Our $18 billion system
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jan 08, 2013 | 2230 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tom Behrens, left, controller of the Belco Forest Products mill in Shelton, Wash., talks with millwright Steve Rash, second from left, as Justin Harris, third from left, monitors a painting machine at the mill in Shelton, Wash. Behrens had to replace more than 20 workers after an audit by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department found that they had suspect documents authorizing them to work in the United States. Photo: Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
Tom Behrens, left, controller of the Belco Forest Products mill in Shelton, Wash., talks with millwright Steve Rash, second from left, as Justin Harris, third from left, monitors a painting machine at the mill in Shelton, Wash. Behrens had to replace more than 20 workers after an audit by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department found that they had suspect documents authorizing them to work in the United States. Photo: Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
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Two distinct pictures of the effectiveness of U.S. immigration policy exist. Their contrast is razor-sharp.

One confirms that America is spending huge amounts each year to enforce immigration laws, patrol borders and deport those here illegally. On Monday, a report published by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, brought that picture into focus.

Last year, the group’s data show, the Obama administration spent nearly $18 billion on immigration enforcement. That’s far above what was spent on other major federal law enforcement agencies combined, The New York Times reported.

More than 410,000 foreigners were deported last year by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, the report said — the highest annual number of President Obama’s four years in office.

The other picture, one well known in Calhoun County, is just as dramatic.

The U.S. immigration system has deep flaws. Despite the deportations and money spent on enforcement, mistakes are made within the system. Gaps exist. Just before Christmas, Romero Roberto Moya, who authorities say was in this country illegally, was killed by law enforcement following a Dec. 17 morning shootout in Heflin and Oxford. Authorities believe Moya killed his three brothers and shot his young child before being shot by an Oxford officer in Coldwater.

Moya is an example of the system’s flaw. Authorities say Moya was deported last April after serving a one-year sentence for drug trafficking. His unexplained return to Alabama eventually culminated in a Heflin officer being wounded in the shootout, three Moya brothers dead, one Moya child wounded and the suspect himself dead, as well.

It’s difficult to merge those two pictures. One is absolute in its detail and facts; the United States has increased its deportations and has dramatically increased its spending on immigration enforcement. Nevertheless, the other picture is just as absolute: Romero Roberto Moya proves that work remains on improving the effectiveness of U.S. immigration policies.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports tough immigration policies, told the Times that American immigration enforcement still has “gaping holes.” The Moya incident lends credence to that belief.

Alabama, of course, owns a unique — and regrettable — place in this discussion because of its own harsh anti-illegal immigration law. Despite having no international border and not being among the nation’s top states for Latino immigration, Alabama has one of the United States’ strictest and mean-spirited immigration laws. It should be repealed and humanely rewritten.

That said, Romero Roberto Moya isn’t a reason to demonize a race of people or those who come here — illegally or not — for a better life. Instead, he represents the need to reform our nation’s immigration policies in two well-defined manners: (1.) Determine how a deported felon could return to the United States and shore up that policy gap, and (2.) decide if there are ways to trim costs so that it doesn’t take nearly $18 billion a year to enforce our immigration procedures.

Based on the facts, it’s undeniable that the United States has significantly reduced the number of illegal immigrants who are in this country and made it more difficult for those who want to come here. That must stand for something.
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