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Concerns Over Illegal Immigration Becoming Mainstream

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
Once upon a time opposition to illegal immigration was championed by a few special interest groups and outspoken leaders like Tom Tancredo and Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Not so anymore. Regular sheriffs like Arizona’s Paul Babeu of Pinal County and Larry Dever of Cochise County are speaking up loudly about their frustrations dealing with it.

The Obama administration gets credit for mainstreaming the issue. Obama moved the country backwards on fixing the problem by suing Arizona over SB 1070 and decreasing funding for enforcement. One federal prosecutor in Texas refuses to prosecute illegal immigrants until they have been arrested seven times. He will not prosecute them with a felony until they have been caught 14 times. Even more egregiously, he does not prosecute coyotes smuggling fewer than six illegal immigrants. These policies are in place throughout Texas.

All the progress Arizona has made the past few years reducing illegal immigration and associated crime due to the efforts of Sheriff Arpaio, Senator Russell Pearce and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas is now being eroded. The Border Patrol reports that 219,300 illegal immigrants were apprehended coming through the Tucson Sector last year. But as many as 350,000 to 400,000 were not caught, with many heading north through Sheriff Babeu’s Pinal County. It is a bad time to be decreasing enforcement efforts. According to Sheriff Dever, illegal immigration is getting worse. "The bottom line is the people we’re battling are much more sinister and much more aggressive, much more determined than they have ever been,” Dever said on NPR. “When they used to run away, now they want to fight." The Yuma Sector is the only sector along the border that has “operational control” over its 126-mile section of the more than 3,000-mile border with Mexico.

More than 50% of illegal immigrants enter the country through the Tucson sector. Arizona is hit harder by illegal immigration than any other state in the country. The Bureau of Land Management recently posted signs 70 miles north of the border in Sheriff Babeu’s Pinal County warning citizens to stay out of certain areas due to the drug cartels and coyotes. The violence on the border has moved north, with much of it taking place 20-40 miles north of the border. Pinal County has become the number one pass through county in the nation for drug and human trafficking. Sheriff Babeu says that parts of Arizona are now controlled by the drug cartels, a $40 billion dollar industry. He laments, “The criminals have taken over our country, and our government has become our enemy.”

Obama’s Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, formerly governor of Arizona, brazenly declared last year that the border “is as secure as it ever has been.” The Border Patrol is circulating a PowerPoint presentation showing that illegal immigration has decreased. But their chart cherry picks which years and figures to compare. Sheriff Dever objects to the skewed presentation, “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid and buy into 'this border is secure' nonsense.” Dever resigned from the governmental Alliance to Combat Transnational Threats organization in February, calling it a charade. Sheriff Babeu accuses the federal government of trying to brainwash the American people by saying the border is safe and secure, in order to “lull us into a false sense of security.”

Outrageously, the federal government is instructing the Border Patrol to arrest fewer illegal immigrants, as part of a “catch and release” scheme. This selective enforcement is apparently being done so the Obama administration can boast that apprehensions of illegal immigrants have gone down while Obama has been in office. Sheriff Dever was so furious he testified to Congress last month about the practice. He is concerned the Obama administration is protecting illegal immigrants from prosecution, allowing many to get away with commit heinous crimes.

To fix our broken borders, Sheriff Babeu would like the 10-point border security plan proposed by Arizona’s Senator Jon Kyl implemented. It calls for 6,000 armed soldiers deployed along the border for up to two years, 3,000 of them located in Arizona. A double-barrier fence would be completed in key areas, along 700 miles of the 2,000-mile border. Currently, there are numerous miles along the border where there is no fence, or it is easily passed through. Another key component of the plan would fully fund and enforce Operation Streamline in Arizona’s two Border Patrol sectors, which puts illegal border crossers behind bars for 60 days.

Both Sheriffs Babeu and Dever have been named as defendants in the Obama administration’s lawsuit against Arizona over SB 1070, as well as in lawsuits filed by the ACLU and other radical activists. The ACLU has filed lawsuits against every Sheriff and County Attorney in Arizona. The organization has forced Babeu and Dever to form a Border Sheriffs’ legal defense fund to assist them in defending the lawsuits. Sheriff Dever calls the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in May upholding the gutting of SB 1070 “judicially-imposed amnesty.” “We get frustrated and disheartened when the White House, which has failed to secure the border for generations, sues us for trying to fill the legal vacuum.”

The Obama administration is using the race card to try and convince the courts to strike down SB 1070 – even though there is language in SB 1070 specifically prohibiting racial profiling. Sheriff Dever finds the accusations ridiculous that law enforcement is profiling illegal immigrants based on their race. In an article for the New York Times entitled “Abandoned at the Border,” Sheriff Dever wrote, “It’s not really what they look like as much as what they do that concerns me. Among other things, they generally run off into the desert when they see our officers approach. Citizens and legal residents don’t normally do that… In Cochise County, my deputies and I often have to travel many miles to respond to a resident’s call for assistance. The last thing we have time to do is harass law-abiding people.”

The liberal Obama administration has revealed its desperation by resorting to the race card to defeat common sense policies on illegal immigration. Lacking any substantive arguments to refute reality, they resort to emotion. Even worse, unlike Sheriffs Dever and Babeu who formed a private legal defense fund to spare taxpayers the expense of defending their counties from the lawsuits, Obama is using our money to fund his race-baiting lawsuit. Obama has gone too far by preventing regular sheriffs from doing their job.

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