U.S. Borders Out of Control

vieuxcmaq, Monday, February 4, 2002 - 12:00

Julia Malone (

At last week’s conference on immigration policy sponsored by David Horowitz’s Center for the Study of Popular Culture, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) said that "incredibly powerful forces" oppose a systematic crackdown on illegal immigration, even after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Control of U.S. borders remains an illusion, despite new security measures, says the leading congressional critic of immigration policy.

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), speaking this week to a conference on national security and immigration, pointed to his recent experience returning from Mexico. Travelers waited in line at the border, many holding identification cards, issued by the U.S. government, that can be "swiped" through machines, Tancredo said.

But the border inspectors had no machines for swiping the cards, the lawmaker said. Instead, they looked at each card to see if the photo appeared to match the person.

The low-tech process was evidence that "we do not have a system" for controlling the borders, Tancredo said. "We don't, in fact, want one. It's an illusion."

Tancredo, who chairs the congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, said that despite an array of laws and billions of dollars spent for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the nation lacks both the will and the infrastructure needed to enforce immigration laws already on the books.

The Census Bureau recently estimated that at least 8.7 million foreigners now live in the United States illegally.

Tancredo said that "incredibly powerful forces" oppose a systematic crackdown, even after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Democrats still see the influx of immigrants as potential voters, businesses want a plentiful supply of cheap labor, and Republicans want to please businesses, he said.

Labor unions also have embraced immigrants, including illegal workers, and they have an unlikely ally in the Libertarian movement.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and an advocate of large-scale immigration, agreed that pressures from various groups, especially industry leaders, will continue to discourage enforcement of immigration laws.

Norquist compared the laws against illegal alien workers to the little-enforced 55-mph speed limit.

"The consensus for enforcing present law isn't there," he told the immigration conference, sponsored by the nonpartisan Center for the Study of Popular Culture.

An INS spokesman said Wednesday that the agency has made gains in securing the borders since Sept. 11.

For example, during October and November, officials caught 70,310 people along the southwest border, a decrease of 50 percent from the same period a year ago.

"That would be a reflection of increased resources at the border," the INS spokesman, Russ Bergeron, said. A border inspection staff strengthened by overtime workers helped create a deterrent, he said.

Bergeron also cited the impact of the Sept. 11 attacks, and the downturn in the economy, which reduced the supply of jobs, as discouraging some foreigners from coming.

"The initiative to control our borders is a work in progress," he said. "We still don't have enough border resources."

Funding passed since Sept. 11 will add hundreds of new border agents and inspectors, Bergeron said.

However, interior enforcement for the entire country continues to fall on just 2,000 investigators, he said, and "that has not changed."

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