Congressman Brian Bilbray never misses an opportunity to air his illegal immigration rhetoric on local and national news. In May, after President Obama met with Mexican President Calderon, Bilbray declared: “When President Obama says ‘pathway to citizenship’ he really means amnesty for the 10-20 million illegal immigrants within our borders.”
Bilbray is simply wrong. An earned pathway to citizenship as proposed by the comprehensive immigration reform bill (HR 4321) is not amnesty. An example of amnesty is the 1977 pardon of Vietnam draft evaders.
The Congressman also unseemly inflates the number of illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. to 20 million. As “Chair” of the Immigration Reform Caucus, Bilbray must know that Homeland Security has clearly stated our nation’s illegal immigrant population actually dropped by 1 million in 2009 to 10.8 million, the sharpest decline in over three decades.
In this election year, politicians like Senator John McCain press for more troops on the border to prevent violent crime in the U.S. despite a recently released FBI report that our nation’s top four cities with the lowest violent crime rate in 2009 are Phoenix, El Paso, Austin and San Diego, all border state cities.
Too often politicians use flawed statistics or policy as a springboard to get elected and re-elected. For example, in October 2006, Brian Bilbray put his stamp of approval on the Escondido City Council’s ordinance to ban landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants. The city’s law would have turned landlords into “immigration officers” and fined them for not discovering immigration violations. Escondido wisely decided not to enforce the ordinance after a federal judge temporarily blocked it.
Up for re-election in 2008, Congressman Bilbray urged completion of the “Virtual Border Fence,” an ineffective system of cameras and radar which reportedly has problems distinguishing people from vegetation. In March this year, the project was reevaluated after spending $672 million to build the system according to a Government Accountability Office report. Another failed program wasting our scarce tax payer dollars.
SSolutions, not rhetoric is needed. “Securing the border” can be accomplished through our own border patrol agency. Solving the illegal immigration issue more cost-effectively can be developed by understanding the problem. The immigration problem was exacerbated by NAFTA which allowed tariff-free imports to flood Mexico’s markets, changing local market dynamics. Under NAFTA, companies like WalMart expanded rapidly into Mexico (WalMex) displacing local manufacturers and products produced and sold in Mexico with imported goods and products from China and other countries.
Today, 95% of the wealth in Mexico is held by 2% of the population while Mexico’s poverty rate is still over 40 percent. Some claim Mexico’s poverty rate went down under NAFTA discounting that the poorest fled to leave behind poverty and came to the United States for jobs.
The United States and Mexico must partner to resolve economic problems related to Mexico’s poverty, employment, income disparity, drug corruption, and democratic governance. Unless we change our policies, “securing our borders” will continue to be another catchy phrase used by politicians without real results.
Tracy Emblem is an attorney in Escondido.