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What has transformed the nation’s “immigration debate” in recent months is not the passage of Arizona’s new law aimed at controlling illegal immigration. Arizona has passed several controversial laws since 2004. What makes 2010 different is that, today, every American community understands that our borders have moved.

People now understand that our southwest border now extends to Missouri, Maryland and Idaho. In truth, we have no southwest border worthy of its name, so people readily identify with Arizona’s actions.

Citizens now see that there is more to the story than lax enforcement in Arizona. There is lax enforcement everywhere. The Obama team has basically announced it will hold immigration enforcement hostage until Congress passes an amnesty bill.

It’s not only the Border Patrol that has been shackled. The agency responsible for interior enforcement, the bureau of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has also been handcuffed. Every day there is a news story about a violent crime committed by an illegal alien who had been in ICE custody in the past but had been released. The explanation offered? ICE says it does not have the resources to detain and deport all criminal aliens, only the most violent ones.

All government agencies have workload management issues and must set priorities. But when an agency is designed and programmed to fulfill only 10 percent of its mission, you have to conclude that it is programmed for failure.

Back in 2005, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors discovered that the local ICE office was identifying and deporting only 10 percent of the criminal aliens in the county jail. Over 100,000 criminal aliens were being released back into the community. The solution they found was to direct the county sheriff to sign a 287(g) agreement with ICE to train and deputize jail staff to help ICE do its job. Deportations from the jail tripled the following year.

The federal government’s 287(g) program was a big success every place it was implemented. In 2008 in Colorado, five county sheriffs wrote to ICE asking to be brought into the program and were put on the waiting list. So, what was the Obama administration’s response to this popular and successful program? They decreased its funding and rewrote the contracts to take away much of local law enforcement’s authority to enforce immigration law.

You see, it’s not just the new Arizona law Obama and his attorney general do not like. They simply do not like immigration enforcement – even when done under federal oversight through the well-established and respected 287(g) program.

The national union of ICE employees recently passed a resolution unanimously declaring they have “no confidence” in ICE management and, specifically, they have no confidence in Obama’s appointee as the head of ICE, John Morton.

When local communities offer to help ICE do its job in dealing with illegal immigration, they are told, “No thanks.” ICE bureaucrats will not even release information on the number of criminal aliens deported from local jails. ICE mixes all criminal alien deportation data into one big pot and will not tell local communities how many illegal aliens are deported from each jail over any given period of time.

If the citizens of Dallas or Reno or Denver want to know how many illegal aliens or criminal aliens have been deported by ICE each year for the past 10 years, they ought to be able to obtain that information, but they can’t. ICE does not want the public to know that, in most communities, the agency is deporting less than 10 percent of the total number of illegal aliens arrested and booked into local jails.

About twice a year, ICE issues a press release bragging about the number of criminal aliens deported, but they never put the number in context of the total population that ought to be deported – the total number of illegal aliens in our nation’s jails and prisons. If they deported over 100,000 last year but the total number of illegal aliens who cycled through our jails was over 1,000,000, how much progress is that?

Americans are rightly demanding that we secure our borders as the top priority before there can be any debate over immigration reform. But we also need to secure our interior borders by getting serious about the mission of ICE. Deporting every criminal alien in the country ought to be the next priority. Achieving secure borders is the first priority for many reasons, but one reason is that, until then, deported criminals merely come back.

In 2011, we are going to see a dozen states pass laws similar to Arizona’s S.B. 1070. Governors and state lawmakers also need to demand that ICE begin to do its job.

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