Today, House Judiciary Chairman and immigration hardliner Lamar Smith (R-TX) published an editorial which claims that the Obama administration is not telling the truth about the progress that has been made along the southern border with Mexico. Smith complains that only 15 percent of the border is “air tight” and notes that “more than 34,000 people have been killed in Mexico due to drug-related violence.” The violence hasn’t spilled over, but Smith seems convinced it will. Smith also rails on Obama for ending the practice of worksite immigration raids and accuses the administration of supposedly cooking its deportation numbers:
While the Obama administration claims their approach is working, the truth is that the Southwest border remains porous and seven million illegal immigrants work in the United States. The administration’s immigration enforcement and border security strategies cannot be effective if it amounts to little more than spin. The American people are smart enough not to buy into the false promise that legalizing millions of illegal immigrants will secure the border and reduce illegal immigration.
Smith calls for the deployment of national guard troops at the border, the expansion of the controversial electronic employment verification system (E-verify), and the completion of a double layer border fence.
Yet, experts call Smith’s “border security first” argument a red herring. The Center for American Progress contends that evaluating border security “cannot and should not be measured against a standard of total control.” Given that most security specialists out there don’t believe it is possible to completely seal the border, “The question should be: Have we implemented the right set of policies and deployed the right set of tools to minimize risk and maximize control in a constantly changing environment with evolving challenges?” While Smith is right that the border is not 100 percent airtight, in terms of risk management, DHS has made serious headway.
Meanwhile, the American people actually are smart enough to know that comprehensive immigration reform that combines a path to legalization with a modernized visa system and continued enforcement efforts will reduce illegal immigration. That’s why a large majority of the public supports it.
Finally, while Smith accuses the Obama administration of fudging its deportation numbers, the immigrant advocacy community would probably argue just the opposite. “What’s disappointing is that this administration is deporting more people than ever before — it’s more well funded than ever before, but many people have the perception that immigration enforcement is underfunded and that this administration is extremely pro-immigrant,” said one advocate. Grassroots groups have launched a campaign to “urge President Obama to use his discretionary authority to stop separating families through deportations.” The White House maintains that “administrative solutions are not feasible or do-able on a large scale.”
Smith’s criticism comes at a time when House Republicans are drafting a “legislative assault on illegal immigration” which includes plans to add more fencing, sensors, agents and drones at the border. The Secure Border Act of 2011 will reportedly require the Department of Homeland Security to submit a five-year plan to Congress that would essentially eliminate unlawful entries and smuggling down. It would be up to Congress to decide whether to fund it or not.