the chain-of-command who are playing a smoke and mirrors game to make things look a lot better than they really are.
All this relies on statistics…the border is more secure because the statistics show it is…which avoids the reality that there are serious flaws in securing the border and the danger…especially from cartel drug smugglers..is growing.
In an ideal world Obama would do what the GOP has done…get down on the border without Border Patrol and DHS handlers and see for himself what is going on. However no way would the Secret Service allow Obama to take a ride with a bunch of ranchers into California Gulch without massive security wrapped around him because probably Afghanistan is safer than parts of southern Arizona.
It would seem the effort to show how tough he is about border security is Obama’s ploy to get the GOP to back off and consider immigration law reform which would secure lots of Latino votes for Obama in 2012.
The GOP is not buying Napolitano’s border security claims, and Latinos are frustrated because of the failure of the Dream Act last year and the absence of any serious proposal for immigration law reform that can even get 100% support from border Democrats let alone any Republicans.
One problem is there is virtually no Latino voice in favor of border security and helping to define what “securing the border” really means. It has not dawned on Latino political leaders that stopping the flood of illegal immigrants is in their best interest to be able to confront the nasty question about what to do with 11 million illegal aliens already in the country.
Just for an example…I’d love to see Latino political leaders support something like my “probationary presence” approach to how to resolve the status of illegal aliens already in the country.
Unfortunately the Latino political leadership comes across looking like they advocate open borders and a free ride for those who entered the country illegally and that is going exactly nowhere politically in this country.
Obama can’t win this fight with his current border security team and with Latino leaders demanding what is impossible….