- The Washington Times - Friday, April 19, 2002

President Bush is the leading obstacle to controlling illegal immigration in this country and his "open door" border policy is a threat to national security, the Republican chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus said yesterday.
Rep. Tom Tancredo told editors and reporters in a luncheon meeting at The Washington Times that Mr. Bush is out of step with the majority of Americans who want immigration reform and that his "altruistic views" on the subject were an open invitation to new terrorist attacks.
"What we have not done is to protect our borders, ignoring our own national security," the Colorado congressman said. "The president is not on our side. He believes in open borders.
"Unless we do something significant to control our borders, we're going to have another event with someone waltzing across the borders. Then the blood of the people killed will be on this administration and this Congress," he said.
Mr. Tancredo said he could not rule out the possibility of another attack similar to the September 11 strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed more than 3,000 people, but that the administration and Congress would be held responsible.
"God forbid another event, but maybe that's what it will take" for adequate immigration reform legislation to be passed, he said. "How can we stop it? Pray. Certainly you can't rely on the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service."
Mr. Tancredo also said Republicans and Democrats equally had failed to pass meaningful immigration reforms because of attempts to woo voters.
The two-term congressman said the Bush administration had developed aggressive strategies to court Hispanic voters. He said the administration pushed a recent amnesty bill now pending in Congress in an effort to win those voters and to prop up the government of Mexican President Vicente Fox.
"Closed borders, open borders. I used to think it was Karl Rove [the White House political strategist] and his outreach to Hispanics," Mr. Tancredo said. "But no, it's Mr. Bush. He's driving the issue himself. He believes in open borders.
"He made promises to Fox and wants to keep Fox in power," he said.
The House, under pressure from Mr. Bush to reach out to Hispanics, narrowly approved a bill March 12 that would grant amnesty to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants. The bill would allow some illegal aliens who have overstayed their entry visas or entered the country illegally to apply for legal status.
The bill was approved 275-137, one vote more than the two-thirds majority needed under the special rules that brought it to the floor. Opponents credited a furious grass-roots campaign by immigration reform groups for the bill's near-defeat.
Republican leaders coupled the bill, which would benefit foreigners who illegally entered the United States or overstayed their visas, with a provision to beef up border security that had stalled in the Senate. The tactic infuriated opponents of the amnesty measure.
Mr. Bush's advisers have promoted an aggressive strategy of courting Hispanic voters.
They lobbied congressional leaders for the amnesty bill, and while some said they had reservations, they agreed not to actively oppose the measure.
The bill then moved to the Senate, where the amnesty and border security measures have since been separated. A vote on the amnesty provisions is not likely to occur before May.
Mr. Tancredo also said he would deploy troops along the U.S.-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration. He added that there were questions on whether this administration and most members of congress actually believed in borders.
"What is the purpose of an army if you don't defend your border?" he asked. "The basic question is: 'Do you believe in borders or do you not?' If you believe in borders, then you have to control the people who come across it."
Mr. Tancredo said that during a recent meeting with top Mexican officials, he was told that Mexico does not view the Southwest United States and northern Mexico as two countries, but as "one region."
He said that kind of thinking was not unique to Mexico and had led to weak border control by the INS and other government agencies.
Mr. Tancredo also criticized efforts to separate the service and law-enforcement functions of INS, in what the Bush administration and Attorney General John Ashcroft have called an effort to streamline the much-maligned agency.
As the author of a bill that would create a National Border Security Agency, combining the law-enforcement elements of the INS with the Customs Service and U.S. Coast Guard, Mr. Tancredo said simply shifting assignments inside the agency would not solve the problem.
"The same people who are mismanaging the agency today will be mismanaging the new agency," he said, adding that his proposed bill would create an agency headed by the director of homeland security and would provide for an integrated approach to managing the movement of people and cargo across the border.
"The breakup of the current INS would ensure that its law-enforcement duties are not pushed aside by the demands of special-interest groups and open-borders ideologues," he said. "Border defense needs to be closely coordinated, and overseen by responsible officials with both the resources and the commitment to do their jobs."

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