Border security remains an issue of concern for the Bush administration. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says the government is making much-needed progress.
Chertoff spoke at the conservative Washington think tank, American Enterprise Institute. He reminded the audience of the urgent need to control illegal immigration. "Illegal immigration has brought with it violence, trespassing, disturbance to our border communities."
Chertoff said the first step to discouraging illegal immigration is to gain control of the border. He says this will be accomplished by increasing the number of Border Patrol agents from 12,000 to 18,000.
Six thousand National Guard troops have been dispatched to assist the Border Patrol, while agents are being recruited and trained.
Chertoff said the plan for controlling the borders and stopping the flow of illegal immigrants is a multi-faceted operation. "What's the strategy for dealing with illegal immigration? It has to be an integrated strategy. All the pieces have to fit together."
Some of those pieces include a capture and return policy for illegal migrants, building fencing and vehicle barriers along the U.S./Mexico border, cutting-edge security technology, and more detention facilities for holding illegals (immigrant).
"The essence of deterrence here has got to be, to make the likelihood of successfully crossing the border, and getting work in this country so small, that people will basically give up doing it."
Critics of President Bush's border security policy say the American economy would suffer if illegal immigrants are removed from the work force. But the president's supporters say the economic cost of maintaining an illegal immigrant work force outweighs the benefits, since illegals do not pay most taxes.
While fences and increased security may deter some illegal immigrants, Chertoff said the current justice system has loopholes, allowing certain illegals, such as Salvadorans, entry into the country.
"The single population that has continued to increase, in terms of number of migrants, is El Salvadorans."
During the civil war in El Salvador in the 1980's, abuse of Salvadorans who were sent back to their country led to a legal order prohibiting the U.S. from extraditing Salvadoran immigrants. Some illegal immigrants have claimed to be Salvadoran in order to remain in the U.S. and work.
Chertoff says the Bush administration is working on having that order lifted.