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Feds' border action not nearly enough

By Lou Dobbs
CNN

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Department of Homeland Security
George W. Bush
Lou Dobbs
United States

(CNN) -- The Department of Homeland Security has said it will send more than 500 additional Border Patrol agents to Arizona this year to help stop the flow of illegal aliens into the United States.

However, most of these additional agents are being transferred from other border states at a time when the federal government should be hiring as many new agents as possible. Not so coincidentally, the move came two days before a concerned group of private citizens was to start patrolling the most porous stretch of the southern border with Mexico.

The Bush administration's failure to enforce immigration laws that would slow the invasion of illegal aliens has led this group to take action. Starting Friday, leaders of the Minuteman Project, a self-proclaimed neighborhood watch group, will spread more than 1,000 volunteers along the Arizona border in an effort to report suspected illegal aliens to the Border Patrol.

In response to the Minuteman Project, President Bush said last week, "I am against vigilantes in the United States of America. I am for enforcing law in a rational way."

But there's a reason these so-called vigilantes exist: The federal government refuses to address seriously the increasingly important issues of border security and illegal immigration.

There's tremendous irony in the president's declaration that it's the Border Patrol's job to enforce laws in a rational way. In his budget, the president provided for 210 additional Border Patrol agents this year, when it's been mandated that 2,000 were needed.

In a news briefing this week, White House press secretary Scott McClellan also expressed concern about the Minuteman Project, saying, "We don't want people operating outside the law. The president made that very clear last week."

More irony from the administration: We don't want concerned Americans operating outside the law in response, yet we have no problem allowing millions of noncitizens to cross our borders illegally every year.

There's never been a more important time to enforce U.S. immigration laws, especially at the southern border. The population of illegal aliens surged to more than 10 million last year, according to a new study from the Pew Hispanic Center, representing about one-third of the foreign-born population in the United States. Nearly 6 million illegal aliens are Mexican, the center says, and about 80 percent to 85 percent of the migration from Mexico in recent years has been undocumented. Another 2.5 million are from other Latin American countries, according to the center.

A few congressmen realize the growing problem of illegal immigration into this country and are trying to propose solutions to fix it. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, is fighting the administration to pass necessary reforms as part of the intelligence overhaul bill signed this year.

Illegal immigration depresses wages, leads to job losses and drains the U.S. economy of public funds for social services and education, but there is also the larger problem of protecting our country from another deadly terrorist attack.

"I think that you can't have homeland security without border security," Sensenbrenner says.

"And obviously this is a place that smugglers use not only to bring people across the border, but to bring drugs across the border and gang members across the border. This is a public safety problem that impacts every American, even Americans who live as far away from the Mexican border as my constituents in Wisconsin."

The decision to send more agents to the most vulnerable stretch of the U.S. border with Mexico is a step forward in apprehending the many illegal aliens who will sneak into the country this year. But the move is largely ceremonial and falls well short of what is necessary to solve this troubling crisis.

If the president wants to enforce the law in a rational way, he might start by enforcing the laws already on the books. Until Bush can find it in his budget to send the appropriate number of Border Patrol agents requested by Congress, concerned private citizens and state governments will continue to take action.

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