Wednesday, December 9, 2009
The Experts have Spoken: "The Time for Immigration Reform is NOW!"
El Paso Times reports:
The time has come for the U.S. government to focus on other aspects of immigration besides enforcement, a panel of national security and law- enforcement experts said Tuesday. "While we have made unprecedented investments in security at the border, more enforcement resources alone will not make us more secure," said James W. Zig lar, ex-commissioner of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service and a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute. The experts said an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants are living in the United States.
"Comprehensive immigration reform will allow law enforcement to focus limited resources on criminals who continue to evade the law, and help re-establish trust between law enforcement and everyone living in our communities," El Paso Chief of Police Greg Allen said.
Stewart Verdery, a former Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary, said Tuesday's conference was timely because Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is scheduled to address the Senate Judiciary Committee today. She is expected to provide details about recent enforcement improvements, as well as the need for broader legislative reforms.
"While the vast majority of those who are here illegally are hard-working residents seeking to support their families, right now we don't have any way of differentiating those who come to work from those who are violent or repeat criminals," Ver dery said.
Allen said El Paso attained its ranking as the second- safest city of its size in the United States by developing close ties with community residents. "We don't want to seek out people only for their immigration status," he said. Ziglar said proposed immigration reform fell victim to partisan politics in 2006, mainly because of concerns over gaps in border security. However, he said, the government has made important strides during the past six years. For example, the annual budget for Customs and Border Protection doubled from $6 billion to $12 billion, and the number of armed Border Patrol agents increased to 20,000, most of them deployed to the southern border.
The federal government also completed 700 miles of border fencing, which incorporated technologies, physical barriers and other structures that helped agents deter illegal immigration. In recent years, the flow of undocumented immigrants has slowed because of increased enforcement and the recession. Further enforcement measures could see diminishing returns, Ziglar said. Border Patrol statistics for the El Paso sector show that apprehensions of undocumented immigrants have dropped by nearly half in recent years.