Border Patrol agents who executed highly popular roundups of illegal aliens in Southern California last month – the first of their kind in recent memory – say they’ve been told to stop such enforcement action, and the Bush administration official in charge of the immigration enforcement has refused to say if there would be additional sweeps in the future.
In an extraordinary radio interview Thursday on Los Angeles talk-radio station KFI, talk-show host John Kobylt grilled Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security Asa Hutchinson about why the roundups had been ended. The official, a former congressman who works under Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, attempted to defend the Bush administration record on immigration enforcement, but was repeatedly pressured by Kobylt to justify the canceling of the sweeps.
In early June, the Temecula Border Patrol station formed a special Mobile Patrol Group that conducted a series of illegal-alien sweeps in Norco, Corona and Escondido, Calif. The12-man group made more than 450 arrests as a result of the roundups.
Ron Zermeno, shop steward for the National Border Patrol Council at the Temecula station was frustrated with the decision to stop the sweeps.
“We don’t know which way to turn. For once we were doing our job, what the government pays us to do,” he told the North County Times.
After the roundups occurred, Latino activists protested at Border Patrol stations demanding an end to the sweeps.
Late last month, Hutchinson told members of Congress the raids were executed without the approval of higher-ranking officials, according to the Times report. While the sweeps were not illegal, they violated policy and the chain of command, Hutchinson said at the time.
In the radio interview, which lasted 22 minutes without any commercial breaks, Kobylt repeatedly confronted Hutchinson about when sweeps of illegal aliens would begin again.
While Hutchinson did not directly confirm that the sweeps had been stopped, he repeatedly stressed that future operations would have to be “coordinated” with other agencies. He told Kobylt while the priority of the Border Patrol is stopping the flow of aliens at the border, he also supports “interior enforcement” of immigration laws.
“Those 12 guys in Temecula rounded up 400 people in three days,” Kobylt said. “Why not let them do what they’re doing? They don’t need to coordinate with anybody.
“They were doing fine, and the American taxpayers here in Southern California were thrilled beyond belief.”
While Hutchinson argued the priority should be placing personnel at the border, Kobylt countered that California has 2 million illegal aliens who he says are a drain on the taxpayers of the state.
“It’s $5 billion in tax money going down the hole every year to support these people,” he told Hutchinson. “Why aren’t you doing your job? Why do we still have tens of thousands of illegal aliens piling over the border every year?”
Kobylt charged Hutchinson with not neglecting the task of interior enforcement, pointing out the California roundups were big news stories because such action had not been taken “for years.”
“When are the [round ups] going to start up again?” Kobylt asked Hutchinson.
“I’m not going to announce that on the radio,” responded the official, who appeared riled by Kobylt’s direct and persistent questioning. “You can expect interior enforcement actions in the future.”
Kobylt accused Hutchinson of bowing to political pressure from immigrant-rights groups. He slammed the official for not confirming that the roundups would continue.
Said Kobylt after one of Huthinson’s responses: “That’s gobbledy-gook.”
The host continued to pound on the roundup issue, but did not get the “yes or no” answer he was looking for.
“Yes or no, are you going to restart the border sweeps?” Kobylt pressed.
Responded Hutchinson: “We’re going to continue the enforcement operations. They’ll be coordinated between the Border Patrol and the ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agents. And that’s the commitment that we make.”
The talk-show host also pressed Hutchinson on the lack of enforcement action against employers in Southern California who hire illegal aliens.
“We have never seen a single company executive indicted for employing illegal aliens in this state,” Kobylt said, who told Hutchinson he was “tap dancing” around his pointed questions.
“We have an enormous illegal-alien problem here in Southern California, and we are getting zero help from the federal government,” Kobylt said.
Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., a long-time advocate of tough immigration enforcement talked to Kobylt and co-host Ken Chiampou yesterday about the interview.
Kobylt encouraged Tancredo to read part of the interview on the floor of the House of Representatives.
“Well, that’s an idea,” Tancredo said. “I will talk about this on the House floor and I will try to figure out a way to interweave that.”
Said Kobylt: “We don’t want this Hutchinson thing to die. …
“I don’t care if [Hutchinson's] a nice guy or not. I don’t care if he gives mouth-to-mouth to dying dogs. It doesn’t matter to me. Is he going to do the job on something that is extremely important that three-quarters of the state wants enforced?”
Zermeno said the halt in sweeps stems from pressure from Latino-rights activists and others.
“It’s a few activists that are screaming for us to stop doing our job, and they are the ones getting Hutchinson’s ear. It’s very frustrating,” Zermeno told the Times.
The KFI talkers have urged listeners to contact Hutchinson’s office about the issue. The following message appears on the show’s website:
Trey Bohn is the director of Radio, Office of Media Affairs, for the White House, and he wants you to stop e-mailing Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for the Department of Homeland Security. Trey wants you to use a generic e-mail address, where you letters may or may not be seen. If you get a chance, why not give Trey a call and remind him who pays his salary. Call Trey at (202) 456-3851.