Border Patrol union blasts Kyl for stance on immigration bill

KINGMAN - Edward Tuffly, president of the Arizona chapter of the U.S. Border Patrol union, told Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl in a letter dated May 24, "We feel sold out."

Local Chapter 2544, that currently represents about 2,600 Arizona Border Patrol agents, endorsed Kyl's bid for the Senate last year, "with the clear understanding that you would not support amnesty for illegal aliens."

In a letter to Kyl, criticizing his stance on the current immigration bill in front of Congress, Tuffly said, "... we are extremely surprised and disappointed at your decision to support the latest Senate bill regarding illegal immigration.

"No matter how it is presented to the American people, and no matter how our elected representatives try to spin it and avoid the word 'amnesty,' the sad fact remains that this bill will provide amnesty to the millions of illegal aliens who have succeeded in avoiding arrest.

"Simply put, the bill would forgive illegal aliens for breaking our laws and it would make the vast majority of them 'legal' residents."

Tuffly said the immigration bill does little to correct mistakes made when the 1986 immigration bill was passed; in fact, some parts seem to compound the mistakes. He said the 1986 law proved that amnesty did not work and simply encouraged lawlessness when lawlessness was rewarded.

"We legalized approximately 3 million illegal aliens pursuant to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, and now 20 years later, we're looking at legalizing 12 to 20 million more? ... Why is it that some politicians naively think that telling a class of people it is acceptable to ignore our current laws will encourage that same class of people to obey future laws?" Tuffly asked.

The problem isn't necessarily that the law is broken, Tuffly said. It is that corruption abounds in the Border Patrol and agents are not allowed to effectively enforce the laws.

When the law was passed in 1986, Tuffly said many agents were ordered to not question anyone who had applied for or had indicated the intent to apply for amnesty. Other restrictions, such as not being allowed to continue pursuit of a suspected vehicle if the vehicle was traveling over the posted speed limit have limited the control Border Patrol agents have over the border.

"Aside from this bill being bad public policy, astronomically expensive for the taxpayers and bad for this country's security, I want to assure you that amnesty is a tremendous morale breaker for frontline Border Patrol agents who are trying to secure this nation's borders against all odds, and at an ever-increasing risk of personal harm," he said.

What the Border Patrol truly needs, Tuffly said, is the backing from the country's leaders to enforce current laws properly.

Kyl responds

Kyl said he respects the job that the Border Patrol does and appreciates the hard work they put in to protect the nation's borders, but he differs from the Border Patrol's view that what the nation currently has is acceptable.

The status quo is no longer acceptable, he said. Visa laws are not being enforced, and 12 million illegal immigrants have still managed to gain entry into the United States with more coming every day. Current law has also not prevented the illegal immigrants from gaining employment.

Kyl was faced with a tough decision this year, he said.

"The Senate majority leader had early on indicated that immigration reform would be on the Senate's agenda, and on May 21, he reintroduced last year's permissive bill. With that in mind, I had a choice: remain on the sidelines and let what I considered to be a bad bill (perhaps one even more permissive than last year's bill) pass, knowing that the president was ready to sign it into law, or participate in negotiations to ensure as much as possible that Arizonan's views are represented in any new legislation," Kyl said.

This new bill emphasizes enforcement first, Kyl said. He said that border security improvements outlined in the bill are guaranteed by making their completion necessary for other reforms, such as visa and temporary worker reforms.

The benchmarks that must be met first include additional border patrol agent hiring, fencing, vehicle barriers and additional specific enforcement tools.

A temporary worker program is key to the reform, Kyl said. "This bill contains a 'truly temporary' guest worker program. Americans must be given the first opportunity to fill jobs, and market forces will determine how many foreign workers are needed. Foreign workers must also leave the country for at least one year after a two-year work term before being able to renew."

The temporary worker program will also allow for seasonal labor necessary for the agricultural industry. The current law allowing for agricultural labor has been criticized as being complex, slow and insufficient to meet needs. The new law will prevent the agricultural industry from having to rely on illegal workers, Kyl said.

Another portion he is particularly proud of is the cessation of "chain migration," he said. "This bill corrects a flaw in our immigration system - chain migration - which has created an imbalance in our system vis-a-vis our global competitors by favoring extended family over those who come here to work productively. Under this bill, immigrants will still be able to bring their immediate, nuclear families (spouse and children), but other individuals who wish to immigrate must qualify on their own merit," Kyl said.

New immigration laws will also require future immigrants to qualify based on education level, job skills that the U.S. economy needs and English language proficiency.