Saturday, April 4, 2009 | 2:02 a.m.
A March 23 Las Vegas Sun editorial headlined “Readying border buildup: Protecting against the murderous drug cartels is a bigger priority than workplace raids” wrongly suggests that enforcement of our immigration laws should not be a priority.
Illegal immigration takes jobs from citizens and legal immigrant workers. More than 12 million citizens and legal immigrants are currently looking for work, but there are 7 million illegal immigrants working in the United States, according to the most recent estimates.
What’s more, the Center for Immigration Studies just completed a study that found that wages increased for legal workers after a work site enforcement operation at a large meatpacker in 2006. This is exactly the type of case the Sun editorial suggests is unimportant.
The editorial ignores the fact that illegal immigrants commit crimes. More than 15 percent of federal inmates are criminal aliens, and hundreds of thousands are in state jails for crimes such as murder, assault, gang activity and drug offenses.
Immigration enforcement and border security are both important. Cutting off the jobs magnet reduces the flow of illegal immigrants across the border, making it easier to focus on other border crimes.
The fact is that the Homeland Security Department’s total budget is $42.9 billion, and the administration has asked for an additional $2.6 billion next year. The budget for work site enforcement — a critical and effective program that helps cut off the illegal immigrant jobs magnet — is less than half of 1 percent of that total.
The Homeland Security Department can and should find savings in another area of its nearly $43 billion budget to address border security without sacrificing work site enforcement.
The writer, a Texas Republican serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, is the ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee.