Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff isn’t taking the defeat of the Senate immigration bill well. That’s his right, of course; he doesn’t have to like what happened in the Senate. However, this report suggests that Chertoff’s pique may interfere with his agency’s willingness to enforce existing laws against illegal immigration.
Pressed by Chris Wallace of Fox News about the $4.4 billion that President Bush vowed during the immigration bill debate to spend on border security, Chertoff sniffed that this money was to come from fines paid pursuant to the bill’s legalization program, and that therefore funding border security is now Congress’ problem. Pressed about claims by Duncan Hunter that the administration has built only 13 miles of the border fence approved by Congress last year, Chertoff responded that you don’t build a fence a mile at a time, and promised that by September 140 to 150 miles of fencing will be built. Chertoff also noted that the fence is not a “cure-all,” inasmuch as a tunnel was recently discovered. But that just means border enforcement will still require some effort, not that the fence won’t make it much easier.
During the immigration debate, Chertoff made it pretty clear that he considers it a waste of resources for the Homeland Security Department to chase “our cooks and gardeners.” His latest commnets reinforce the sense that, when it comes to enforcing current law, his heart isn’t in it. Doubts about the administration’s commitment to enforcement formed a substantial part of the basis for the opposition of many to the adminstration’s comprehensive package. To that extent, Chertoff’s petulance is self-defeating.
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