- CNN) -- The United States is facing an extraordinary
immigration crisis, but our solutions have done nothing to alleviate the
situation. The overburdened Border Patrol and local law enforcement, particularly
in the Southwest, are apprehending thousands of illegal aliens on immigration
violations every day. Yet surprisingly, many of those arrested are freed
shortly after their detainment.
- Many illegal aliens are no longer held in jails to await
deportation or processing. Rather, they are simply handed a notice to appear
in court and released into the country. As you'd probably expect, somewhere
between 70 and 90 percent never show up for their court date. Even Immigration
and Customs Enforcement, the largest investigative arm of the Department
of Homeland Security, admits that nearly half a million people have been
arrested and released, and have failed to show up for court.
- Local law enforcement and Border Patrol agents say the
issue is one of resources, that federal agencies have limited funds for
detention and deportation. Instead, their focus has primarily been shifted
to illegal aliens who have committed or are wanted for crimes. But even
so, 85,000 of those released into the United States are known criminals.
So much for the plan to target criminal aliens for deportation.
- But Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center
for Immigration Studies, blames the lack of enforcement on political issues,
rather than practical ones. "The problem with immigration has always
been the same: It's very heavily penetrated by very powerful interest groups,
and that makes it very hard to enforce the law," he said. "The
ethnic advocacy groups provide the moral outrage and racial politics, while
the business community provides the political influence, the big guns and
the big money to prevent law enforcement."
- It's a problem that needs a real solution, however, whether
it be practical or political. There are as many as 12 million illegal aliens
currently living in the United States, about half of them emigrating from
Mexico. The direct net cost of illegal immigration to our economy, including
social services, is now roughly $45 billion annually, according to the
Federation for American Immigration Reform. Those costs to the American
taxpayer have more than doubled since Dr. Donald Huddle's original study
in 1996. And they will continue to grow unless we reform our approach to
- There is one new tactic from the U.S. government, but
it'll be a while until we see real results. The government has launched
a controversial new program to fly some illegal aliens deep into Mexico,
instead of merely dropping them off at the border. Homeland Security officials
say the program is designed to save lives and break the smuggling cycle.
The United States has approved about $12 million for this voluntary repatriation
program to run through September, with each chartered flight costing American
taxpayers almost $30,000.
- This is step in the right direction, but still, there's
no guarantee this program will work at all. While this may deter some,
a few of those interviewed following this week's maiden voyage said that
they'll just try to get back into the United States as soon as they can.
- Camarota believes the new program might be effective,
seeing as how part of our immigration problems starts south of the border.
"Mexico has no incentive, no interest and no capacity to in any way
prevent illegal immigration into the United States," he said. "Given
that reality, it's always a question of how is it you prevent people from
coming back. You don't want a situation where you just dump them over the
border and they just try again."
- No, we certainly do not want a situation like that. But
what we want couldn't be simpler: We want the current administration and
both political parties to take this problem seriously, to enforce the laws
already on the books and to create a national immigration policy that will
secure both our borders and a healthy future for our country.