Last week, the Wall Street Journal carried a story that quoted the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security as saying he is preparing a border-security bill aimed at better measuring illegal crossings, with targeted improvements in equipment and technology along the Southwest border. On the Senate side, Ron Johnson, R.-Wis., the incoming chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, also told the paper that he hopes to have a framework for a border-security bill ready by late January.
Johnson was quoted as saying: “Once we pass a strong border security enforcement bill, we’ll turn our attention to the other things, as well” to reform immigration policy.
The comments come as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement data showed a substantial share of convicted criminals removed from the country, a steady and significant increase from 2008, when that figure was just 38 percent and in 2011, when it was 67 percent.
In 2007 and 2008, ICE removed 102,024 and 114,415 convicted criminals, respectively, compared with 216,810 in 2013 and 177,960 in 2014.
In addition, ICE removed 2,802 individuals in 2014 who were classified as suspected or confirmed gang members. As a result, while overall removals declined in 2014, ICE has sustained the improved quality of its removals by focusing on the most serious public safety and national security threats.
Overall, for 2014, ICE conducted 315,943 removals, 102,224 from within the United States and 213,719 of individuals attempting to unlawfully enter the United States. The leading countries of origin for removals were Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
There is no denying the borders of the U.S. are secure. Actually, they are more secure now than under any previous administration. Yet, Republicans in Congress continue to play pass-the-ball politics. In 2015, with one year until the 2016 presidential election, immigrants are watching closely to see what will be done by the new GOP -controlled House of Representatives regarding immigration. They have two options: try to act like they are doing something on the issue by passing silly bills that do nothing and will go nowhere or they can bite the bullet, as Mitt Romney suggests, and pass a major, comprehensive immigration reform bill that will be bigger than anything President Barack Obama could do on his own.
The GOP can rise to the challenge issued by the president in his Dec. 29, 2014, NPR interview. Prove you aren’t “nativist” and give comprehensive immigration reform a chance in 2015. It may serve you well in 2016 or, alternately, you can watch the old elephant die with no chance of ever taking the White House again.
The writer is CMO of Hard Beat Communications, which owns the brands News Americas Now, CaribPR Wire and Invest Caribbean Now.