There are plenty of reasons why the United States experiences so much illegal immigration. They include: Americans’ insatiable appetite for cheap labor and the standard of living it affords; the vast wealth disparity between the United States and Mexico; the failure of countries around the world, including Mexico, to produce jobs at home so people don’t have to cross borders; the reluctance of elected officials in this country to crack down on the politically well-connected business interests that keep illegal immigrants gainfully employed; and the fact that Americans, especially 20-somethings, have surrendered their work ethic and won’t do the jobs that wind up being done by illegal immigrants.
For a simpler view, we turn to Julie Myers, former assistant director of Homeland Security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Myers recently put the blame on “sanctuary” policies, which she said make it hard for federal agents to arrest and deport criminal gang members who are in the United States illegally.
First, let’s clarify what we mean by sanctuary cities. The shoe fits in San Francisco, where in 1989, the Board of Supervisors barred local officials, including police, from cooperating with federal authorities in the deportation of illegal immigrants. But the term sanctuary doesn’t apply in those cities — like San Diego — where there’s been no formal declaration but where police, on their own initiative, refuse to act as surrogate immigration officers.
Frankly, I’m not sure Myers understands the difference. Since nominated for the position in 2005, when she was 36 years old, Myers turned ICE into a laughingstock.
The niece of Richard Myers, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and wife of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff’s former chief of staff, Myers raised questions about her judgment even before her Senate confirmation when a Homeland Security employee showed up at a staff Halloween party dressed in prison stripes, dreadlocks, and dark makeup. Not only did Myers not object, she gave the employee an award. Later, digital photos from the party surfaced, even though Myers ordered them destroyed.
And, in December 2006, when ICE rounded up more than 1,200 illegal immigrants by raiding meat processing plants in six states — Colorado, Texas, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Utah — Myers packaged the operation as a crackdown on identity theft. She told reporters that illegal immigrants and others had stolen or bought the Social Security numbers of U.S. citizens in order to get jobs with Colorado-based meat processor Swift & Co. What she didn’t talk much about was that, according to reports, ICE told Swift officials about the raids in advance and then the officials apparently alerted workers, many of whom skedaddled before the feds showed up. The owners of the company escaped punishment.
Then came Myers’ brainchild: Operation Scheduled Departure. That was when ICE — a monstrously large and powerful government agency with more than 16,000 employees and a $5 billion annual budget — decided that the way to get 475,000 illegal immigrants without criminal records to leave the United States was to ask — pretty, please — for volunteers. Under the program, which was announced in August 2008, anyone willing to turn themselves in to federal authorities would have 90 days to get their affairs in order and be outfitted with an electronic ankle bracelet to keep track of their whereabouts. Only a handful of illegal immigrants took the deal. The program was quickly discontinued.
Now, Myers assures us that it is sanctuary cities — as opposed to, say, misplaced priorities, a failure to crackdown on employers, bureaucratic ineptness, and absurd policy initiatives — that is to blame for making her agency’s job that much harder.
What chutzpah. When did ICE become all about CYA?
The problem of illegal immigration is complicated, and — despite what we hear from cowardly and inept lawmakers in Congress — there are no simple and pain-free solutions. But it would be a step in the right direction if all interested parties would stop pointing fingers and accept their share of responsibility.
It starts with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and its — for lack of a better word — leadership.