Office of the Governor Rick Perry

A Better Way to Secure the Border

By Governor Rick Perry
Thursday, December 14, 2006  •  Editorial

A famous poet once wrote that “good fences make good neighbors.”  However, this author did not have to deal with the realities of homeland security where a wall is only as strong as it is fortified by law enforcement personal.  Building a wall along the entire Texas-Mexico border would not only be cost prohibitive – in the range of billions of dollars – it would create a false sense of security.  And unless the federal government is willing to put enforcement personnel all along such a barrier – something it has refused to do for decades along a border without fencing – it will be no more successful at keeping illegal immigrants out of Texas than the Rio Grande River.

Strategic fencing in high-population areas makes sense.  But I would like to see the federal government invest resources in increased border security operations like Operation Rio Grande rather than build a 1,200-mile wall.

With joint law enforcement operations we have managed to reduce crime in areas patrolled by border sheriffs by up to 60 percent during surge operations.  With fixed wing and rotary assets in the air, more law enforcement boots on the ground, and a stronger boat patrol presence along the Rio Grande, we have virtually shut down drug and human smuggling activity during intensive operations.  The success of these operations is the reason I will be asking the legislature for $100 million to secure our border.

As I have said repeatedly, you can’t have homeland security without border security, and there is no sense in reforming immigration laws if we cannot enforce them.  And I have said equally as often that immigration reform without border security is meaningless. 

Divisive language on the subject of border security and immigration reform is simply not constructive or useful in solving the problem.  We cannot be a nation that is anti-immigrant because we are in fact a nation of immigrants.  In fact, foreign-born citizens are some of the strongest supporters of tougher border security measures.  Clearly, something has to be done because our hospitals, schools, and other service providers are being flooded with illegal immigrants at a great cost to taxpayers.

But to me neither amnesty nor mass deportation is the answer.  The first unfairly rewards those who broke our laws, and the latter is not only unrealistic and unenforceable, but it would devastate our economy.  That’s why I support a guest worker program that takes undocumented workers off the black market and legitimizes their economic contributions without providing them citizenship status.

I would rather know who is crossing our border legally to work instead of not knowing who is crossing our border illegally to work.  A guest worker program that provides foreign workers with an ID removes the incentive for millions of people to illegally enter our country.  It also adds those workers to our tax base, generates revenue for needed social services and it can be done without providing citizenship. 
Along with millions of Americans, I think it is wrong to reward those who broke our laws with citizenship ahead of those who have followed the law and are waiting to enter this country legally.  And like millions of Americans I do not support amnesty.

With a more secure border and a reasonable guest worker program we can allow guest workers to help build our economy without offering citizenship.  Many don’t even want to become citizens – they just want to provide for their families back home.

We just finished an election where the Washington politicians gave us a lot of rhetoric on immigration reform, but no real solutions.  We need Washington to be a part of the solution.  For us it is not just a subject of intense debate, it directly impacts how we live.

As Governor, I understand that I represent all the people of Texas, and not everyone sees eye to eye on this issue. But, I do promise that I will use reason and fact, not emotion and fear, to help us resolve this issue in a spirit of unity.  We need to work toward solutions, not slogans.  We need immigration reform that doesn’t compromise our security, and security that doesn’t compromise our economy.  And I believe we can accomplish all of this with a guest worker program and real security measures that utilize our law enforcement tools to help secure our border.

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