The leadership of all 11,000 nonsupervisory U.S. Border Patrol agents today criticized an immigration compromise by senators and the Bush administration as “piecemeal” legislation that invites future terrorist attacks and fails to secure the nation’s borders.
“Every person who has ever risked their life securing our borders is extremely disheartened to see some of our elected representatives once again waving the white flag on the issues of illegal immigration and border security,” National Border Patrol Council President T.J. Bonner said.
“Rewarding criminal behavior has never induced anyone to abide by the law, and there is no reason to believe that the outcome will be any different this time,” he said.
Mr. Bonner’s comments were in response to an immigration deal reached yesterday offering a multistep path to citizenship to millions of illegal aliens now in the United States in exchange for better border security and a new way of choosing how future immigrants are selected.
The agreement, reached behind closed doors after months of talks among Republicans, Democrats and Bush Cabinet officials, created little enthusiasm among negotiators, but those involved said it is the only chance for immigration reform to pass this year.
But Mr. Bonner said that with the ever-present threat of terrorism, it is critical to take steps necessary to immediately and completely secure the nation’s borders, adding that “piecemeal measures” will prolong America’s vulnerability and are “an open invitation to further terrorist attacks.”
He said the Border Patrol is “totally overwhelmed” by the number of illegal aliens crossing daily into the United States. Last year, the Border Patrol apprehended 1.1 million illegals, more than 3,000 every day.
“Rather than meaningless triggers of additional personnel and barriers outlined in the compromise, Americans must insist that border security be measured in absolute terms,” Mr. Bonner said. “Sadly, the plan that the Senate is proposing falls woefully short by that yardstick and needlessly jeopardizes the security of this nation.”
The compromise is expected to be brought to the Senate floor next week, although its passage is not a certainty. Conservative Republicans argued that the bill rewards illegal activity, while liberal Democrats said it is too draconian toward illegal aliens and too restrictive for future workers.
Rep. John Culberson, Texas Republican, said House Republicans are in a “state of shock and disbelief” over the compromise, saying legalizing illegal aliens meant amnesty and “we will do everything in our power to stop it.
“Our country must have the rule of law and order, and it is wrong to reward people who have broken the law,” Mr. Culberson said. “We need to focus on enforcing our existing laws and securing our borders first and we cannot permit this bill to pass.
“This amnesty bill … will allow every illegal immigrant from Mexico and their entire extended family anywhere in the world to receive benefits from our already overburdened and nearly bankrupt Social Security system,” he said.
The plan allows the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens in the United States to come forward and receive probationary status. Meanwhile, the government would continue to build fencing and vehicle barriers on the Mexico border, hire more immigration officers and institute better checks on employers.
Once the security improvements are complete, aliens on probation could apply for a Z visa, putting them on the path to citizenship. They would have to return home at some point to apply for the intermediate step of obtaining a green card.
The plan also would create a temporary-worker system and would create an immigration-point system based on education, work skills and English proficiency, alongside a redesigned family-reunification system.
Mr. Bonner, a 29-year Border Patrol veteran, noted that a similar immigration proposal by the Reagan administration in 1986 granted amnesty to millions of illegal alines and solved neither the problems of illegal immigration nor border security.
“The passage of time has proven the 1986 amnesty to be a mistake of colossal proportions,” he said. “Instead of ‘wiping the slate clean,’ it spurred a dramatic increase in illegal immigration. As long as impoverished people can find work in this country at wages that far exceed those available to them in their native countries, millions of illegal aliens will continue to cross our borders every year.”