On the heels of activist groups demanding that the U.S. government begin enforcing the nation’s existing immigration laws, one branch out of Washington now is asking just the opposite – that enforcement of border laws be suspended.

The stunning request comes from the Census Bureau’s Deputy Director Preston Jay Waite, who told Associated Press in an interview that the immigration enforcement raids were suspended for several months during the time the 2000 Census was assembled, and it would help if that happens again in 2010.

He said such enforcement, including raids to round up illegal aliens, would just make a segment of the population that already distrusts the government even less likely to cooperate with those who are supposed to count those living in the United States that year.

Enforcement agents “have a job to do,” Waite told the news service. “They may not be able to give us as much of a break” in 2010.

Officials with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who have been under pressure from lobbying groups to increase their enforcement, declined to respond to a question about the 2010 raids, or whether they would be suspended.

“If we were, we wouldn’t talk about it,” Pat Reilly said. “For us to suspend that enforcement would probably take a lot more than one meeting. We would have to discuss this at the highest levels of both agencies.”

As WND has reported, there have been several activist groups lobbying for increased enforcement, including Americans for Legal Immigration PAC.

“We need Congress and the press to do their jobs, by launching investigations to find out why our existing laws are not being enforced,” William Gheen, the president of ALIPAC, told WND earlier.

“Presidents do not get to decide which laws they will or will not enforce on behalf of their big business friends. That’s what kings do, not presidents. If our existing laws go un-enforced, then we no longer live in a functioning Republican for which our flag stands,” he said.

“Simply put, America needs to enforce existing laws,” he said. “Political and media pundits are constantly expounding upon our need to send the right messages to terrorists. Why is it then that many of those same pundits send the wrong message to illegal aliens?”

He noted that fines against employers for hiring illegal aliens had ceased by 2004 under directives from the Bush administration, and a number of recent raids have precluded charges against employers.

The issue of the estimated 12-20 million illegal aliens inside the United States has developed into one of the key issues facing the nation. There have been estimates of a $2.2 trillion illegal alien taxpayer sticker shock if the problem isn’t addressed soon, and a compromise plan worked out with President Bush and Democratic leaders was killed in the U.S. Senate after protests from Americans overwhelmed Washington switchboards.

That plan would have created a program to put all illegal aliens in the United States on a path to citizenship. When it failed, the Bush administration responded by confirming that enforcement efforts would be stepped up.

Then came the Census Bureau’s request for a loose leash for illegals.

“I don’t know what country the Census Bureau is living in,” Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., told the AP. “I can tell them the American people have grown sick and tired of their immigration laws not being enforced. They are not going to tolerate enforcement being suspended for any amount of time.”

The Constitution calls for the Census Bureau to count everyone in the census, and the results are used to apportion seats in Congress and divide up billions of dollars in federal government largesse.

Miller, who disagrees that illegals should be part of the official population count, has proposed an amendment to apportion congressional seats based only on the number of U.S. citizens.

Kenneth Prewitt, who directed the Census Bureau during 2000, said those doing the counting will need help.

“We’re supposed to count every resident. If you go out and ask, ‘Are you here illegally?’ they are going to run,” he said. He said the help in 2000 came in the form of an informal agreement from immigration law enforcement personnel to not run any large-scale raids at the same time.

“They did offer to cooperate as much as possible so they didn’t create a climate of fear. They did not carry out any major raids,” he said.

Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies told the AP that if the laws are there, they need to be enforced.

“If you don’t enforce your laws, this is what you are going to get, one agency asking another agency to subvert the law,” he said.

Gheen has offered a solution, but it involves more enforcement, not less.

While he said illegal immigration probably never will be stopped completely, it could be reversed easily, if the U.S. sends a message that it “is not open, accommodating, or receptive to those [who] disrespect our laws and citizenry by entering as illegal aliens.”

“The four things we must do are: (1). Secure our borders. (2.) Crack down on employers that intentionally hire illegal labor. (3.) Remove all benefits such as licenses, in-state tuition, and welfare for illegal aliens. (4.) Empower local police to enforce immigration law,” Gheen said.

“Broad consensus exists for these measures, as multiple national and local polls show over 80 plus percent support for each one,” he said.

“Mexican nationals caught entering the U.S. should not be dropped off just across the border so they can try again the next night. They should be detained, identified, told that a second crossing attempt is a felony. They should then handed over to the Mexican government to be returned to their homes,” he said.

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