Kyl Accuses Obama Of Holding Border Security Hostage To Immigration Reform As Border Crime Drops

john kylAt a recent town hall meeting in Tempe, Arizona, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) announced that President Obama is “holding border security hostage” to immigration reform. Kyl claims that Obama suggested in private that Democrats won’t secure the border because, if they do, Republicans will have no reason to support immigration reform:

I met with the President in the Oval Office, just the two of us. I kicked the rest of the people out. […] Here’s what the President said: “The problem is, …if we secure the border, then you all won’t have any reason to support ‘comprehensive immigration reform.” In other words, they’re holding it hostage. They don’t want to secure the border unless and until it’s combined with comprehensive immigration reform. I explained, you and I, Mr. President, have an obligation to secure the border.

And it also has potentially positive benefits. You don’t have to have comprehensive reform to secure the border.

Watch it:

Perhaps Obama failed to mention it to Kyl, or maybe Kyl conveniently omitted any remarks that explained to him that there’s a much better reason to hold off on throwing billions of dollars at the border other than the crude political calculations that Kyl accuses Democrats of: the border is reportedly safer than it’s ever been. The mistaken premise behind the Republicans’ call for border security before immigration reform is based on the premise that there has been a rabid increase in violence at the border since Kyl’s immigration reform bill failed in 2007. In other words, it gives Republicans reason to oppose legislation that they went as far as sponsoring just a couple years ago. It would be a good excuse if it were true. However, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics, violent crime at the border has been steadily declining.

While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made great strides over the past year, one type of crime is up at the border: property crime. That’s because no matter how much money is poured into “border security,” it doesn’t change the fact that the lack of green cards and work permits means that immigrants enter the U.S. via the backyards of border residents. The country’s visa system is outdated by more than 20 years and, regardless of economic conditions in the U.S., immigrants who are desperate to work here are offered almost no legal avenues to make that possible. Kyl’s own ten point border security plan would do almost nothing to solve that or address the 12 million undocumented immigrants who are already in the U.S. By creating a flexible visa lottery that responds to U.S economic needs and putting undocumented immigrants on a path to legalization, immigration reform would do that and more.

The problem with the approach taken by Kyl and Republicans is that it conflates illegal immigration with dangerous criminality. There’s even a psychological term that was recently used to describe the chronic misperception experienced by Republicans: self-serving perception bias.

andreaOverall, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes and immigration reform could go a long way in freeing up more resources that DHS can direct away from chasing undocumented workers through the desert and towards pursuing threats to our national security. In the end, Republicans are holding immigration reform hostage to border security and blocking a comprehensive solution to our nation’s immigration problem to score cheap political points.

Andrea Christina Nill

Reposted with permission from The Wonk Room.


  1. in_awe says

    Well, selectively defining any issue can conveniently allow an author to radically alter the truth. If the ONLY issue about illegal immigration and an unsecured border was crime rates at the border, the the author might have a point. But what defines “the border”? Is it territory within 100 yards of the border? A mile? Five miles?

    Why has the government posted warnings signs on public lands warning citizens:

    The Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge has been adversely affected by border-related activities. The international border with Mexico has also become increasingly violent. Assaults on law enforcement officers and violence against migrants have escalated. Violence on the Refuge associated with smugglers and border bandits has been well documented. Many of these activities are concentrated at, or near, the border. The concentration of illegal activity, surveillance and law enforcement interdictions make these zones dangerous.

    Closure is in effect until further notice.

    Why is kidnapping in Phoenix at levels normally seen only in third world countries?

    Phoenix, Arizona has become the kidnapping capital of America, with more incidents than any other city in the world outside of Mexico City and over 370 cases last year alone. [ABC News]

    Could it be that Mexican drug cartels are now controlling drug importation and distribution within the US? Look in any state right up to Alaska and New England and see whether illegals are running crime syndicates.

    In 1980, our federal and state prisons housed fewer than 9,000 criminal aliens. By the end of 1999, these same prisons housed over 68,000 criminal aliens. Today, criminal aliens account for over 29 percent of prisoners in Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities and a higher share of all federal prison inmates. These prisoners represent the fastest growing segment of the federal prison population. Over the past five years, an average of more than 72,000 aliens have been arrested annually on drug charges alone.

    This of course ignores “normal” crimes related to unemployment, drug use, gang activities, etc. In some areas such as LA, there are racial elements involved, too:

    The indictment is the latest of several investigations that found gangs participating in race-based violence. Federal prosecutors two years ago charged members of a Latino gang with a violent campaign to drive blacks out of the unincorporated Florence-Firestone neighborhood that allegedly resulted in 20 homicides over several years.

    The size of Latino gangs is staggering in cities across the nation, with fresh recruits derived from newly arrived border crossers.

    But enough about how as a nation with open borders that we are safer than ever before. What about the economic damage caused by uncontrolled immigration of workers lacking even middle school educations consigned to at best minimum wage jobs? If the government were to order illegal immigrants to stay with the confines of a ghetto, not integrate into society, and receive “slave wages” there would be justifiable outrage around the world. Yet that is what open border supporters and Hispanic activist groups are doing.

    Yep, those wacky conservatives just don’t get it. Right.

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