Immigration Enforcement & Border Protection Chiefs Speak Out On Securing The Border

July 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

from wall street journal 07.29.10

Yesterday, after months of heated rhetoric and debate about Arizona’s controversial new immigration law, federal Judge Susan Bolton blocked most of SB 1070 from taking effect. The move served as an important affirmation of the federal government’s responsibility in enforcing our nation’s immigration laws. But regardless of what happened with this case, this administration will continue to enforce the law, just as we have been doing for the past 18 months: with unprecedented resources and a clear commitment to serious, smart and effective enforcement that has yielded important results.

We are career prosecutors who lead the two main border and immigration enforcement agencies in the United States—U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). We know the paramount importance of enforcing the law and we understand the federal government’s responsibilities. And what we have seen on the border, at workplaces, and in communities across America in the past 18 months represents the most serious approach to enforcement we have witnessed in our careers.

At the border we have concentrated unprecedented amounts of manpower, infrastructure and technology. Today, the Border Patrol is better staffed than at any time in its history—nearly doubling in personnel since 2004 to more than 20,000 today. ICE has a quarter of all its personnel in the Southwest border region, also the most ever. There is more fencing and other infrastructure than ever before. And more technology, improving the ability to detect illegal movements at all times of day and night.

We have engaged in high levels of cooperation with Mexico to crack down on smuggling. And we have provided more funding than ever before to local law enforcement in border communities to deal with border-related crime.

As a result, the numbers are clearly moving in the right direction: Last year, illegal crossings along the Southwest border were down 23%, to a fraction of their all-time high. Seizures of contraband rose significantly across the board in 2009—illegal bulk cash, illegal weapons and illegal drugs. By all measurable standards, crime in U.S. border towns has remained flat for most of the last decade.

At the same time, this administration knows that more can be done. That is why the president authorized the deployment of up to 1,200 National Guard troops to support federal law enforcement on the border. He has also asked Congress for $600 million in supplemental funding, which reflects the administration’s understanding that the assets we have must be a permanent part of a long-term, systematic effort to deny, disrupt and defeat the activities of transnational criminal organizations that smuggle illicit drugs, people, weapons and bulk cash across our border with Mexico.

Throughout the country, we have made enforcement of immigration laws smarter and more effective. We have made cracking down on drug cartels and deporting convicted criminal aliens who threaten public safety a priority. And we have achieved results.

Programs like Secure Communities, which identifies illegal immigrants already in state and local jails who have committed crimes have been expanded. Last year, we deported a record number of felons who were in the country illegally.

ICE investigates and prosecutes employers who have a history of knowingly employing an illegal work force. Instead of focusing on high-profile worksite enforcement actions, or “raids,” this administration has already audited more companies to check their compliance with federal law than the last administration did during its entire time in office. To help employers comply with the law, the administration continues to improve and expand the E-Verify program, a web-based system that allows employers to verify the employment eligibility of new hires.

In all, more is being done—and more results are being achieved—to secure the border and enforce the law than ever before. This is important work that we will continue—throughout the nation and in Arizona—as we remain committed to actively working with members of Congress from both parties to make necessary reforms to our immigration laws.

Meanwhile, this administration remains committed to enforcing the laws we have in the smartest and most effective way possible. The progress we’ve already made shows why it’s so critical to continue pushing forward.

Mr. Bersin is the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Mr. Morton is director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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