Border Security Is President Obama’s Responsibility, Whether He Likes It or Not

In the wake of increased border violence, kidnappings, and incursions into its territory by drug gangs and human smuggling operators, the state of Arizona passed SB 1070 last month. That law is an attempt to bring some law and order to its chaotic border with Mexico. Since its passage, the controversial law has been the subject of a national discussion that has morphed into a heated argument on race, immigration law, and border security as a whole.

While the Republican Party of Texas believes that there is legitimate debate over SB 1070, and we look forward to working with our own legislature next year on border security and many other issues facing Texas, the fact is that the Arizona law has been grossly mischaracterized by many in the media and liberal activists and Democrats throughout the nation. For instance, the phrase “lawful contact,” which under SB 1070 governs when Arizona law enforcement officials may inquire about immigration status, has been adjudicated many times over many decades and is well understood as a legal concept by law enforcement officers. And the requirement on the part of legal immigrants to carry their documentation on their persons at all times is not new in the Arizona law, nor is it unique: That requirement is not directed toward any specific ethic group and has been federal law since 1940. It was passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. SB 1070 also specifically forbids racial profiling.

The most ironic aspect of the debate over Arizona’s law is the reaction from the Obama administration. Border security is a vital component of our national security. While aspects of securing our nation’s borders reasonably fall to the states and even local governments, overall, border security is a federal responsibility. The federal government has largely failed in this responsibility, and Arizona’s new law was drafted and passed in large part to address this federal failure.

Rather than react to Arizona’s law with any fairness or understanding of the very real violence that plagues Arizona and all border states thanks to the federal government’s failure to secure our borders, the left let fly with charges of “racism” and even more extreme insults, and President Obama called the law “misguided” and “irresponsible.” Whatever one thinks of Arizona’s new law, and there is much room for legitimate debate over it, for President Obama to call Arizona “irresponsible” for taking action to fix a federal failure is itself irresponsible. President Obama’s stance is the very height of irresponsibility, and ought not pass unchallenged.

But the role of President Obama and his party in the border failure is worse than mere rhetorical excess. In fact, in 2009 the Obama administration cut funding for needed technological upgrades to our border security infrastructure. And there were signs even before Arizona passed SB 1070 that the Democrats planned to create a divisive battle over immigration reform as a means of mitigating their losses in the upcoming November elections, and as a misguided attempt to woo Hispanic voters. They had no interest in doing anything or taking any action that would actually enhance border security. The Democrats wanted the battle to distract from their terrible record on the economy, federal spending, their partisan and misguided health care takeover, and other issues. Such a battle would not have represented the hope and change that President Obama promised when he campaigned for the presidency. It would have represented one of the most cynical and irresponsible political campaigns in recent memory. But that is the battle that President Obama and the Democrats relished for the summer of 2010. They read the polls, which show them losing the U.S. House and possibly the Senate, and they sought to divide America on an issue that ought to be beyond partisanship: national security. Given the fact that, a few years ago, the Democrats filibustered Miguel Estrada’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court “because he is Hispanic,” it is perhaps not altogether surprising that the Democrats as a party would craft such a devious and nakedly race-based strategy. But it is shocking to see the president of the United States cast aspersions on a state that is acting to correct one of his failures.

If it has done nothing else, Arizona’s law has forced the nation to confront the fact that in one of its core responsibilities, the federal government has failed the people. Given this fact, it is more than fair to ask why the federal government under Democratic rule keeps trying to take on more and more responsibility and authority over the lives of law-abiding citizens and legal residents. Why, for instance, are the Democrats in Washington pushing for more control over the Internet, and why are they advocating a national ID card? And it is more than fair to demand that the federal government deal first with the jobs that the Constitution actually gives it before expanding its role into areas where the Constitution is silent and may actually stand against these Democratic pet projects.

America is the land of opportunity, and should always remain that. In many ways America’s immigration laws are among the most open in the world, and should remain as such. But everyone from around the world who wishes to come to America and participate in the magic blend of opportunity and freedom that our nation represents should abide by our laws. That’s all we ask.

Border security, especially in the age of transnational terrorism, is national security. It is time for President Obama to drop the divisive, race-based politics-as-usual rhetoric and do his job. It is time for Washington to secure our borders, first, without folding in amnesty to those who have transgressed our immigration laws. If Washington does not secure our borders, there will be more violence on our uncontrolled border, more law enforcement agents and private citizens will be injured and possibly killed, and the states will have no choice but to continue to take matters into their own hands. Texas will craft strategies that will work for Texas to secure our border. It is only fair to our state’s employers, our taxpayers, and Texans of every heritage that we do so.  President Obama can call that “irresponsible” all he wants, but the lion’s share of responsibility for securing our borders is in his hands as long as he remains president. That job is his, whether he wants it or not.