On Tuesday in El Paso Texas, president Barack Obama delivered his latest 2012 campaign speech, presented as a solution for comprehensive immigration reform. Referring to illegal aliens as “undocumented immigrants,” Mr. Obama’s strategy became plain when, as with his budget speech in April, he once again accused Republicans of being the roadblock to comprehensive reform. It is comprehensive reform he apparently believes a majority of Americans are behind. As with many of Mr. Obama’s speeches, it becomes necessary to separate rhetoric from reality.
Early in the speech, the president stated the obvious. “We define ourselves as a nation of immigrants,” he said, “a nation that welcomes those willing to embrace America’s precepts. That’s why millions of people, ancestors to most of us, braved hardship and great risk to come here — so they could be free to work and worship and live their lives in peace.” Later on, he added that “we are standing at the border today because we also recognize that being a nation of laws goes hand in hand with being a nation of immigrants.”
So far, so good. But then it began. The president, in an apparent attempt to obfuscate the difference between illegal and legal immigrants, sought to characterize the debate, not as a difference between those who are law-abiding and those who are not, but as ”the politics of who is and who isn’t allowed to enter this country…about who we are as a people, about what it means to be an American…[So] we’ve seen a lot blame and politics and ugly rhetoric.”
This is nonsense. The American public, much to its credit, has long made the distinction between its welcoming attitude towards those who have come here legally, and their ongoing frustration with those who have not. A Gallup poll reveals that a majority of Americans favor securing the border over dealing with illegals currently here, including a majority of Republicans and a plurality of Independent voters. Democrats were opposed. Yet at the same time, solid majorities in all three groups said illegals “cost taxpayers too much.”
Mr. Obama then tried to characterize the current stalemate as one due to the “usual Washington games” which have resulted in “the mounting consequences of decades of inaction.” Furthermore, the president claimed “a massive underground economy that exploits a cheap source of labor while depressing wages for everyone else” makes immigration reform “an economic imperative.”
This claim is disingenuous at best. Washington addressed comprehensive immigration reform twenty-six years ago. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 granted amnesty to approximately 2.7 million illegals, purportedly in exchange for stricter border control and a greater crackdown on employers who hired illegals. How successful were the second and third requirements of the act? As Mr. Obama himself admitted, “there are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.” And while blaming illegal aliens hired by unscrupulous business owner for depressing wages may be true, it is also true that 9 percent of Americans officially unemployed aren’t making any wages at all — and many jobs that could be had by them are being taken by illegals.
But Mr. Obama continued to fudge reality. Noting that “the greatest impediments to reform were questions about border security” the president claimed that “over the past two years we have answered those concerns,” noting that “the Border Patrol has 20,000 agents — more than twice as many as there were in 2004, and that “[those against reform] wanted a fence” which is “now basically complete.” He spoke of “tripling the number of intelligence analysts..deploy[ing] unmanned aerial vehicles to patrol the skies from Texas to California” and forming a “partnership with Mexico to fight the transnational criminal organizations.” He claimed the measures are getting results, saying “we’ve seized 31 percent more drugs, 75 percent more currency, and 64 percent more weapons than before,” and that “apprehensions along the border have been cut by nearly 40 percent from two years ago.”
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), however, provides a reality check. As they reported in February, “[O]f the nearly 2,000 miles separating the U.S. and Mexico, only 129 miles are under ‘full control’ of the Border Patrol. The report found that 873 miles are under ‘operational control,’ which is only 44 percent of the entire Southern border.” Furthermore, the “Mexican border with Texas has the most holes, especially between Fort Hancock and Brownsville, where 70 percent to 90 percent of the state line is at the two lowest levels of protection, ‘monitored’ and ‘low-level monitored.’”
As for the fence being “basically complete,” that is purposefully misleading statement. What is complete is 650 miles of the 670 miles called for under the Secure Fence Act of 2006 signed into law by President George W. Bush in October of that year. What remains unfenced is the other two-thirds of our nearly two thousand miles of southern border. Thus, when Mr. Obama accuses Republicans of “moving the goal posts one more time” because they refuse to accept that the border is secure enough to contemplate comprehensive reform, it is nothing more than campaign rhetoric disguised as factual information.
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