Rep. Ted Poe (R.-Tex.) told HUMAN EVENTS that the immigration issue could be a “defining moment” for the Obama Administration and be even more contentious than the President’s healthcare bill.
“Down the road, when it comes to comprehensive immigration reform, if the administration pushes any type of amnesty bill, that will be as contentious – if not more contentious — than the healthcare bill,” Poe said in an interview.
Poe joined with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) to cosponsor a bipartisan letter from members of the House asking that President Obama send more National Guard troops to the border.
The letter doesn’t request a specific number of troops, but Poe told HUMAN EVENTS that they want to see “as many as needed” to help the situation along the border, which the letter describes as one of increasing violence.
“The letter doesn’t address the specific number – it addresses the issue that the Border Patrol needs help, requests help, and the answer is to give them the National Guard to be allowed to patrol the border,” Poe said. He also confirmed that T.J. Bonner, president of the labor union National Border Patrol Council, is supporting the letter, which will be released on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Senate panel that the situation on the border, though not perfect, has improved. The number of border apprehensions between points of entry dropped to 556,000 in fiscal 2009 from 723,840 in fiscal 2008.
“In all of the sectors of the border, you can show that it is better now than it was two years ago, three years ago, five years ago,” Napolitano said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
“If people think that the border is better than it was three years ago, they’re living in Never-Never Land,” Poe said in response to Napolitano’s assertion. “I’ve been there. Everybody says it’s worse, except people in Washington, D.C., and some people from the chambers of commerce. And I think it’s worse, in many respects.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Napolitano hasn’t shown the kind of commitment needed in dealing with the problem of lawlessness that has so concerned Arizonans and their elected officials that the state just passed strong legislation on illegal-immigration enforcement.
Poe said Texas sheriffs have told him the violence in Northern Mexico is so bad that Mexican nationals are crossing the border to stay with relatives in Texas because it’s too dangerous to live in their own areas.
Poe said the border can be protected with laws already on the books and blames this administration and previous administrations for the worsening border situation.
“We protect the border of foreign countries, Third World countries better than we do our own,” Poe said.
Poe said the letter was crafted apart from any effort on the Senate side, where Arizona GOP Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl have called for the deployment of 3,000 National Guards troops to the border.
The letter does acknowledge requests made at the state level and by Congress: “We urge you to deploy the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border, as has been requested by a number of border state governors and members of Congress.”
Poe said the letter came in response to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s written request to the President for 1,000 National Guard support along the border back in 2009, a request he had previously made to the Department of Homeland Security but never received a response.