Wednesday, October 19, 2005

US to crack down harder on illegal immigrants

First posted 01:12pm (Mla time)
Oct 19, 2005
Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON -- US President George W. Bush signed a new budget for the Homeland Security department Tuesday that sharply boosts funding to fight illegal immigration, as the department's head said they would now expel without exception all illegal immigrants.

The bill totaled 30.8 billion dollars in discretionary spending, 1.8 billion dollars higher than the current year's budget.

Of the total, 7.5 billion dollars is committed to fight the rising number of illegal immigrants in the country."We've got to strengthen security along our borders to stop people from entering illegally," Bush said.

"We're going to make this country safer for all our citizens," he said.

The government will also make stronger efforts to search out and deport illegal immigrants already in the country, Bush said."We must improve our ability to find and apprehend illegal immigrants who have made it across the border," he said.

"We've got to work to ensure that those who are caught are returned to their home countries as soon as possible," he said.

Buh's statement followed comments by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff earlier Tuesday that his department aims to expel all illegal immigrants without exception.

"Our goal at DHS (Homeland Security) is to completely eliminate the 'catch and release' enforcement problem, and return every single illegal entrant, no exceptions," Chertoff told a Senate hearing.

"It should be possible to achieve significant and measurable progress to this end in less than a year," he said.The Homeland Security budget includes 2.3 billion dollars for the US Border Patrol, and millions of dollars for increasing and improving border fences and technological surveillance.

The increased budget will enable the government hire 100 more immigration department agents and 250 investigators.

Prison space will be expanded by about 10 percent, or 2,000 beds, to accommodate the expected increase in apprehensions of illegal immigrants who are not Mexicans.

Chertoff told senators that currently a non-Mexican illegal imigrant caught trying to enter the United States across the southwest border has an 80 percent chance of being released immediately because of the shortage of holding facilities.

"We are moving to end this 'catch and release' style of border enforcement by reengineering our detention and removal process," Chertoff said.Bush meanwhile explained a separate strategy for Mexicans, who comprise by far the largest number of illegal immigrants in the country.

Rather than just forcing captured immigrants back over the order, under a new program called "Interior Repatriation," he US will fly or bus Mexican illegal immigrants all the way back to their hometowns.

"Many of these folks are coming from the interior of Mexico, and so the farther away from the border we send them, the more difficult it will be for them to turn around and cross right back into America," Bush said.

"By returning Mexicans to their homes, far away from desert crossing, we're helping to save lives," he said.

Chertoff's remarks in favor of returning "every illegal entrant, no exceptions" raised questions of an apparent conflict with the US policy toward illegal Cuban immigrants.

Though Cubans picked up at sea heading for US shores are returned to their country, those who reach US soil by any means are allowed to stay and work -- a policy Cuba says encourages dangerous attempts to get into the United States.

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