Members of Congress, home for the August recess, have been surprised at the intensity of opposition to proposed legislation to “solve” America’s immigration problem. Most members figured they were going to hear about Obamacare, the debt ceiling, and lingering unemployment. Instead, as they attend town halls and talk to the voters, immigration more often than not is the topic of the hour, and plenty of voters have made it clear that they don’t like what the Senate passed and don’t want it to become law.
The Senate’s so-called “Gang of Eight” bill, which the Obama Administration supports without exception, provides amnesty to most of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, provided they meet a set of legal conditions and jump through a series of bureaucratic hoops. While the conventional wisdom states that Gang of Eight is dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled House, nobody really knows what the final product will look like–or whether there will even be a final vote on it at all.
What we do know is that the people in charge of actually enforcing our country’s immigration laws don’t think much of what the politicians are trying to do. In fact, many are not convinced the Obama Administration and the rest of Washington politicians who support the Senate bill are even particularly committed to the fight against illegal immigration.
Many law enforcement professionals who put their lives on the line trying to keep the border secure-and all of whom have taken oaths to uphold the Constitution and the law-see this as another example of the Obama administration’s lack of respect for the rule of law.
The Washington Times recently reported that more than a few retired border patrol agents believe that deploying 20,000 new border patrol agents along our Southern border, as included in the Senate bill, would “be a huge waste of resources.” Zack Taylor, the chairman of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, told the Times that 20,000 additional agents would “do nothing to solve the problem of illegal immigration.”
The cost of these new agents, the fencing the bill calls for along the border and drones, helicopters and sensors is estimated to be a cool $46 billion.
Nevertheless, winning–some might say buying–the support of border security professionals has become a big part of the immigration reform pitch. One of the reasons the Gang of Eight bill was able to get the Republican support it did in the Senate was the promise to double the number of border patrol agents.
The National Border Patrol Council, a union that represents 17,000 Border Patrol agents and support staff, recently expressed “serious concerns” about the bill, questioning whether there were sufficient resources to absorb this proposed border security surge. “We don’t have money for gas or ammunition or uniforms, and that’s at 21,000 agents. I’m not sure how we’re going to be able to handle 40,000 agents. I don’t know where we’re going to put them,” a council representative told the Washington Times.
The people on the frontlines emphasize that the Washington politicians seem to be going for quantity over quality in immigration enforcement. But the whole thing may be for show anyway. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), one of the leading Republican fig-leaf supporters of Gang of Eight and a senator who touted the surge in trying to get the bill to pass, later said it was unnecessary and might be dropped.
“We don’t need 20,000 additional border patrol agents,” McCain told the AFL-CIO in July. “I voted for it so friends of mine would be comfortable that we are securing the border.” McCain also said that the pathway to citizenship was the “fundamental element” of the bill, not the boosted border security. That would have been good to know when the Senate was voting, John!
McCain was speaking after liberal and Latino organizations had complained about the “militarization of the border” under the bill. One of the biggest concerns conservatives have had about so-called comprehensive immigration reform is that the amnesty would happen but the enforcement end of the deal would never actually take place. That’s what ended up occurring when Reagan accepted a bipartisan immigration deal in 1986, and it looks like what might be in the works again.
Border Patrol agents and others charged with enforcing US immigration laws have been critical of Obama’s immigration-reform policies since Obama first started talking about immigration reform. A little over three years ago, a union representing 7,600 employees in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a unanimous vote of “no confidence” against the political appointees the White House picked to oversee immigration law enforcement. This is a union, by the way, that is affiliated with the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Government Employees, both normally reliable supporters of the Democrats.
The union, the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, denounced senior ICE officials for “abandoning the agency’s core mission of enforcing United States Immigration Laws” and “campaigning for programs and policies related to amnesty.” They also said the administration was giving illegal immigrants special treatment through the “creation of a special detention system for foreign nationals that exceeds the care and services provided to most United States citizens similarly incarcerated.”
Both the AFL-CIO-affiliated National Border Patrol Council and the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers had already issued their no-confidence votes in Obama administration immigration bureaucrats. Despite bragging about hiring new border patrol agents and deporting what they say are record numbers of illegal aliens, the border patrol agents counter that the administration has actually slashed enforcement.
“By lowering the statutory overtime cap nearly 15 percent through the current administrative restrictions, top-level managers in the Border Patrol are depriving Americans of desperately needed coverage along the border at a time of national crisis,” the head of the National Border Patrol Council told the Washington Times at the time of these no-confidence votes. (This was well before the sequester, which is being blamed for these conditions now.)
The erosion of the immigration law enforcement professionals’ confidence in the Obama administration helped lead to the resignation of ICE chief John Morton in July. Morton was frequently named in the border patrol and custom agents’ denunciations of the status quo. But the policy has remained much the same. Morton has since spent part of his time giving interviews talking up immigration reform. “There is no way ICE can remove 11 million people-this is impossible,” he has said, as if anyone was suggesting they could.
Immigration enforcement professionals aren’t fooled, and conservatives shouldn’t be, either.