Dear Mr. President: How About a Border Strategy?

By Janice Kephart on May 24, 2011

On May 11, the White House issued "Statements of Support for President Obama's Commitment to Fix our Broken Immigration System", listing business leaders, elected officials, labor unions, and "immigration reform" advocates. The focus of the comments was on the economics of immigration, and the need to rebuild our businesses and universities with foreign workers and foreign students. Strangely, these comments were affiliated with the president's speech in El Paso, Texas which, strangely again, would seem a venue to talk border security as much as discuss border economics. Instead, it was a speech lined with the soft down of amnesty in a variety of forms. No answers, no strategy, no legislation, just niceties for the illegal population. The words for fellow Americans who oppose amnesty because they live on the border or who believe that laws should be enforced or who are concerned about national security and the spillover of cartel activity in the US – for them, the president held a much harsher tone.

This is mainly what the president said: (1) immigration is really just an economic issue; and (2) those who talk security (a) will never be satisfied; and (b) are archaic enough to propose "alligators in moats" as a security measure. No mention of federal agents killed on both sides of the border, such as Jaime Zapata, the ICE agent in Mexico hunted down by the cartels, or the BORTAC agent Brian Terry who died from gun shots wounds 12 miles north of the Arizona border in a drug-related shoot-out. No mention of brutal murders of Americans on both sides of the border in the past year. Instead, our president laid down a joke in lieu of a solid statement about border security. Then he said this:

So, here's the point. I want everybody to listen carefully to this. We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement. All the stuff they asked for, we've done. But even though we've answered these concerns, I've got to say I suspect there are still going to be some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: They're racist!

THE PRESIDENT: You know, they said we needed to triple the Border Patrol. Or now they're going to say we need to quadruple the Border Patrol. Or they'll want a higher fence. Maybe they'll need a moat. (Laughter.) Maybe they want alligators in the moat. (Laughter.) They'll never be satisfied. And I understand that. That's politics.

I could list, one by one, all our work at the Center for Immigration Studies, and mine specifically, to refute the blanket statement "All the stuff they [the Republicans] asked for, we've done." I could review how the Border Patrol are told not to monitor heavy trafficked areas and where they do encounter illegal loads, to "scare them back" across the border. I could talk about how this administration stopped building new fencing. It was amusing that the president claimed in his speech "The fence is now basically complete;" perhaps he should have taken one of those border tours offered by the Texas or Arizona governors so he knew better. I could refer to my work on how the administration cancelled the successful virtual border fencing called the Secure Border Initiative. I could review the four ICE "mission melt" blogs which prove that ICE is by policy not to apprehend any illegal alien but for known and convicted criminals, or terrorists. I could pull out the memos wherein this administration has sought to figure out how to usurp congressional oversight over immigration and conduct de facto amnesty by changing immigration visa category regulations.

I spoke on Fox Radio stations nationwide the day after the President's El Paso appearance, about this speech. The hosts were the best I've ever had, and asked the best questions. Yet one of the things that dumbfounded them was one simple fact: there has been no Border Patrol strategy in eight years. The 2003 mission is clear:

The Border Patrol's new Strategy consists of six core elements: (1) securing the right combination of personnel, technology and infrastructure; (2) improving mobility and rapid deployment to quickly counter and interdict based on shifts in smuggling routes and tactical intelligence; (3) deploying defense-in-depth that makes full use of interior checkpoints and enforcement operations calculated to deny successful migration; (4) coordinating and partnering with other law enforcement agencies to achieve our goals; (5) improving border awareness and intelligence; and (6) strengthening the Headquarters command structure.

The Border Patrol has no operational mission in this administration, no strategy to follow, and most certainly is not following any of the six core elements of the prior administration. You can quadruple the Border Patrol, Mr. President. You can build a higher fence. You can even build a moat with alligators – which the cartels will shoot dead or build a ramp over. But none of this matters if there is no policy in place that tells illegal aliens that whether they are coming to get a job, transfer or sell drugs, or traffic humans, that when they get here the law will matter and they will be turned away.

Yet I suppose it is best to make fun if you don't intend to do anything. That, sir, you do well.