- The Washington Times - Friday, December 9, 2005

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff yesterday said illegal immigration is a “severe and growing threat” and while it will take time to correct, the government has begun a campaign to secure America’s borders.

“Illegal migration … undercuts the rule of law, it undermines our national security, and it imposes public safety and economic strains on our borders, states and communities,” Mr. Chertoff said in a speech during the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) policy summit in Washington.

“The reality is that this problem is 20 years in the making,” he said. “It’s going to take a little bit of time to dig ourselves out, but we are going to start digging ourselves out, and we have started in the last few months with some very aggressive planning and approaches to the issue of how to control border migration.”

Mr. Chertoff outlined what he called a three-pronged plan to get control of the border, including increasing the government’s ability to catch people who are illegally crossing into the United States, establishing a “robust” interior enforcement program, and creating a temporary guest-worker program to deal with illegals already in the country.

He said an increase in the number of illegal aliens caught at the border will make it necessary for the government to be able to detain them and then send them back to their home countries.

“That means when we catch them, we can’t just release them, we’ve got to send them back again,” Mr. Chertoff said. “Our goal is to achieve such a high rate of success … that we reduce illegal migration because we deter people with the understanding that they have a very low probability of success in crossing the border.”

Mr. Chertoff told the ALEC that more apprehensions and deportations would cut the strength of some of the sophisticated criminal groups that smuggle aliens and contraband into the country.

He said the Border Patrol will deploy 1,700 new agents along the Southwest border next year as part of the government’s new initiative.

With regard to interior enforcement, Mr. Chertoff said the department aims to give employers the tools needed to verify the status of employees and to detect fraudulent documents. But he added that through more rigorous interior enforcement, the department will hold employers accountable for noncompliance.

Mr. Chertoff also said that the government cannot build “a great wall along our borders,” but that it has the ability to address the “economic engine that is such a powerful lure and that makes it so difficult for us to keep that incredible pressure … of illegal migrants coming into the country.”

He said the president’s proposed guest-worker program would make it possible for the government to channel foreign nationals into a legal regulated and temporary way to do work and then go home again.

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