Federal government ineptness main enemy of immigration law reformby Hugh Holub on Jun. 24, 2011, under immigration law reform, politics
The number one problem with any version of immigration law reform is that the federal government would be tasked with implementing it.
The track record of the federal government on immigration and border security issues is awful.
Secretary of the Department Homeland Security Janet Napolitano claims the border is more secure than ever.
That is cowflop according to rural border residents.
There are credible claims coming from within the Border Patrol that agents have been told not to count “gottways” so it looks like the total amount of illegal immigration has substantially declined.
That may break out into the open and cost Napolitano her job.
The number of illegal immigrants being caught is down…but is that because the Border Patrol is more effective?
There are large areas of the border where there are virtually no Border Patrol agents at all. Maybe 50 or 60% of the border is covered…the rest is wide open to illegal entry and drug smuggling. So how many people cross illegally? We do not know because the Border Patrol is missing in action.
The coyotes and drug smugglers have gotten more sophisticated in avoiding the Border Patrol.
One of my rancher friends picked up a cartel 2 way radio phone off a mountain on his ranch recently. We now have “cybercoytes” running the people and drugs through the borderlands.
The current rate to be “guided” from the border to Phoenix is $2,000 to $2,500 for Mexicans and as high as $30,000 a person for Chinese and Arabs….big business out there now.
The management of the Border Patrol leaves a lot to be desired.
Agents spend as much time driving to and from their duty stations as actually patrolling the borderlands. Thus while the numbers of Border Patrol agents has significantly increased in 10 years, the amount of real enforcement time is not much improved.
The Border Patrols is a young and inexperienced force, according to veteran Border Patrol agents. Newly recruited agents don’t even know how to drive on dirt roads. Some didn’t even have drivers licenses before joining the BP. They must arrive to work on time and quit on time…so if they are in the midst of chasing drug smugglers or illegal aliens, it is more important that they do not run up overtime than actually catch anyone.
And then there is the problem of conflicts between federal land managers and environmentalists with the mission of the Border Patrol.
Half the border between Arizona and Sonora cannot be effectively patrolled due to environmental constraints. National security and public safety is being trumped by environment concerns…to the detriment of the nation.
Then there is how the INS managed to lose track of 6 million or so people who overstayed their visas. Interesting one does not read very much about this massive failure of the government.
How to do create a guest worker visa program when clearly the federal government is screamingly inept at doing the job it was already supposed to do?
Then there is E-Verify. Great idea but its implementation is very dodgy. It doesn’t work well.
Just as the coyote business has evolved, the fake document business has as well. When the US tries to build a better mousetrap, those getting paid to assist illegal aliens build better mice.
Then there is Secure Communities program that ended up deporting crime victims instead of the intended criminal aliens.
As with the statistic game being played by the Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) played games by fattening their catch record by deporting everyone caught in the net…not the targeted criminal aliens. Several states have withdrawn from Secure Communities because it is working against community policing strategies within cities.
Then there is the Department of Homeland Security SBInet…the Boeing scheme that cost taxpayers a billion dollars to create bird nesting sites along the border and little else.
Then there are the choked ports of entry…huge delays in crossing legal goods and people because US Customs and Border Protection can’t seen to staff the ports with customs officers, according to the US Chamber of Commerce.
Then there is the cloud hanging over the government’s ATF Fast and Furious scheme that ended up “walking” guns into the hands of the Mexican drug cartels and led to the deaths of at least two federal agents…so far.
Looking back at the 1986 immigration reform act, now called the Reagan Amnesty law, that effort failed because the federal government was not able to properly document the applicants. Many people not eligible to gain legal status got it anyway because of a flawed processing system, according to the National Association of Former Border Patrol officers.
So irregardless of whether or not you feel legalizing millions of illegal aliens (only about 60% of which are Latino) is a good idea….there is a serious lack of trust in the federal government’s ability to actually manage any program Congress would authorize.
Congress could write a wonderful piece of law allowing the illegal aliens living in the country who do not have criminal records a way to stay.
But does anyone trust the federal government to effectively administer such a program and actually do the required criminal background checks on 11 million people?
Does anyone really believe the federal government has the capability to check to see if applicants for legal status have learned to speak English?
Does anyone believe the federal government could run a guest worker visa program when it takes up to 10 years for an applicant now to get a visa?
Those who suggest the border needs to be secured before immigration law reform is attempted are also saying the government needs to prove it can do something right before dealing with the illegal immigration issue.
We’re not talking about 100 foot walls and moats.
We’re talking about removing federal land management and environmental constraints on the Border Patrol so that they can secure the border at the border.
We’re talking about some serious management reform inside the Border Patrol…maybe even taking it out from under Department of Homeland Security and putting it somewhere else like in the Department of Justice.
We’re talking about a major shakeup of ICE and the whole visa processing and tracking system.
And while obviously all the agencies involved will want more money to “improve” their effectiveness the fact is there is not any more money. And the billions now being spent are wasted.
This is a bi-partisan problem. The federal agencies involved during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations failed to secure the border, ifailed mprove visa tracking, and failed to crack down on employers who hire illegal aliens.
We are now in a total stalemate…the Democrats want immigration reform and the Republicans want the border secured. Neither side will give in.
The reality is neither immigration reform nor securing the border will actually work as expected once turned over to the entrenched management and inept federal agency people who have been growing their departmental empires and accomplishing little.
Obama cleaned house on his national security side. Maybe as a step in the right direction he needs to clean house at Homeland Security and remove the top three or four layers of people, delegate more operational control to the border and not try and run the show from Washington. He needs management that will increase the field time of Border Patrol agents, CBP management that will increase port staffs. And he needs to quit trying to buy Latino votes with administrative gimmicks like “prosecutorial discretion”.
Speaking of “prosecuotiral discretion”…..The first time an illegal alien is caught the crime is a misdemeanor and the illegal is deported. The second time an illegal is caught that is a felony…but almost always the second-timer is kicked down to the misdemeanor and deported. And the third time…and the fourth time… Why? Because there aren’t enough prosecutors to handle the case volumes…nor judges…nor jail cells.
Those who want to smuggle drugs into this country know how inept our border security really is.
Those who want to enter illegally to work or join their families know that the odds are in their favor that they will succeed and be able to get fake documents and live this country for years. Washington Post reporter Jose Antonio Vargas proved the point.
If everyone in the world knows that our border security efforts are a joke and that our immigration system is totally broken ..how come the folks in the White House and on Capitol Hill don’t recognize this?
Note: Hugh Holub is a former City Attorney for the border city of Nogales, Arizona. He has had extensive experience in US-Mexico water and environmental relations, travelled extensively in Mexico from remote villages to the centers of power in Mexico City. He is currently Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable Development and works with border ranchers on environmental and border security issues. Holub is also a former newspaper reporter and has been writing editorial commentaries for newspapers in the Southwest for decades.
More on border and immigration issues: