An Update on Illegal Immigration
By: Congressman Lamar Smith
This week the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, of which I am a senior member, holds a much-anticipated hearing on the 9-11 Commission report. The questions I intend to ask at the hearing will focus on what serves the best interests of America.
One reason why 3,000 Americans perished on September 11th, 2001 is the ease by which terrorists entered and stayed in our country. Unfortunately, our immigration laws are not adequately enforced, especially along Texas' 1,200 mile border with Mexico.
According to a recent Border Patrol report to a Senate committee, this year 66,000 illegal aliens were apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border between January 7 and January 26. That is 3,500 per day, an 11 percent increase from the year before.
The dramatic growth in illegal immigration should come as no surprise to anyone. Border Patrol agents have said the increase is due to guest-worker proposals that grant gradual amnesty to illegal aliens.
This year the Border Patrol has interviewed 2,900 illegal aliens to learn more about why they crossed our border One thousand, or almost 35 percent, said their decision to enter the United States was influenced by amnesty proposals.
Our immigration laws are not enforced because many public officials are sympathetic to illegal aliens. One official claimed amnesty programs are needed because illegal aliens lose sleep because of deportation concerns. He said, " . . . aliens will tell you they often have trouble sleeping at night, and leaving for work each day, not knowing if they will make it home at the end of the day."
In response to the concerns Members of Congress have about our porous borders, Department of Homeland Security officials recently announced that they would increase expedited deportation along the border. The new policy applies to those caught within 100 miles of the Mexican border, and only if the person is apprehended within their first 14 days in the U.S.
A Homeland Security official said of the new program, "We want to send a clear message that those individuals who follow legal immigration procedures will benefit while those who choose to break our nation's immigration laws will be promptly removed from the U.S."
But the problem is this new program does not apply to Mexico, where a plurality of the illegal aliens come from. I will encourage the Department of Homeland Security to include all countries in their expedited deportation program.
Normally, an announcement by immigration authorities that they are going to enforce our laws would be greeted as good news. Unfortunately, that was not entirely the case last week.