Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Border and Immigration Policy...

I generally support President Bush's proposals to reform immigration policy, though I would prefer a "future citizen" program to a "temporary worker" program. However, the Bush Administration has completely mishandled the Minutemen Project in Arizona and the border issue in general. The Washington Times reports that President Bush said he would pressure Congress to further loosen immigration law before referring to the American citizens volunteering for the Minutemen Project as "vigilantes". I've read the transcript of the press conference with President Bush, President Fox, and Prime Minister Martin, and I am doubtful it supports the language used by the Washington Times. The President does repeatedly say he'll continue to push Congress for reasonable, common-sense immigration policy, but that is exactly what he will not get as a result of his use of the word "vigilantes".

Instead, I read in my local paper (San Diego Union Tribune) that 500 new border agents will be deployed along the Arizona border. Normally, I would applaud such news except for the way this deployment is being managed.

500 more agents due for Arizona border: Until then, 200 agents would be transferred to Arizona on a temporary basis. Most of the reinforcements will be drawn from other states, the federal official said.

Shifting personnel to Arizona will leave fewer Border Patrol agents in the San Diego sector and will keep vacant jobs from being filled, Border Patrol union leaders said.

We're pulling border patrol agents from San Diego (and other areas) and sending them to Arizona because of, in the words of White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, concern for "a group of armed, untrained individuals roaming around the desert".

This certainly takes the cake when it comes to misdirected concern. Unlike crossing the border from Canada or Mexico into the United States without proper documentation, roaming around the Arizona desert with an unconcealed firearm is not illegal. The administration's concerns would be better placed in the President's desire for reasonable, common-sense immigration policy in light of the chain-reaction this could cause in the electorate and Congress. The Real ID Act of 2005 (HR 418) was just passed in the House and is now in a Senate committee. This bill is far from common-sense immigration law, but it does contain provisions in Title III for completing the border fence between San Diego County and Mexico, which makes it hard to oppose in light of our newly depleted ranks of border patrol agents.

In addition to such legislation such as the Real ID Act, how many over-reaching initiatives are going to be on the ballot in the border states in 2006 as a result of this administration's approach to immigration? Like the debate over the practice of extraordinary rendition, are we abdicating our sovereignty and security to Canadian and Mexican border officials? Since we certainly couldn't have our immigration department do anything like profiling in singling out immigrants, are we having the Mexican immigration officials do our profiling for us?

Living in a border town, immigration is an important issue for me, and I truly think a more liberal policy for legal immigration is in the best interest of this nation. However, the best immigration policy in the world isn't worth the paper it's written on if we can't secure our borders and ensure our sovereignty.

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