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OUR OPINION

Tepid attention won't stop illegals

> Published on: 09/07/05
Late last month, President Bush acknowledged the increasing frustration over illegal immigration in Western states, but only after the governors of Arizona and New Mexico declared states of emergency to try to cope with the problem. Let's hope it indicates a greater willingness to commit the resources needed to stem the illegal tide and to campaign aggressively for a long-term solution.

"We have an obligation to enforce the borders," Bush said during a speech in Arizona. "There are more resources that will be available, we'll have more folks on the border; there will be more detention space to make sure that those who are stopped trying to illegally enter our country are able to be detained."

Having admitted that more needs to be done to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs from Mexico into the United States, the president needs to keep focused on the issue. There are an estimated 11 million illegals in the United States, and according to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) another 3,000 cross the border every day from Mexico alone. It's not a problem that can be addressed occasionally and then ignored for long periods or allowed to drop down the priority list.

That's what appears to have happened before in the administration. The president offered an idea early in 2004 to permit workers who now enter the United States illegally to come legally but temporarily. But by this summer, when a Senate committee held hearings on proposed immigration legislation, some of which was based on Bush's proposal, Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao declined to attend.

Likewise, the White House enthusiasm for beefing up the Border Patrol has waxed and waned. The president produced squeals of protest in Congress when he proposed only enough money in fiscal 2006 for the Department of Homeland Security to add 210 positions to the Border Patrol. Both the House and Senate have insisted that the budget contain funding for about 1,000 new border agents.

Paying half attention to a problem is almost as bad as ignoring it. The president â€