Immigration Policy

Immigration policy is a major issue on Capitol Hill these days. The border watching Minutemen came to Washington to rally against guest worker programs last week. And a House subcommittee led by Texas Republican Mike McCaul opened an investigation into illegal border crossings assisted by members of the Mexican military. Our Capitol Hill Correspondent Jill Morrison reports.

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That's a Hudspeth County Deputy chasing members of a drug cartel. The men were driving armed Mexican military humvees and assisted by others in Mexican military uniforms. The Texas Sheriff Border Coalition came to Washington to share their experiences guarding the state's border. Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West told Austin Congressman Mike McCaul that these incursions reveal the vulnerability of the state's border with Mexico.

"The border between Texas and Mexico has been a significant gateway for these kinds of illegal activities to enter the U.S. If illicit organizations can bring in tons of narcotics and work a distributing network that spans the entire country aided by the Mexican military, then they can bring in the resources of terrorism as well."

The Department of Homeland Security reports 231 illegal crossings over the southwest border by members of the Mexican military and police since 1996. But what is the Mexican government doing to curb these illegal crossings? Mr. T.J. Bonner President of the National Border Patrol Council says not enough.

"…Mexican police and Mexican military, a fair number of them are corrupt. Now I'm speaking for the agents, I'm not speaking for the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of State so I'm going to be bluntly candid. There's no way to sugarcoat this. There is a culture of corruption in Mexico. We know it exists, and we have to deal with it."

Bonner recommends cutting off foreign aid for counter-narcotics efforts to Mexico until these incursions stop. But that's unlikely- given that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says two thirds of all methamphetamine in the U.S. is coming from Mexico. In response to the mounting crisis over U.S. border control, Members of the controversial Minuteman Project also traveled to Washington. The group of border watchers that critics call vigilantes rallied outside the Capitol against temporary guest worker programs. Mike Media is a Minuteman who spent ten days monitoring the Texas border.

"…We would call the border patrol and they'd come pick the illegal aliens up."

Democratic Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee says the Minutemen are untrained, unauthorized and inclined to intimidate local populations. But Media is proud to be a minuteman.

"…This is my legacy. I'm going to fight this. I want this country to be straightened out. They let us down these politicians."

The Senate plans to take on immigration reform next month with Texas Republican John Cornyn at the center of the debate. For Houston Public Radio, I'm Jill Morrison on Capitol Hill.