- - Wednesday, June 18, 2014


A spike in migration cost Bill Clinton the Arkansas governor’s mansion in 1980. The recent surge in illegal immigration has altered the political landscape and may cost Hillary Clinton the White House in 2016.

In 1980, the Cuban government released 125,000 citizens, who fled by boat to Florida. President Carter promised to receive these “Marielitos” with “welcome arms.” To cope with the influx, federal authorities relocated 25,000 arrivals to Fort Chafee, Ark. Cramped conditions, general disorder and violent confrontations created a sense of anarchy and chaos that resulted in Mr. Clinton’s gubernatorial defeat.

According to The Los Angeles Times, an “unprecedented surge” of illegal immigrants “are now arriving at a rate of more than 35,000 per month.” Like Mr. Carter, President Obama has welcomed the influx with open arms. Like the Carter administration, the Obama team has shifted the social and economic burdens of the resulting crisis to states and localities. After a perilous trek from their homes at the hands of violent cartels, tens of thousands of migrants are being transferred to cramped and disorganized makeshift facilities or released onto America’s streets.

Criminal aliens are exploiting the current chaos to enter with impunity. Federal law enforcement officers suffer daily defeat as the border dissolves into chaos and virtual anarchy. To borrow a favorite administration catchphrase, this is not “who we are as Americans.”

While the Mariel boatlift was engineered in Havana, today’s crisis traces its roots to Washington. Last December, Texas-based U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen wrote that “[the government] has simply chosen not to enforce the United States’ border-security laws.”

According to a Border Patrol intelligence memorandum disclosed to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, lax immigration enforcement and executive nullification of immigration statutes have produced an unprecedented surge in illegal entry. Consistent with independent findings by Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office, the memorandum concludes that a “high percentage” of illegal arrivals enter seeking “permisos” to remain in the country. The Justice Department unlawfully dispatched taxpayer-funded lawyers to help secure this objective.

Those seeking illegal entry are merely answering the administration’s call. Last year, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. declared that granting citizenship “for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in this country is absolutely essential. This is a matter of civil and human rights.” In January, Secretary of Homeland Security (and Border Patrol boss) Jeh Johson stated that awarding U.S. citizenship to illegal immigrants is “a matter of who we are as Americans.”

According to Vice President Joe Biden, “[the] 11 million people that [sic] are living in the shadows. I believe they’re already American citizens.” Making no distinction between legal and illegal immigration, Mr. Biden last week insisted that America requires a “constant, unrelenting stream” of immigrants. “Not dribbling,” Mr. Biden clarified, “significant flows.”

In April, Mrs. Clinton praised as “incredibly brave” a self-professed illegal immigrant who stated it is “extremely difficult to empower myself to get a job, to vote.” On Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton invited additional illegal migration when she stated that unaccompanied migrants may be reunited with their U.S.-based illegal-immigrant relatives. “[T]here are concerns about whether all of them can be sent back,” she said, “but I think all of them that can be should be reunited with their families.”

Last week, America’s chief executive sowed additional border dysfunction by declaring that “our future rests” on those brought to the country illegally. Exploiting a broken immigration system for political purposes is not the key to our future. Encouraging parents to place children at grave personal risk in defiance of U.S. law is not “who we are as Americans.” We are a fair and compassionate nation rooted in the rule of law. Dismantling the border won’t secure passage of immigration-reform legislation — it will derail it.

The administration insists Central American civil strife created the border emergency. If true, opponents will lay failure to anticipate or avert regional violence at Mrs. Clinton’s feet. According to the State Department Office of the Historian, Mrs. Clinton spent six days in Central America during her term as secretary of state. By contrast, Mrs. Clinton spent nearly twice as much time (11 days) in the global flash points of Switzerland and Barbados.

The collapse of the southern border was predictable, but it is reversible. Americans expect the administration to enforce the law, not to ignore it. Border integrity must be re-established. The State Department must work with neighboring governments and international media outlets to remind foreign citizens that reaching the U.S. border does not secure U.S. entry.

Congress must condition appropriations upon swift and compassionate repatriation of recent entrants to their home countries. It must hold agency officials accountable for facilitating the current chaos. Finally, as President George W. Bush did in 2006, the White House should mobilize National Guard units to help the Border Patrol wrest control of America’s southern frontier from human-trafficking organizations and other criminal cartels.

Don Ray, executive director of the Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition, likened the border crisis to Hurricane Katrina: “[Y]ou can’t have an influx of people like that without having an impact; I think we saw that after Katrina.” Only this time, the storm was created in Washington.

As they did in the wake of the Mariel boatlift, daily images of a preventable immigration crisis are directly affecting our politics. According to NBC political director Chuck Todd, events on the southern border contributed to a “perfect storm,” resulting in the primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican.

Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden and other executive officials won’t be on the ballot in 2014 or 2016. They must also realize, though, that the storm they created threatens their congressional allies in the 2014 midterms and Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid.

Robert N. Tracci served as chief legislative counsel and parliamentarian to the House Judiciary Committee, deputy assistant attorney general, and special assistant United States attorney.



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