By Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) - 06/10/10 09:58 PM EDT
Attorney General Eric Holder has threatened to have the federal government sue the people of the State of Arizona for attempting to do what the feds have failed to do: enforce our nation’s laws and secure the border. This is not surprising because President Barack Obama has assailed the law. And, despite admitting that they had not actually read the legislation, both Mr. Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano have criticized it as well.
Their position not only disregards the will of the majority of Arizonans, but the will of the majority of Americans.
Speaking before a gathering of the National Council of La Raza as a candidate for president, Obama said the federal law enforcement officers who are charged with enforcing the nation’s immigration laws were responsible for “terrorizing” communities. It was a shining moment for the open borders crowd. To the federal agents at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the message was clear: “I don’t like what you do, and I’ll stop you if I’m elected.”
It didn’t take long for the campaign rhetoric to turn into action.
Last year, after having arrested a criminal illegal immigrant gang member and learning he worked with other illegal immigrants at a manufacturing plant, ICE Special Agents began a criminal investigation. They ended up arresting 28 illegal immigrants as part of the investigation. It was good police work, but President Obama’s Homeland Security Secretary responded by announcing that she would investigate the investigators!
The Obama administration has all but abandoned worksite enforcement efforts. Through April, administrative arrests are down 80 percent, criminal arrests are down 68 percent, the number of criminal indictments is down 74 percent and convictions are down 75 percent since 2008. What an insult to the millions of unemployed citizen and legal immigrant workers who need those jobs held by millions of illegal immigrants!
The Obama administration argues that they have increased the number of audits of employers. But audits do almost nothing to stop illegal immigration or discourage illegal hiring. Audits can result in fines, though employers consider them just the cost of doing business. Illegal workers are typically not arrested and are simply turned loose in the community to compete with citizens and legal immigrants for other jobs.
Of course, worrying about jobs lost wouldn’t be as large a problem if the border itself was secure and illegal immigrants couldn’t come in the first place. And completion of the border fence would help.
We know that a border fence can be very effective – in San Diego, the fence reduced apprehensions by 95 percent. But there is no fence in many other areas.
To date the administration has only built about 344 miles of actual pedestrian fencing along the nearly 2,000 miles of southwest border. The Secure Fence Act required nearly 800 miles of actual fencing.
The president’s budget reflects his administration’s distaste for immigration enforcement. The administration didn’t request money for a single new detention bed, no increase in funds to find and deport illegal immigrant criminals and no additional special agents to investigate workplace immigration violations.
We deserve the federal government’s protection. The Obama administration should put the interests of Americans first and enforce our immigration laws and secure our borders.
Smith is the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee.