Fresh off of his victory lap from the killing of Osama Bin Laden, Barack Obama hit the road Tuesday visiting El Paso, Texas on his first trip to the US-Mexico border since taking office. In what was clearly a campaign speech, Obama claimed Tuesday that the US border with Mexico has improved since he took office. Trying to capitalize on the temporary bump in his popularity, Obama called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Countering Republican calls to focus on border security before moving to a comprehensive overhaul, Obama said in his speech to an enthusiastic crowd in the politically unfriendly territory of El Paso that their demands have been more than met by his administration but “they’ll never be satisfied.” He boasted of increasing border patrol agents, nearing completion of a border fence, and screening more cargo.
“We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement,” Obama said. “But even though we’ve answered these concerns, I gotta say I suspect there are still going to be some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time. Maybe they’ll need a moat,” Obama said mockingly to laughter from the crowd. “Maybe they’ll want alligators in the moat.”
But Republicans said Obama wasn’t telling the whole story about border security. Republican Congressman Michael McCaul from Texas said Mexican cartels have increased their presence inside the United States and that the data on spillover crime and violence is under-reported and that between 70 and 90 percent of Texas’ 1,200-mile border with Mexico is still not under operational control.
“Before we start talking about reforming our immigration policy we need to prioritize our national security and gain operational control of the border,” McCaul said in a statement. “Despite the president’s rhetoric that he has gone ‘above and beyond’ to secure the border, this mission is not accomplished.”
Texas Congressman Lamar Smith, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said, “It is ironic that President Obama would travel so close to the border and still be so far from reality. It is clear President Obama is in full campaign mode, but his words do not match his record. He continues to ignore the facts.”
In his speech, the president sought to cast immigration overhaul as a pocketbook concern rather than a security or moral issue.
“Now we need Congress to catch up,” he said. “Now we need to come together around reform that reflects our values as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. Reform that demands everyone take responsibility.”
That Obama talks out of both sides of his mouth is always apparent, but to talk about a ‘nation of laws’ when he refuses to enforce immigration laws is the height of hypocrisy. Not only doesn’t Obama enforce immigration law, he sued the State of Arizona to prevent it from enforcing border security and sensible immigration laws.
Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said that House Republicans had no plans to take up immigration legislation and argued that if Obama were serious about immigration reform he would have reached out to Boehner on the issue, which he hasn’t.
Obama called on Congress to pass the Dream Act, which would provide a path to legal status for college students and others who were brought to the country as children. Last year, the House of Representatives, then controlled by Democrats, passed the measure, but Senate Republicans blocked it.
“So we’re going to keep fighting for the Dream Act,” he said. “We’re going to up the fight for reform.”
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the second ranking Democrat in the Senate, will introduce a new Dream Act bill on Wednesday and Representative Howard Berman of California will file a companion measure.
Thankfully, the Dream Act and any overhaul legislation won’t go anywhere without cooperation from Republicans.