The Discerning Texan

All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.
-- Edmund Burke
Monday, November 28, 2005

At last, the President emphasizes enforcement at the Mexican border

President Bush came out strongly today for enforcing the laws on our borders. This is long overdue, but welcome nevertheless. Here are some key passages from the President's speech in Arizona today:

Our strategy for comprehensive immigration reforms begins by securing the border. Now, let me talk to you about a three-part plan. The first part of the plan is to promptly return every illegal entrant we catch at the border, with no exceptions. More than 85 percent of the illegal immigrants we catch are from Mexico, and most of them are escorted back across the border within 24 hours.

To prevent them from trying to cross again, we've launched an interesting program, an innovative approach called interior repatriation. Under this program, many Mexicans caught at the border illegally are flown back to Mexico and then bused to their hometowns in the interior part of the country. By returning these illegal immigrants to their home towns far from the border, we make it more difficult for them to attempt to cross again. Interior repatriation is showing promise in breaking the cycle of illegal immigration. In a pilot program focused on the west Arizona desert, nearly 35,000 illegal immigrants were returned to Mexico through interior repatriation. Last year only about 8 percent of them were caught trying to cross the border again, a much lower rate than we find among illegal immigrants who are escorted directly across the border.


We face a different set of challenges with non-Mexicans that we -- who we catch crossing the border illegally. When non-Mexican illegal immigrants are apprehended, they are initially detained. The problem is that our detention facilities don't have enough beds. And so, about four of every five non-Mexican illegal immigrants we catch are released in society and asked to return for a court date. When the date arrives, about 75 percent of those released don't show up to the court. As a result, last year, only 30,000 of the 160,000 non-Mexicans caught coming across our southwest border were sent home.

This practice of catch and release has been the government's policy for decades. It is an unwise policy and we're going to end it. (Applause.) To help end catch and release, we need to increase the capacity in our detention facilities. Last month at the White House I signed legislation supported by the members of the Arizona delegation that will increase the number of beds in our detention facilities. We're also working to process illegal immigrants through the system more quickly, so we can return them home faster and free up bed space for others.

One of the most effective tools we have in this effort is a process called expedited removal. Under expedited removal, non-Mexicans are detained and placed into streamlined proceedings. It allows us to deport them at an average of 32 days, almost three times faster than usual. In other words, we're cutting through the bureaucracy. Last year we used expedited removal to deport more than 20,000 non-Mexicans caught entering this country illegally between Tucson and Laredo. This program is so successful that the Secretary has expanded it all up and down the border. This is a straightforward idea. It says, when an illegal immigrant knows they'll be caught and sent home, they're less likely to come to the country. That's the message we're trying to send with expedited removal.

We're also pursuing other common-sense steps to accelerate the deportation process. We're pressing foreign governments to take their citizens back promptly. We're streamlining the paperwork and we're increasing the number of flights carrying illegal immigrants home. We recently tested the effectiveness of these steps with Brazilian illegal immigrants caught along the Rio Grande Valley of the Texas border. The effort was called Operation Texas Hold 'Em. (Laughter.) It delivered impressive results. Thanks to our actions, Brazilian illegal immigration dropped by 90 percent in the Rio Grande Valley, and by 60 -- 50 percent across the border as a whole.

With all these steps, we're delivering justice more effectively, and we're changing the policy from catch and release to the policy of catch and return.

The second part of our plan is to strengthen border -- to strengthen border enforcement is to correct weak and unnecessary provisions in our immigration laws. Under current law, the federal government is required to release people caught crossing our border illegally if their home countries do not take them back in a set period of time. That law doesn't work when it comes time to enforcing the border and it needs to be changed. Those we we're forced to release have included murderers, rapists, child molesters, and other violent criminals. This undermines our border security. It undermines the work these good folks are doing. And the United States Congress needs to pass legislation to end these senseless rules. (Applause.)


The third part of our plan to strengthen border enforcement is to stop people from crossing the border illegally in the first place. And we're increasing manpower. We're increasing technology and infrastructure across this border. We're integrating these resources in ways we have never done before. Since 2001, we've hired 1,900 new Border Patrol agents. I just signed a bill last month that will enable us to add another thousand Border Patrol agents. When we complete these hires, we will have enlarged the Border Patrol by about 3,000 agents from 9,500 the year I took office to 12,500 next year. This is an increase of more than 30 percent, and most of the new agents will be assigned right here in the state of Arizona. (Applause.)

And to help the agents, we're deploying technologies. [...] When agents can take advantage of cutting-edge equipment like overhead surveillance drones and infrared cameras, they can do a better job for all of us.

In Tucson, agents on the ground are directing unmanned aerial technology in the sky, and they're acting rapidly on illegal immigration or illegal activities they may see from the drones. In the months since these unmanned flights began, agents have intercepted a lot of drugs on the border that otherwise -- and people -- that otherwise might have made it through.

The legislation I signed last month provides $139 million to further upgrade the technology and bring a more unified, systematic approach to border enforcement. Again, I want to thank the members of the Congress. (Applause.)

In some places, the most effective way to secure the border is to construct physical barriers to entry. The legislation I signed last month includes $70 million to install and improve protective infrastructure across this border. In rural areas, we're funding the construction of new patrol roads to give our agents better access to the border, and new vehicle barriers to keep illegal immigrants from driving across the border.

In urban areas, we're expanding fencing to shut down access to human smuggling corridors. Secretary Chertoff recently used authority granted by the Congress to order the completion of a 14-mile barrier near San Diego that had been held up because of lawsuits. By overcoming endless litigation to finish this vital project we're helping our border agents do their job, and making people who live close to the border more secure.

Our actions to integrate manpower, technology and infrastructure are getting results. And one of the best examples of success is the Arizona Border Control Initiative, which the government launched in 2004. In the first year of this initiative -- now, listen to this, listen how hard these people are working here -- agents in Arizona apprehended nearly 500,000 illegal immigrants, a 42-percent increase over the previous year. We've captured a half-million pounds of marijuana, prosecuted more than 400 people suspected of human smuggling, and seized more than $7 million in cash. You've got some good folks here working hard to do their job, and I appreciate it very much. (Applause.)

As we work to secure the border, comprehensive immigration reform also requires us to improve enforcement of our laws in the interior of the country. Catching and deporting illegal immigrants along the border is only part of the responsibility. America's immigration laws apply across all of America, and we will enforce those laws throughout our land. Better interior enforcement begins with better work site enforcement. American businesses have an obligation to abide by the law, and our government has the responsibility to help them do so. (Applause.)
Enforcing our immigration laws in the interior of the country requires a sustained commitment of resources. Since I took office, we've increased funding for immigration enforcement by 44 percent. We've increased the number of immigration and customs investigators by 14 percent since 2001. And those good folks who are working hard, too. Last year, the -- this year, federal agents completed what they called Operation Rollback. It's the largest work site enforcement case in American history. This operation resulted in the arrest of hundreds of illegal immigrants, criminal convictions against a dozen employers, and a multi-million dollar payment from one of America's largest corporations

Our skilled immigration security officers are also going against some of the most dangerous people in our society -- smugglers, terrorists, gang members and human traffickers. In Arizona, we have prosecuted more than 2,300 smugglers bringing drugs, guns and illegal immigrants across the border. As a part of Operation Community Shield, federal agents have arrested nearly 1,400 gang members who were here illegally, including hundreds of members of the violent Latin American gangs like MS-13.

Since the Department of Homeland Security was created, agents have apprehended nearly 27,000 illegal immigrant fugitives. Thanks to our determined personnel, society is safer. But we've got more work to do. The legislation I signed last month more than doubled the resources dedicated to interior enforcement. We understand that border security and interior enforcement go hand in hand. (Applause.) We will increase the number of immigration enforcement agents and criminal investigators.

We're confronting the problem of document fraud, as well. When illegal workers try to pass off sophisticated forgeries as employment documents, even the most diligent businesses find it difficult to tell what's real and what's fake. Business owners shouldn't have to act like detectives to verify the legal status of their workers. So my administration has expanded a program called Basic Pilot. This program gives businesses access to an automated system that rapidly screens the employment eligibility of new hire against federal records. Basic Pilot was available in only six states fives years ago; now this program is available nationwide. We'll continue to work to stop document fraud, to make it easier for America's businesses to comply with our immigration laws. (Applause.)

This is a long overdue speech. But's it is a great start: our nations largest vulnerability to foreign terror is its pourous borders. In the post 9/11-era strict enforcement of our borders is no longer a "nice to have". It is a must. It is heartening to see that the President is finally recognizing this fact.
DiscerningTexan, 11/28/2005 07:25:00 PM |