Last week, California newspaper the Orange County Register reported a story that, on its face, appeared to be somewhat less than breaking news. Generally, the article dealt with the fact that illegal immigration is up along the southwestern border.

Ho-hum, right? What else is new?

Well, this report wasn’t just another story decrying “illegal immigration.” Rather, it was about how the federal government’s failure to secure our borders – especially in an age of terrorism – has actually led to a worsening of the illegal immigration problem, if that was possible.

According to the Register, the U.S. government’s threat to deport any and all illegal aliens it catches has not only failed to deter Mexican migrants from breaking into our country. It has also failed to prevent OTMs – “Other than Mexicans” who originate from other countries – from breaking in. Among other things, this spike in illegal human trafficking is deepening already significant concerns terrorists will face little trouble infiltrating the United States – not that they haven’t already.

“Illegal immigration is increasing rapidly from countries other than Mexico, federal officials are telling Congress. And the ease with which these foreign nationals can stay in the United States is fueling terrorism concerns,” the paper explained.

Here’s part of the problem. Our hodgepodge of immigration laws are anything but consistent, and they are no clearer when it comes to deportation.

If you’re a Mexican national, you are subject to immediate deportation, often within hours. But if you’re from, say, Brazil or El Salvador, you don’t get immediately deported. You are supposed to be held in a deportation facility and await processing.

Only, there isn’t enough detention room. So OTM detainees are being let go – often without knowing whether they are dangerous people or just here to clean office buildings.

“If there is bed space, the immigrant can be deported using an expedited procedure,” the paper reported. “Under that procedure, U.S. officials are allowed to deport immigrants caught without proper documents without giving them a judicial hearing. It applies only to people caught within 100 miles of the U.S. border and who have been in the county for less than 14 days.

“But if there is no room in detention facilities,” the paper continued, “the Border Patrol cannot use the expedited procedure and releases these immigrants on their own recognizance” (my emphasis).

Needless to say, once they are released most illegals simply disappear into the American countryside, where they know they are home free because U.S. interior enforcement of immigration laws is even worse than the outrage of our failing deportation system.

“The majority of Americans who are concerned about immigration reform are not opposed to legal immigration. Most people that are concerned about this issue are not racists or bigots,” says Martha Zoller, radio talk-show host and author of “Indivisible: Uniting Values in a Divided America” (Stroud and Hall Publishers).

“Rather, they want the federal government to take the responsibility for their role in this problem, to secure the border by requiring legal entry to and exit from this country, and to aid in ensuring that taxpayer-funded programs do not go to fund illegal immigration,” she says.

I wonder – is there anything that better demonstrates our government’s utter failure to do its constitutional duty to protect and defend our national boundaries than the knowledge that illegal aliens aren’t even worried about being caught and sent home anymore? If this doesn’t make crystal clear the farcical nature of our immigration policies, nothing will.

Maybe there’s hope. Department of Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff, in testimony before a Senate committee on Tuesday, said the “goal” of his department “is to completely eliminate the ‘catch and release’ enforcement problem, and return every single illegal entrant, no exceptions.”

“It should be possible to achieve significant and measurable progress to this end in less than a year,” he said, adding that while large numbers of Mexican illegals were being returned, “the problem is especially severe for non-Mexicans apprehended at the southwest border.”

“Today, a non-Mexican illegal immigrant caught trying to enter the United States across the southwest border has an 80 percent chance of being released immediately because we lack the holding facilities,” Chertoff said.

An “80 percent chance.” That means our deportation system is suffering an 80 percent failure rate. That’s criminal, pure and simple.

Chertoff’s promise of reforming this shameful example of government malfunction is encouraging, but Americans have heard these promises before. And so far, apparently, all the feds have done is worsen the problem.

We need action to deal with illegal immigration, not more empty promises. Or do we wait until our infrastructure starts blowing up in our faces before we’re ready to get serious about border security?

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