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KEPHART: Inviting criminals across the border

Obama’s toothless immigration enforcement

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Come Jan. 2, 2013, 3,400 Border Patrol agents, 932 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents, and 802 ICE deportation and removal officers are going to lose their jobs. Unless President Obama forces Congress to break the gridlock on budget decisions, the layoffs are certain. The United States can not afford this reduction. Illegal alien crossings more than doubled in September over August in the Arizona border area where agent Brian Terry was killed with a gun from the botched "Fast and Furious" gun-walking operation almost two years ago.

The administration's focus is on what the president can do for illegal aliens, not on securing the border. The president's "deferred action" amnesty has logged over 179,794 applications for processing and 4,591 approved as of Oct. 10. Not even the Oct. 2 fatal shooting of agent Nicholas Ivie five miles north of the Arizona border in Naco, whether by "friendly fire," "faulty sensors" or cartel activity shifted the administration's focus on amnesty. The president's open border policies ignore the need for technology, infrastructure and enforcement policies to help secure America and better assure officer safety.

The deaths of brave men like officers Terry and Ivie raise important questions about immigration enforcement under the Obama administration. Is illegal activity on the border increasing or decreasing? Numbers of apprehensions mean little if attending statistics are not provided. If a volunteer organization like secureborderintel.org can track border crossings, the federal government can, too. But the government prefers to tell us the border is secure and apprehensions are down, without providing corresponding numbers.

Volunteer organizations have found that on Arizona's borderland from Nogales to just west of the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation, illegal crossings by drug or human smuggling groups has risen from 540 incidents in August to 1,194 in September, a 221 percent increase in just the past two months. September numbers reflect over half the year's activity. In the past two months, only one day was drug-free. This makes sense, especially in light of a Oct. 23 report by Mexico's Colegio de la Frontera Norte and the University of Southern California's Tomas Rivera Policy Institute concluding that Mexicans in the United States are at about 11.7 million and likely rising.

The surge in illegal border crossings is the natural result of the Obama administration adopting the deferred action policy. Announced on June 15 and implemented in August, it is a fraud magnet for illegals who can claim any identity and any entry date. The program cannot determine whether a person is who they say they are, nor associated derogatory information. It is exactly the type of program that the 9/11 Commission warned against because of its inherent national security risks.

Outside of pursuing a direct amnesty policy, ancillary policies have purposefully weakened enforcement mechanisms throughout the entire immigration system. On the border itself, fence-building has all but come to a screeching halt, and even meager appropriations monies for operational technologies are not spent. While Border Patrol personnel numbers currently meet the federal mandate, quiet orders are either to not apprehend, or to scare back across the border. No longer is the Border Patrol permitted to conduct stops at transportation hubs where illegal aliens traditionally gain access to the interior of the country and apprehensions are generally high. The administration supported new wilderness laws that would curtail further the Border Patrol access to the millions of acres of wilderness and parks in Arizona and New Mexico. Meanwhile, the administration has not taken sufficient action to squelch Mexican cartel bounties for Border Patrol murders.

While border agent deaths receive publicity, other types of incidents go unreported. On Sept. 27, just east of Nogales near the Santa Cruz River, Border Patrol interdicted a "Border Patrol look-alike" sensor vehicle with an extendable "ramp over" mounted on the back of the truck. Once north of the Mexican border, the drug-laden vehicle attempted a Border Patrol hit and run, sending two agents to the hospital. On Oct. 20, an ultralight plane dropped 10 bales of marijuana to three drug smugglers at least 60 miles north of the border. Government policy is not to interfere with these frequent U.S. airspace incursions.

Elsewhere in the immigration spectrum, enforcement has been shut down piece by piece. For example, Justice Department immigration attorneys were ordered to clear out their dockets of deportation cases while immigration adjudicators were ordered not to refer fraud cases directly to DOJ attorneys, but to ICE. ICE, in turn, is not to pursue immigration fraud, but only deport convicted criminals and terrorists pursuant to "prosecutorial discretion." The list goes on.

Why is there no leadership on breaking the gridlock and saving immigration enforcement jobs? Immigration enforcement is the anti-agenda of this administration. Quite conveniently for the president, no cuts would occur to the fee-based immigration adjudicators tasked with processing deferred action applicants. In fact, adjudicator numbers are slated to increase. It's clear where this administration's priorities are.

Janice Kephart is the director of national security policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, former counsel to the 9/11 Commission, and host of "The Homeland Security Show."

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