President Obama has taken extraordinary steps to restrict immigration law enforcement in our nation’s interior. Ex-DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano was all too willing to support Obama’s anti-enforcement ideology by implementing enforcement policies that effectively gifted amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have had their hands tied to such an extent that an illegal alien who slips past the Border Patrol now faces little risk of being arrested and deported.
The Obama administration has done an incredible job of framing the narrative and blunting the well-deserved criticism that such anti-enforcement policies would normally prompt. As I’m sure you’ve heard, Obama has taken “humanitarian” steps to prevent families from being “torn apart” by a “broken immigration system.” Vice President Biden has gone so far as to assert that illegal aliens living in the U.S. are actually Americans. These declarations tell you everything you need to know about the Obama administration’s commitment to enforcing our immigration laws.
While ICE’s operational effectiveness is relatively easy to restrain with anti-enforcement guidelines, Border Patrol operations cannot be overtly impeded without drawing considerable fire. The American public overwhelmingly supports secure borders and many politicians currently holding office got there on a secure border/national security platform. The citizenry has developed an appreciation for the difficult job Border Patrol Agents perform and support for the agency’s overall mission has seldom wavered. However, that support and the agency’s public standing are now being methodically eroded by organizations exploiting the Obama administration’s indifference toward effective border enforcement.
The Border Patrol took a sustained media beating when DHS refused to release their use-of-force policy. The public was justifiably outraged and DHS never attempted to provide a credible explanation for refusing to disclose lethal force guidelines. The Border Patrol was not responsible for this absurd lack of transparency, but DHS was content permitting the Border Patrol to bear the brunt of widespread media condemnation. I have yet to speak with any Border Patrol Agent, at any level, who believes withholding the use-of-force policy was a sound decision.
A continuing media criticism of the Border Patrol revolves around the “secrecy” of agent-involved shootings. The public has a legitimate interest in learning the results of a shooting investigation and media outlets don’t understand why an investigation may take years to complete. The Border Patrol serves as the primary media target for untimely shooting investigations, but the FBI and/or local authorities are responsible for investigating Border Patrol shooting incidents. DHS has steadfastly refused to provide the public with a detailed investigation protocol for agent-involved shootings, resulting in persistent misdirection of anger and frustration.
DHS has taken complete control of public information operations throughout the Border Patrol. Reporters requesting elementary information are forced to file formal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that oftentimes take months to process. Chief Patrol Agents no longer have the authority to publicly address community concerns without authorization from “communication professionals” who must review and approve every correspondence with news organizations. Proper “messaging” is prioritized over responsiveness and timeliness.
Anti-immigration enforcement organizations like the ACLU and the American Immigration Council are churning out bogus reports that make outrageous allegations of abuse and corruption. DHS has conspicuously failed to respond with a full-throated defense of the agency’s personnel or its critical public safety/national security mission.
Gutting border enforcement operations will be much easier for the Obama administration if the public believes the Border Patrol is an out-of-control agency in need of restraint and redirection. The destruction of public confidence in the agency’s integrity and utility is now viewed as an achievable goal by historic anti-enforcement organizations. If the Border Patrol has been reduced to an ineffective, demoralized agency by the time Obama leaves office, he will consider it a notable success.
The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit, research organization. Since our founding in 1985, we have pursued a single mission – providing immigration policymakers, the academic community, news media, and concerned citizens with reliable information about the social, economic, environmental, security, and fiscal consequences of legal and illegal immigration into the United States.