Idaho Republican Congressman Raul Labrador is calling for more border security after he took a tour of the border (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty)

Labrador: Border security not enough, calls for more local immigration enforcement

Tightening border security is still a sticking point for many Republicans on immigration.  Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador is saying that is not enough.

The Idaho Republican’s comments come after a three-day tour of the border in Arizona and California. Labrador says he believes the drones, fences, boats and towers that he saw on his trip just aren’t enough to stem immigration.

“You see all the money we’re spending at the border, and the great job these men and women are doing,” he said according to the Idaho Statesman. “And they’re still not stopping all the people coming in. It actually emphasizes the point that I’ve been making: We still need to have really strong interior enforcement. We have to go beyond throwing resources at the border and think about what we do in the interior.”

RELATED: Labrador: Death of the Republican party if immigration not done right politically 

Labrador said the trip convinced him more than ever that state and local police should work with the federal government on immigration enforcement.

“When I talked to these men and women, I asked them the same question: How would you feel if your local police departments and sheriff’s offices actually had the ability to help you with illegal immigration? They were all very positive about that idea,” he said. “There are only 5,000 ICE agents in the entire United States. They can’t deal with this issue themselves.”

The conservative Puerto Rican joined House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, who led the border tour, and four other Republican Congressmen. He said his opposition to the bipartisan bill that passed the Senate is only stronger after the trip. The Senate bill provides for 20,000 border patrol agents and 700 miles of fencing. The total cost of the border surge is estimated to be around $46 billion.
Many Republicans in the House, like Labrador, have said that the Senate bill is not strong enough on border security. They also oppose the sweeping bill and want to take a piecemeal approach to reform, passing separate parts of immigration reform legislation separately.
Frank Sharry, Executive Director of the immigration reform advocacy organization America’s Voice, believes Labrador’s words are hinting at the SAFE Act — a bill that gives local authorities the ability to enforce federal immigration laws. Sharry criticized Labrador’s remarks on Wednesday.
“He is advocating for a bill that criminalizes immigrants and legalizes racial profiling,” he says. “What they want to do is empower police to see papers and that inevitably leads to widespread profiling against people who are here legally and who have fought wars here to start producing papers when they get stopped for a traffic violation.”
Fernando Mejía, Immigrant Rights Director for the Idaho Community Action Network which is part of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), acknowledged support from some Republican congressmen but called Labrador’s comments a “gimmick.”

“Republican Congressmen are slowly but surely backing a pathway to citizenship – not Rep. Labrador’s extreme political gimmick – for good reason: Citizenship is the only real solution that lives up to our country’s values. Mr. Labrador would do well to visit his own state’s immigrant communities, acknowledge their contributions to society and the economy, and join with his Republican colleagues supporting family unity through a pathway to citizenship,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of the key architects of the Senate reform bill, struck a conciliatory tone regarding the House and the path to some sort of legislation.  Schumer said the House is going in the “right direction” and that he is on board with a piecemeal approach as long as it includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

“We would much prefer the comprehensive bill, but any way the House can get there is all right by us,” he said on CNN. 
“I actually am optimistic that we will get this done,” he continued. “I’ve had a lot of discussions with various members of both parties in the House. Things are moving in the right direction.”
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