EL PASO, Texas – Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Tuesday that Congress' failure to pass comprehensive immigration legislation is adding to the workload for customs and immigration officers.
If legislation were passed that included a legal way for foreign workers to come to the U.S., officials could focus instead on those seeking to enter the U.S. "to do harm," Chertoff said at a border security conference in El Paso.
"We're faced with a system where our customs and immigration officers are saddled with the need to pursue people who are coming here to work, which distracts them from pursuing those who are coming to do harm," he said in a story posted online Tuesday by the El Paso Times.
Chertoff said he continues to hope for immigration reform.
"In the end, it's very hard to secure the border with only brute force," he said. "It can be done, but it's going to be a labor-intensive and time-consuming way to do it."
On Friday, Chertoff, along with Department of Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, announced that the Bush administration would move forward on immigration enforcement without Congress. The two said among the tools they'll use is a plan to administratively sanction employers who hire illegal immigrants.