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Border Security Essential to Immigration Reform


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Arizona lawmakers are under fire for daring to attempt what the Obama administration has failed to do: enforce immigration laws. The state's new law simply grants law enforcement officials the authority to investigate the status of individuals suspected of being in the country illegally. But from the reaction of Washington liberals, you would think that Arizona had declared martial law rather than outline a process for their state to enforce federal laws already on the books. Nancy Pelosi called the law "misguided and irresponsible." Meanwhile, President Obama said it "threatened to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans" and characterized the policy as an example of "irresponsibility."

In reality, it is the Obama administration's policies that are irresponsible. Since taking office, President Obama has paid lip service to the idea of overhauling the nation's flawed immigration policies while doing virtually nothing to achieve reform. Even worse, the administration has squandered the progress begun by the Bush White House and actually scaled back some key enforcement measures.

Securing the border should be the highest priority for any administration serious about national security, yet our border with Mexico remains dangerously porous. Although 700 miles of fencing were constructed and the number of border patrol agents doubled to 18,000 between 2005 and 2008, illegal border crossings remain at unacceptably high levels. According to information compiled by the Heritage Foundation, 791,568 people were apprehended attempting to cross the border in 2008, while unknown numbers eluded capture to illegally enter the country. It is clear that the federal government should focus urgently on getting control of our borders before addressing any other aspect of immigration, but President Obama seems preoccupied with everything but finishing the fence.

After guarding the border, interior enforcement is the next line of defense for finding and apprehending those who have broken immigration laws. Progress has stalled under the Obama administration in this case, as well. According to the Washington Times, the number of worksite arrests of illegal workers dropped by more than 50 percent between 2008 and 2009. This is due in large part to a policy shift characterized by a New York Times report as "the Obama administration's effort to reduce illegal immigration by forcing employers to dismiss unauthorized workers rather than by using workplace raids" to identify and detain the workers themselves. Instead of facing arrest for crossing the border illegally and using fake documents to gain employment, the new policy means illegal workers will merely lose their jobs, only to remain free to find work elsewhere.

Considering the utter failure of the federal government to enforce its own laws, it's little wonder that border states overrun by illegal immigration would be forced to take matters into their own hands. While the presence of almost 11 million illegal immigrants certainly doesn't help our current unemployment crisis, immigration represents far more than just an economic issue. The recent terror attempts on our country make it clear that we are still vulnerable to attacks, and we will remain vulnerable as long as our border remains essentially open to anyone who wants to enter. President Obama and congressional Democrats need to stop exploiting this serious issue for partisan political purposes and get our border under control.

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