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Obama Calls Retreat with Border Station Closures

Closing nine patrol stations signals more lax immigration enforcement from the administration.

by
Jessica M. Vaughan

Bio

July 14, 2012 - 12:05 am
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Local law enforcement officers in the affected areas are irate over the planned closures. The sheriff of Potter County, located in the Texas panhandle, said the loss of the nearby station would affect his agency “tremendously,” as his county is a major corridor for smugglers. “I can’t hold a carload of people out there on I-40 for eight hours while somebody comes from El Paso,” Sheriff Brian Thomas told Fox News.

CBP maintains that ICE will pick up the slack. But ICE has not been given additional staff to do so. Besides, under the Obama administration policies, ICE’s enforcement activities have been severely curtailed and politicized, to the point where agents are directed to target only individual illegal aliens who are already in jail for something else, or who are repeat immigration scofflaws. They may not respond to referrals of illegal aliens that result from traffic stops and are expected to look the other way when vanloads of smuggled aliens are discovered. Disrupting the criminal organizations that each year bring in hundreds of thousands of new illegal  workers is not a priority for this administration.

Current and former Border Patrol agents, county sheriffs, and a few members of Congress have protested. But if the recent past is any guide, these objections will be ignored. Congress, through the appropriations process, could force the administration to keep the stations open. However, Congress is in a state of gridlock and preoccupied with many other matters.

This gridlock has enabled the White House to proceed unchecked in its scheme to dismantle immigration law enforcement through executive fiat. Lacking congressional and public support for enacting a massive amnesty for illegal aliens, over the past two years they have implemented a long list of changes that have stemmed the outflow of illegal immigrants brought on by the faltering economy, Bush-era enforcement strategies, and state action.

Each move has been fairly narrowly focused and spaced out in time:  draw down the National Guard at the border; substitute virtual fencing for real fencing; forbid Border Patrol agents from screening bus and train passengers; cancel partnership agreements with local law enforcement agencies known as 287(g); dismiss immigration court cases by the thousands; sue states that enact tough laws; forbid worksite raids in favor of audits that avoid contact with illegal workers — the list goes on and on.  The new Dream Act amnesty for roughly one million illegal aliens under the age of 30 is the latest and boldest example.

States can step in, either using the Supreme Court-endorsed approaches, like mandatory E-Verify and immigration checks by police, or more direct measures like those adopted in Texas, which now has a state fleet of gun boats to patrol the Rio Grande. 

But ultimately it will take a big change in the balance of power in Washington, D.C., to derail the Obama administration’s scheme and rebuild an effective border control program.

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Jessica M. Vaughan is Director of Policy Studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, DC research institute.
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