Securing Our Borders

, Katherine Duncan, Leave a comment

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff spoke to a packed audience at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on Thursday, June 29 about immigration reform and the Secure Border Initiative, which is shaping up to be as big an issue on campus as it is this session of Congress.

Chertoff said that increased border patrol security is needed along with a temporary worker program, to help meet the “strong demand for workers” in the U.S. and “break the incredible economic pressure on the border.”

To deter illegal immigrants, Chertoff pushed for Congress to pass immigration reform legislation before the end of the year, emphasizing the importance of “addressing this [illegal] immigration issue that has challenged our country for the past twenty years.”

“We cannot allow this problem to continue to fester, because it will only get worse,” Chertoff said. “We need to secure our border in a meaningful way, and develop a comprehensive and permanent solution to the problem.”

Funding for the border patrol has already increased by two-thirds, according to Chertoff, and 2,100 illegal aliens were arrested between October 2005 and March 2006. “[These arrests] had a real deterrent impact,” Chertoff said. “People saw the results of the campaigns we waged.”

Among new strategies Chertoff cited were those concerning interior enforcement, including tougher criminal sanctions for employers of illegal workers. “A small penalty is not enough,” Chertoff said of the fine that he likened to “a corporate parking ticket” that has often been charged to such employers in the past. “There is no tolerance for avoiding legal obligations—we need to instill [in employers] a clear message of no excuses,” Chertoff said.

In criticism of the former administration’s lax detention rules and penalties, Chertoff lobbied for “high end, high impact enforcement” to target the “major players” in illegal immigration.

Chertoff also noted the efficiency of recent deterrent programs, including “Operation Return to Sender,” in which over 2,000 illegal immigrants were arrested, and “Operation Community Shield,” in which 3,100 illegal immigrant gang members were arrested. He emphasized the necessity of keeping U.S. citizens safe, especially from “the worst type of illegal immigrants: those that come to prey on Americans.”

Chertoff made clear that the U.S. government is not attempting to deter all immigrants, just those that pose a threat to the security of legal citizens. “There are certain immigrants that want to come into the country to commit crimes, or terrorism,” Chertoff said, stressing the importance of strengthening border security and enhancing interior security in attempt to stop illegal immigrant criminals from entering the U.S.

“We want the likelihood of [illegal immigrants] successfully crossing the border and getting work to be so small that they will no longer try to do it,” Chertoff said. “This involves getting more [border patrols] on the ground and creating a tactful infrastructure so that we have total visibility of people coming across the border.” For those illegal aliens that are currently in the country or manage to illegally cross the border, Chertoff said that steps will be taken to “deploy, apprehend and capture [them] as quickly as possible.”

Katherine Duncan is an intern at Accuracy in Media, Accuracy in Academia’s parent group.