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Bob Schieffer’s Good Question

Hats are off to Bob Schieffer for asking a question during the third debate on immigration. He said he had received more e-mail on this question than any other question. Before getting to the answers, we also salute the Washington Times for having done a three-part series on the problem. Veteran correspondent Jerry Seper spent a month examining the issue. The series was titled, “Free Pass. America’s losing fight against illegals.”

Time magazine ran a cover story, “Who Left the Door Open?,” which said, “Despite all the talk of homeland security, sneaking into the U.S. is scandalously easy?and on the rise. Millions of illegal aliens will pour across the U.S.-Mexican border this year, many from countries hostile to America.”

Bush’s response to Schieffer’s question included the following, “We’re increasing the border security of the United States. We’ve got 1,000 more Border Patrol agents on the southern border. We’re using new equipment. We’re using unmanned vehicles to spot people coming across. And we’ll continue to do so over the next four years.” Yet the Washington Times series disclosed the following: (1) Only 200 federal agents hunt for a half-million criminal aliens and “absconders,” foreign nationals who were ordered deported but disappeared. (2) We are spending $1 billion a year to detain the criminal aliens we do catch in state and local jails.(3) U.S. taxpayers spend more than $7 billion to educate the children of illegals, and (4) We spend $1 billion for health care and emergency medical treatment for illegals.

John Kerry responded to Bush by saying, in part, that “the borders are more leaking today than they were before 9/11.” The Time magazine piece confirmed that, saying, “The U.S. borders, rather than becoming more secure since 9/11, have grown even more porous?” Kerry also said that “we need to crack down on illegal hiring. It’s against the law in the United States to hire people illegally, and we ought to be enforcing that law properly.” That’s true as well. The Time story said that “Investigations targeting employers of illegal aliens dropped more than 70%, from 7,053 in 1992 to 2,061 in 2002. Arrests on job sites declined from 8,027 in 1992 to 451 in 2002. Perhaps the most dramatic decline: the final orders levying fines for immigration-law violations plunged 99%, from 1,063 in 1992 to 13 in 2002.”

Kerry claimed that “we now have people from the Middle East, allegedly, coming across the border.” That’s true, too.  A front-page story in the Washington Times cited evidence that Al Qaeda was crossing the southern border into the U.S.

The trouble, as noted by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, is that, “With both Bush and Kerry on record promising some form of amnesty, the job of protecting the nation’s homeland security is made more difficult.” That’s why so many people wrote to Bob Schieffer asking him to pepper the candidates with questions about immigration. These Americans could sit out the presidential contest because they’re so frustrated with a bipartisan failure to protect our borders.