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Why Does the GOP Get a Free Pass on Border Security?
Violence is down on the American side of the border and apprehensions of criminal aliens are up nationwide. The current administration's plan on the border is working. Despite these facts the Republican Party has continuously used the specter of an out of control border to score political points with its base and slow progress on a comprehensive solution to fixing our broken immigration system.
Bafflingly, the Republican controlled house has significantly cut money for border security, money which they overwhelmingly voted to allocate just last year.
Unsurprisingly anti-immigrant groups such as Numbers U.S.A. have given Congressional Republicans a pass. In a recent interview with TPM's Benjy Sarlin Numbers U.S.A. Director of Governmental Affairs, Rosemary Jenks noted "For an administration that's decided it's not a priority, it doesn't make sense to throw money at them."
Ms. Jenks is of course referring to President Obama's administration and by them she is referring to the Department of Homeland Security. Never mind that this statement totally lets Republicans off the hook for cutting security funding, but it is also completely and utterly out of sync with the reality of the current Administration's strategy on the border.
Let's be very clear here, the only thing Congress has done on immigration has been the earmarking of money for border security.
According to the United States Customs and Border Protection since 2004, the number of "boots on the ground" along the Southwest border has increased by nearly 85% to 17,600 Border Patrol Agents today. In Arizona, where the current Governor has very publicly asked for more funds, the administration is currently putting a record number of border patrol agents in rotation, with more than 4,900 Border Patrol Agents, 900 Customs and Border Protection Officers, and 130 Air and Marine Agents.
Interior enforcement of immigration laws have also increased under the current administration: there has been a record 2,746 worksite enforcement investigations, more than doubling the 1,191 cases initiated in FY 2008. ICE also issued a record 2,196 notices of inspection to employers, surpassing the prior year's record of 1,444 and more than quadrupling the 503 inspections in 2008. ICE issued 237 final orders -- documents requiring employers to cease violating the law and directing them to pay fines -- totaling $6,956,026, compared to the 18 issued for $675,209 in FY 2008. The total of $6,956,026 last year represents the most final orders issued since the creation of ICE in 2003.
Calming inflamed rhetoric on border violence is the first step in beginning work on fixing our broken immigration system. The mantra of "securing the border" feeds into the hysteria surrounding the southwest region and ignores the fundamental truth that the border has long been a positive space for commerce, trade and the movement of labor into and out of the country for a long period of time.
Furthermore the rhetorical straw man that the border is out of control is totally bogus. Our southwest border is doing fine. It is true that Mexico has a very real problem with drug cartels, but there has been very little spillover on the American side of the border In fact, violence along our southern border has never been lower.
While border security is an important part of reform, it by no means is it separate from or a substitute for a long term, wholesale change of an immigration system that members of the Republican party acknowledge is broken and needs to be fixed.
It is certainly easy for Republicans to raise the specter of out of control border violence as a means to score political points, but wouldn't it make more sense to have a real conversation about ways to improve the border and our immigration system?
Let's have a real discussion about moving forward with a plan that not only makes America safer but also creates a system that allows our country to continue to prosper and harnesses all of the positive benefits of legal immigration. If we concentrated on that, and if we created an alternative to illegal immigration, we probably wouldn't have to worry so much about that "troublesome border."
Cross Posted at The Huffington Post here.