WH, Kyl Clash on Securing US-Mexico Border

UPDATE:

5:00 p.m. ET --Fox’s Senior Senate producer Trish Turner interviewed Sen. Jon Kyl about his immigration dust-up with the White House and his reaction to its blanket denial President Obama told him securing the border would undermine GOP support for broad-based immigration legislation. “I portrayed our conversation totally accurately,” Kyl said. “The President cannot say that what I said was incorrect.” (See youtube clip of Kyl’s original accusation below) “I understand the spokesman (referring to White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer) went on to say that you need comprehensive reform to secure the border. No you don’t!”

As for the linkage between border security and other immigration measures aimed at employee verification and a path to legalization and citizenship for undocumented workers in the country now, Kyl said: “He (Obama) and I have a different approach to a lot of what needs to be done. I don’t think he was as familiar with the deficiencies in the effort at the border before our conversation. But what I said was absolutely, totally accurate.”

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(3:45p.m. ET -- See bottom of post for Sen. Kyl’s reaction to the White House’s assertions on what they’ve done regarding border security.)

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3:00 p.m. ET -- In the dispute over what was said and who said it, both sides acknowledge only President Obama and Senator Jon Kyl were present for the disputed conversation about immigration policy. When asked if the White House would release what exactly Obama did say to Kyl, White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said at Monday’s White House briefing there would be no direct quotes given.

"The president's feelings on immigration are crystal clear," Burton said.

Burton said Obama wants to combine tighter border security with a path to legalization for illegals and beefed up employer verification of the legal status of future job applicants.

When asked how the White House knew what Obama said to Kyl, Burton said Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel asked the president, who relayed his denial. Emanuel then passed that denial onto White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer.

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12:00p.m. ET:

The White House, through Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, has flatly denied an accusation from Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl that President Obama won't secure the border because it would cost him GOP support for comprehensive immigration legislation.

Kyl leveled the charge at a Tea Party-sponsored event in Tempe, Ariz. The YouTube clip can be seen here.

In reaction, Pfeiffer sent this to Fox News:

“The president didn’t say that and Senator Kyl knows it. There are more resources dedicated toward border security today than ever before, but, as the president has made clear, truly securing the border will require a comprehensive solution to our broken immigration system.”

Kyl's sticking by his account of the one-on-one meeting with Obama. Ryan Patmintra, Kyl's spokesman, said this:

"There were two people in that meeting, and Dan Pfeiffer was not one of them. Senator Kyl stands by his remarks, and the White House spokesman’s push-back that you must have comprehensive immigration reform to secure the border only confirms Senator Kyl’s account."

In addition to its categorical denial of Kyl's accusation, the White House produced data points to back up its contention border security has improved under Obama's watch.

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STATEMENT FROM THE WHITE HOUSE:

Over the past year since the Southwest Border Initiative was launched:

• Doubled the personnel assigned to Border Enforcement Security Task Forces by deploying 110 additional special agents.

• Tripled the number of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) intelligence analysts along the Southwest border in April 2009 by deploying 28 additional personnel.

• For the first time, the Department of Homeland Security began screening 100% of southbound rail shipments for illegal weapons, drugs, and cash.

• Deployed 13 additional cross-trained canine teams, which identify firearms and currency, to the Southwest Border to augment the five teams already in place.

• Deployed 116 additional Border Patrol Agents to augment CBP (Customs and Border Protection) officers during inspections operations—particularly outbound inspections.

• Deployed five additional Z-Backscatter Units, which help CBP identify anomalies in passenger vehicles, to the Southwest border to augment the six already there.

• CBP and ICE combined have seized $85 million in illicit cash along the Southwest border—a 22 percent increase over the same period during the previous year.

• CBP and ICE together have seized 1,404 firearms and 1.62 million kilograms of drugs along the Southwest border—increases of 22 and 14 percent respectively over the same period during the previous year.

• CBP seized $29.5 million in illicit southbound cash along the Southwest border—a 39 percent increase over the same period during the previous year.

Additionally, the San Diego DHS Maritime Unified Command, comprised of U.S. Coast Guard, CBP, ICE and other law enforcement partners, saw a more than six-fold increase in maritime drug interdictions in the Pacific waters extending from the Southwest border—seizing 57,437 lbs. of drugs in fiscal year 2009 compared to 8,884 lbs. seized in fiscal year 2008. Already in fiscal year 2010, the Coast Guard has seized 11,500 lbs. of drugs across the San Diego sector.

Since 2004:

• the Border Patrol has doubled in size to approx 20,000 Border Patrol agents on board.

CBP statistics show that illegal immigration into the United States is down with apprehensions between points of entry having dropped 23 percent in FY09. During FY09 the Border Patrol apprehended 556,041 compared with 723,825 during FY08. El Paso Sector saw a 51 percent reduction in apprehensions, the Tucson Sector saw a 24 percent reduction in apprehensions, and the Rio Grande Valley Sector saw a 19 percent reduction in apprehensions. Those statistics reflect a reduction in the number of people attempting to illegally cross our borders.

• And as part of his comprehensive plan to secure the Southwest border, President Obama will request $500 million in supplemental funds for enhanced border protection and law enforcement activities. The president will also deploy up to an additional, requirements-based 1,200 National Guard troops to the border to provide intelligence; surveillance and reconnaissance support; intelligence analysis; immediate support to counternarcotics enforcement; and training capacity until Customs and Border Patrol can recruit and train additional officers and agents to serve on the border. Funds will be utilized to enhance technology at the border, share information and support with State, Local, and Tribal law enforcement, and increase DoJ and DHS presence and law enforcement activities at the border, to include increased agents, investigators, and prosecutors, as part of a multi-layered effort to target illicit networks trafficking in people, drugs, illegal weapons, and money.

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In response to the White House’s assertions, Senator Kyl’s office released this statement:

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STATEMENT FROM SEN. KYL’S OFFICE:

“Many of these initiatives were well underway before Obama was even president. The bottom line is that over a half million individuals are still illegally crossing our borders every year and all the administration has done to address this is spend time and resources on figuring out ways to sue Arizona over its effort to secure the border,” said Kyl spokesman Ryan Patmintra.

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Kyl’s staff also offered rebuttal to the administration’s contention it has dramatically increased border security. This appeared in a column Kyl penned on June 14.

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SEN KYL COLUMN/JUNE 14:

Border Security: Linking Words to Actions

By U.S. Senator Jon Kyl

During a recent press conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderón, President Obama expressed his “frustration over our broken immigration system.” He has said he supports a comprehensive approach to reform where “the federal government takes its responsibilities for securing our border seriously.” In a May, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote in the Arizona Republic that the Obama “administration has made every conceivable effort to secure our border.”

But, recent actions of the Obama administration suggest that it is not really committed to enforcing the law:

• On May 19, John Morton, the president’s appointee who heads U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), expressed objections to Arizona’s new anti-illegal immigration law and suggested that his agency would not necessarily process illegal immigrants referred to it by Arizona law enforcement officials.

• Just a week earlier, Michael Posner, the president’s Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy Human Rights, and Labor, condemned Arizona’s law in talks with representatives of the Chinese government, which consistently ranks among the worst human rights violators in the world. If the Obama administration can’t distinguish between Arizona’s legitimate effort to secure the border and enforce the law on the one hand, and China’s persistent pattern of abuse and repression of its people on the other, what confidence can we have that it will vigorously enforce any new border security laws?

• On May 25, the president indicated he may deploy up to 1,200 National Guardsmen to the border, yet he made no mention of the idea just minutes before during a meeting with Senate Republicans. Perhaps it was because – as we have since learned – the Guardsmen will be relegated to desk jobs, rather than border security. Perhaps, as an ABC-network affiliate suggested, the announcement was just meant to torpedo the more meaningful deployment of 6,000 troops that Senator McCain and I have proposed.

Democrats in the Senate have proven no less hostile to border security initiatives. When Senators John McCain, John Cornyn, and I offered a series of border security measures on May 27, the majority of Senate Democrats voted to block their adoption.

One of our measures would have funded the deployment of 6,000 National Guardsmen to the border, with 3,000 to be deployed in Arizona. It won a majority of votes – 51 to 46 – but failed to win the necessary 60 votes to pass under Senate procedures.

A second would have provided $200 million to fully fund Operation Streamline (a program to incarcerate individuals illegally trying to cross the border instead of just releasing them), and provide for the hiring of additional U.S. Marshals, construction of additional detention space, and additional judges and court staff, among other things. It, too, won a majority of votes – 54 to 44 – but not the required 60 votes to pass.

A third would have provided $3.1 billion for border security enhancements, including counterdrug enforcement, construction of ports of entry, hiring of border enforcement personnel, the acquisition of UAVs, and assistance to state and local law enforcement agencies. Again, it won bipartisan support and a majority of votes (54 to 43), but failed to win the necessary procedural votes.

Until the president and Congressional Democrats really get serious about border security – and back their words with deeds – there is virtually no chance that comprehensive reform will pass. Nor should it.

The fact is, it is not necessary to pass comprehensive immigration reform to secure the border, as the president suggests. But it is necessary to secure the border before the American people will even consider the possibility of comprehensive immigration reform.