Securing the border with semantics
President Obama made a run for the border on May 10 to shore up his credentials on the immigration issue. Speaking from Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso, Mr. Obama defended his strategy as if it were working. “They’ll never be satisfied,” he said, lashing out at critics. “The truth is, the measures we’ve put in place are getting results.”
The Obama administration has cooked up a novel way to calculate what a great job his Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has been doing in stemming the flow of aliens flooding over the border from Mexico. In March, Ms. Napolitano stood on a bridge connecting El Paso to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and proclaimed border security to be “better than ever.” In testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee two weeks ago, Ms. Napolitano claimed that the meaning of “operational control” of the border is “archaic” and that she intends to devise a “more quantitative and qualitative way to reflect what actually is occurring at the border.” She said she wants an index that would include a measure of how many persons have been deterred from even attempting to jump the border.
By counting these theoretical illegals — as opposed to real ones — Ms. Napolitano’s border-security mission becomes much easier. While hundreds of thousands actually cross over annually, compared to, say, Mexico’s entire population of 112 million, they represent a tiny fraction. Preventing border crossing in a computer model or a spreadsheet allows Ms. Napolitano to proclaim “mission accomplished” without having to actually crack down in a way that would offend left-wing open-border advocacy groups.
Ms. Napolitano’s attempt to redefine what it means to secure the U.S. border is a brilliant example of double-speak worthy of “Big Sis.” Real numbers are far less forgiving. In February, the Government Accountability Office reported that the Border Patrol has only 873 miles of the 2,000-mile southern border subject to “operational control.” The term means simply that the Border Patrol has the capacity to deter illegal crossers and pursue them when they’re spotted. The remaining length is mostly open for free passage. In remote regions of Arizona, cartels have established observation posts providing intelligence to ensure safe border transit for drug couriers.
Mr. Obama and his economic advisers do deserve some credit for discouraging illegals from crossing the southern border. By driving up the U.S. unemployment rate from 5.8 percent to 9.0 percent, the O Force has turned the land of opportunity into a job-deficient welfare state. Even illegals are having a hard time landing jobs. None of the administration’s discouragement is intentional. As Mr. Obama said on May 10, those who break immigration law should “pay their taxes, pay a fine and learn English” before getting right back into line to obtain citizenship.
When there’s essentially no penalty for sneaking into the United States, there’s no reason not to hop over the border. The Obama administration doesn’t have any answers to the immigration problem so it’s reinventing definitions to pretend progress has been made.