If you could zip the United States-Mexican border closed, round up the illegal immigrants now in the country and have them follow the guidelines to become citizens as set forth in the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act supported by Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker last year, it would be a step forward.
The 11 million who are here illegally but want to become citizens would have to pay penalties and back taxes, have jobs and not be convicted of felonies. The bill also would double the number of border patrol agents and add 35 miles of border fencing.
The bill passed the Senate but not the House. And even if it had passed the House, the bill’s measures could not have been enacted quickly enough to keep the recent surge of illegal immigrants from crossing the country’s southern border into the U.S.
That the border is so porous after years of a recognized problem is awful. That so many in the recent surge are young people is a sad commentary on their life in their native, mostly Central American countries. That some of the recent illegals are from Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen and have ties to terrorists is downright scary and ought to give the United States pause.
So it’s a good thing House Speaker John Boehner recently told President Barack Obama there would be no House vote on comprehensive immigration reform this year.
Indeed, good riddance.
The borders should be secure, at a minimum, before reforms are set.
But, incredibly, instead of using the opportunity to exude crisis leadership and throw weighty resources behind border security in an effort to show Republicans and skeptical Americans he is serious about the continuing problem, the arrogant Obama said last week he’d asked officials “to identify additional actions my administration can take on our own … and fix as much of our immigration system as we can.”
Why there will be no bill forthcoming, as usual in Washington’s playpen, is a source for childish finger-pointing. The president, showing a lack of understanding of politics, blamed Republicans who wouldn’t “stand up against the tea party.”
The New York Times, in turn, said the “tea party is ascendant” in the House.
The fact immigration reform supporter Sen. Mario Rubio, R-Fla., was elected with heavy tea party support and that Democrats have declared the tea party dead after recent elections was apparently lost on him.
It doesn’t help Obama’s credibility, either, to note that six days before the president called for more funding to address the thousands of young people crossing the southern border, Deputy Chief of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Ronald D. Vitiello testified before a House committee that resources were being used “in an adequate way to protect the border” and “there isn’t a security problem.”
The truth is immigration reform wasn’t going to get done in an election year, and both Republicans and vulnerable Democrats are secretly breathing a sigh of relief over that.
Meanwhile, on the southern border, Obama should get busy. Not only could the number of unaccompanied children crossing there reach 90,000 this year (the number is already up 90 percent from last year, according to the Los Angeles Times), but a second illegal immigrant youth was confirmed last week to have swine flu (the H1N1 virus).
The country is “one outbreak,” said Dr. Jane Orient, an internal medicine specialist and the executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, from “an overwhelming public health crisis,” according to Action 4 News in Texas.
Obama is able to call on border agents to assist with the crisis as well as the National Guard and the Army Reserve. If the president is truly interesting is stemming this tide, cutting off the influx of what Texas Gov. Rick Perry said is “record, historic high numbers of [immigrants with Middle East terrorist ties] and seeing his own plummeting popularity rise, he’ll get to work.