Oct 9, 2010 2 Comments ›› Pat Dollard
In recent months, labor organizations representing federal immigration agents have been among the most outspoken challengers of Obama’s enforcement campaign.
In June, the American Federation of Government Employees’ National Council 118, which represents Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, issued a no-confidence vote for ICE Director John Morton, claiming he is promoting amnesty instead of enforcement because most ICE officers are unable to make immigration-related arrests on the streets, leading to “amnesty by policy.”
The National Border Patrol Council adopted a similar no-confidence resolution targeting Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar.
Brandon Judd, union vice president and president of Local 2544 in Tucson, said this week that the Obama administration has purposefully understaffed remote areas and attempted to limit the number of undocumented immigrants captured in Arizona so that it can assert that illegal immigration is dropping because of improved enforcement.
“The border is just as wide open in some areas as it’s ever been,” Judd said. “Yes, I do believe the administration wants as few arrests as they possibly can. If they can have fewer arrests, then they can say fewer people are crossing the border. This administration is desperate to say the border is secure.”
In a joint phone interview Friday, Morton and Aguilar bristled at claims that their enforcement campaigns are ineffective or designed to fail.
“I just don’t know where that sentiment is coming from because it is demonstrably not true,” Morton said. “We are not pro-amnesty. As to the charge of being anti-enforcement, you don’t have to look any further than the results themselves at ICE and Customs and Border Protection.”
Aguilar, former chief of the Tucson Sector, said the truth is that a staunch enforcement effort, along with an economic downturn, has stymied the flow of unlawful entrants. Even with agents covering more ground and using better equipment, he said, arrests on the border have dropped 70 percent in nine years and 30 percent since the previous administration.
“Right now, I would challenge anybody to fly over the border and find a place where there are no agents,” Aguilar said. “They are in rural and remote areas where they had never been before.”
As Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and others bolstered enforcement, called in troops, recited enforcement statistics and declared the border “more secure than ever,” an administration message seemed to gain traction.
Simultaneously, union leaders and other amnesty foes appeared to shift their most vocal complaints from border protection to workplace enforcement.
T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council of about 17,500 agents, said he’s still not satisfied with enforcement along the line with Mexico. However, he said, no amount of agents or troops will be enough to secure the border unless undocumented immigrants also are rounded up en masse within the U.S.
“We have consistently taken the position that interior enforcement is the key to stopping illegal immigration,” Bonner said, arguing that raids and roundups should be conducted nationwide.
The National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, a group of retired agents, recently issued a news release declaring that interior enforcement is “woefully lacking” and getting worse, “strangling our democracy and threatening our national security.”
G. Alan Ferguson, executive assistant, said enhanced border protection won’t solve America’s immigration problem unless illegal immigrants now on U.S. soil are rooted out.
Homeland Security this week sought to refute such allegations with data, just as it did the complaints about border security.
Federal reports for fiscal 2010 show ICE removed a record 392,000 non-citizens from the United States, half of those convicted criminals. The deportation of felons was up 70 percent over Bush’s final year in office.
Homeland Security also says that it is curbing the demand for undocumented employees. Since January 2009, ICE has audited 3,200 employers suspected of hiring undocumented immigrants, imposing $50 million in sanctions and punishing 225 companies.
“This administration has focused on enforcing our immigration laws in a smart, effective manner that prioritizes public safety and national security and holds employers accountable who knowingly break the law,” Napolitano said.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform responded with a news release accusing the administration of misleading the public with partial truths. “The goal is to convince the American people that immigration enforcement is being dealt with so that the administration can move on to its real objective: massive amnesty,” said Dan Stein, FAIR’s president.