SMITH: Obama budget’s backdoor amnesty
President Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget came out this month and again includes the same spending, borrowing and taxing policies that have come to define his presidency. No surprise, this spending blueprint cuts several worthwhile immigration-enforcement and border-security programs.
The president’s budget continues his administration’s policies of ignoring laws requiring the removal of illegal immigrants. Last year, the Obama administration issued new deportation guidelines that amount to backdoor amnesty. The spending priorities contained in his budget are no different. At least the president is consistent.
Under his budget for 2013, Mr. Obama reduces the number of detention bed spaces by 1,200 beds - from 34,000 to 32,800. The administration proposes using the resulting funds to enhance its alternatives-to-detention programs. But these programs result in higher levels of illegal immigrants disappearing into American communities.
In fact, Department of Justice records reveal that since 1996, 40 percent of all non-detained illegal immigrants in removal proceedings simply became fugitives. Unfortunately, the president’s budget builds on this record of failure. Detention is the only proven method of preventing illegal immigrants from avoiding deportation.
The president’s spending proposal also reduces funding for the 287(g) program by 25 percent. The 287(g) program allows state and local governments to partner with the federal government to assist in the enforcement of immigration laws. This successful program has identified tens of thousands of illegal immigrants in prisons and jails nationwide.
The Obama administration also has announced that it will no longer consider additional requests for 287(g) partnerships. It makes no sense to get rid of such a valuable program.
Mr. Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget request also undermines border security and national security. Last year, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found that just 44 percent of the Southwestern border was under the operational control of the Border Patrol. Most of the border remains porous to human smugglers, drug traffickers and illegal immigrants.
Rather than take steps to gain control of the U.S.-Mexico border, the president’s budget contains a plan to develop a “border security index” to measure enforcement progress along the Southwestern border. The administration thinks this new test will help manipulate the facts to produce a passing grade for the administration and back its claims that the border is secure.
But this index is just a cover-up for the administration’s failure to fully enforce immigration laws. There is no substitute for improved border security coupled with increased interior enforcement of drug and immigration laws.
The president’s budget also contains no funding for the implementation of the Real ID Act. But this comes as no surprise because the administration already has delayed this law from taking effect until January 2013. Real ID prohibits illegal immigrants, including foreign terrorists, from obtaining valid forms of identification that can be used to board planes and enter federal buildings. Real ID already has been law for six years and should be fully implemented. This is another example of the administration not enforcing current laws.
The president’s spending blueprint contains no funding for expansion of the Visa Security Program (VSP). This program increases the security of the visa process at U.S. embassies and consulates in “highest-risk” countries. At visa-issuing posts where VSP exists, all applicants receive additional screening. Unfortunately, such screening exists only at 19 locations out of a list of about 50 designated “highest-risk” posts worldwide. Not expanding the VSP makes it easier for terrorists to get visas to the United States.
We must secure our borders to prevent national security threats from becoming reality. It’s past time to construct a budget that reduces illegal immigration and increases border security. The president’s budget takes us in the wrong direction.
Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
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