Heritage Foundation

Subscribe to Heritage Foundation feed
Policy News, Conservative Analysis and Opinion
Updated: 1 hour 50 min ago

Border Crossings Stop After Texas Man Takes Security Into His Own Hands

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 17:58

City of Hidalgo, Texas—Othal E. Brand Jr. is a man in control, and as such, when drug cartels began exploiting the stretch of river at the water pump station he runs, he built a Border Patrol-friendly boat ramp, watchtower and helicopter pad to beef security there.

In the Rio Grande Valley, Brand wields more power than most—he’s the elected president of Hidalgo County Water Improvement District 3 and his father was mayor of McAllen, Texas, for 20 years—but to hear him tell it, his actions speak more to a layman protecting his property than a show of might for the sake of it.

“It bothers me when I hear, ‘It’s the federal government’s job’ [to secure the border],” said Brand, giving a tour of this riverfront pump facility from behind the wheel of his massive black Cadillac. “Or when people say, ‘Oh, that’s Border Patrol’s job.’ Nah. You live here. Citizens can help, too.”

Partly by Brand and the water district’s doing, this pumping facility might be the most secure section along the 1,896-mile Rio Grande.

Life on the River

The pump station of Water Improvement District 3, one of 26 water districts in the Rio Grande, isn’t exactly the center of the border crisis.

In fact, most of those who illegally enter the United States through the river here do not willingly give themselves up, as is often the case with unaccompanied children from Central America or mothers with children.

These are the types of immigrants who want to get away, crossing the river in Pontoons at the direction of smugglers who spy American activity atop trees from the Mexican side, and navigating the thick brush on the Texas shore.

But the business of this pump station near the city of Hidalgo is valuable, so its protection matters.

The pump station, located on the U.S. side of the river but on the Mexican side of an 18-foot-tall steel border fence, is the main provider of drinking water for the city of McAllen.

Stopping Traffic

On the afternoon of July 15, SUVs from Border Patrol, Texas Department of Public Safety, and Texas Parks and Wildlife are parked on a perch overlooking the Rio Grande, keeping watch.

A Border Patrol watchtower stands tall above the river.

When two Border Patrol agents walk over to question Brand’s visitors, he firmly shoos them away, telling the green-uniformed men, “They are here with me.”

“I used to know most of those guys [Border Patrol] by name,” Brand said. “Now you’ve got guys here transferred from other states. Most of them are from everywhere but Texas.”

The manpower is strong at the pump station because of the $1.3 million-per-week surge in law enforcement operations ordered by Texas Gov. Rick Perry last month.

But also, resources are significant at the pump station because of the easy access to the river his district provided.

“My men built that boat ramp about three years ago after they were shot at,” Brand said. “It’s the only boat ramp on a 20-mile stretch of the river. We used to have traffic everyday. But our traffic here is zero right now. That’s because I’ve put up cameras which I give the Border Patrol access to. I’ve put in paths and roads; I’ve cleared a staging area for them; I have Wi-FI; I have backup power. At night, it’s lit like a Christmas tree out here. I’ve made our area friendly for law enforcement. It has absolutely stopped all the traffic.”

Providing Protection

The workers who pump water here—Brand’s “men” as he calls them—need the protection.

In July 2011, workers at the pump station were shot at from the Mexico side of the river, a short swim away.

“Last year we found eight bodies in the river here,” Brand said. “Four of them had no heads. None of them drowned.”

Though the protections may seem excessive, Brand says he’s being pragmatic.

A helicopter pad near the river hasn’t been used yet, but Border Patrol could land here in a pinch if its agents or law enforcement were to be injured on the job.

Brand realizes not every place can be secured like his pump station and that no one solution can fix the border crisis.

Before Perry announced Monday he would activate up to 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the border, Brand called for him to do so. Perry’s decision comes at a time when Border Patrol agents report a slowdown activity in the Rio Grande.

Border Patrol agents say the number of unaccompanied children in their custody fell from a high of more than 3,300 in June to around 700 last week.

But Brand says a slow week may not constitute a trend.

“Texas has almost half of the manpower of the other border states [New Mexico, California and Arizona] and the Rio Grande sector is the shortest distance to Central America,” Brand said. “I’m not comfortable. You stop the traffic, and the minute you leave and divert resources elsewhere, they come back.”

Seeking Security

When Brand grew up on the Rio Grande, it wasn’t like this.

Brand, 61, has lived in McAllen since 1955 and he remembers when he used to play at the river, barbecuing and camping.

When drug violence exploded in the last decade, Brand says, he began to lose his sense of security.

Just like any ordinary neighbor can, its a feeling Brand believes he can control.

“This issue has brought us together—the farmers, the ranchers and the people on the river,” Brand said. “We’re like the Boy Scouts.”

The post Border Crossings Stop After Texas Man Takes Security Into His Own Hands appeared first on Daily Signal.

The Not So ‘Small’ Businesses Ex-Im Bank Boosts

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 17:50

A coalition backing government export subsidies will host several executives of purportedly “small” businesses at a briefing Tuesday to build support for the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im). Although the bank primarily benefits very large corporations, advocates are telling Congress and the public that the bank is crucial to the survival of small firms. If that was true, they could have made a better case by featuring speakers from actual small businesses.

Ex–Im provides loans and loan guarantees as well as capital and credit insurance for U.S. exports. Its current authorization will expire on Sept. 30, and the Obama administration is seeking a five-year renewal and a $20-billion increase in its lending cap.

The bank categorizes manufacturing firms with up to 1,500 workers as “small,” as well as retailers with revenues that exceed $21.5 million.

Advocates know better than to parade before Congress executives from Boeing, Westinghouse, Caterpillar, Bechtel or any of the other large corporations that reap the benefits of more than 80 percent of Ex-Im subsidies. Instead,  a coalition of interest groups apparently hope that representatives of smaller firms will tug at the heartstrings of lawmakers who remain (rightly) skeptical about reauthorizing an agency rife with corruption, and which violates fundamental principles of free enterprise. (Not to mention subsidies to the likes of Russia, China and Venezuela.)

But what constitutes a small business under the Ex-Im regime is not what most Americans would consider to be so. For example, the bank categorizes manufacturing firms with up to 1,500 workers as “small,” as well as retailers with revenues that exceed $21.5 million. Interest group officials apparently think likewise.

For example, Tuesday’s briefing will feature:

  • Optical Cable of Roanoke, VA. The company manufactures fiber optic cable for commercial and military use. Its consolidated net sales for the second quarter totaled $20.2 million. Morningstar analysts put its market cap at $29.6 million.

 

  • Air Tractor, Olney, TX. The manufacturer is the world’s leading producer of aircraft used in agricultural. Businessweek reports that the company has affixed armor plating, sensors, and weapons onto planes originally designed to dust cropland for sale to the United Arab Emirates, and hired a marketing executive to find additional customers. According to BrightScope, Air Tractor’s the assets of the employee stock ownership plan exceeded $78 million in 2012.

 

  • Goss International, Durham, NH. The company supplies presses and finishing for magazine, newspapers, catalog, and other printing applications. It has major manufacturing centers in North America, Asia and Europe. Goss is a subsidiary of the Shanghai Electric (Group) Corporation, which has annual revenues exceeding $12 billion.

 

  • Global Traders Inc., Brooklyn, NY. GTI is an international trading and financing firm with offices and agents in Tunisia, Paris, Brazil, Ghana, Guinea and Senegal. Manta pegs its annual revenues as $2.5-$5 million.

 

  • BTE Technologies, Baltimore, MD. The company provides advanced physical therapy systems for clinics, hospitals, and private practices. It has been granted some 97 contracts with the Deptartment of Defense, the Veterans’ Administration, the Government Services Administration, and the Deptartment of Health and Human Services. According to InsideView, GTI has revenue of $14 million.

Make no mistake—the success of the companies listed above is to be celebrated. But lawmakers should not be fooled that this success represents in any way the value of the Export-Import Bank. In actuality, the bank harms many American small businesses and their workers by subsidizing their foreign competitors.

The reauthorization debate has made this once obscure agency a topic of national interest. In so doing, Americans have learned a great deal about Ex-Im, much of it not very pretty. There have been allegations of corruption, extensive documentation of mismanagement, and a penchant for largesse to multinational corporations that could easily access private financing.

No matter what advocates try to claim about its benefits, there is not even a small justification for reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.

The post The Not So ‘Small’ Businesses Ex-Im Bank Boosts appeared first on Daily Signal.

The Deep Roots of the Border Crisis

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 16:58

The violence in Central America that leads to the crisis at our border is not an isolated example of policy gone awry but the tipping point of a failing policy on Latin America. Exhibit 1 is Venezuela. We don’t hear much about Venezuela anymore since the Obama administration let its dictatorial president regain the upper hand.

Yet, Venezuela is the distribution point for much of the drugs that end up in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, which are then shipped from there to the United States. It is estimated that 75 percent of illegal drug flights outbound from South America land in Honduras and originate in Venezuela.

The cartels and street gangs that transship the drugs have overwhelmed the armed forces of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, giving them the No. 1, 4 and 5 highest murder rates in the world. This is why, when Central American parents hear from coyote networks that the Obama administration will give their children asylum, they swallow hard and hand them over to be taken through Mexico and deposited at the Rio Grande.

The Obama administration has known about this complete breakdown of order in our hemisphere for years. In fact, it has contributed to it through its own inaction and refusal to side with democratic forces in the region.

Two courageous Venezuelan journalists daily take personal risks to make sure Venezuela does not descend into a Cuban-style totalitarian dictatorship: David Moran and Gustavo Ocando. The first is the editor of LaPatilla.com, the leading online news publication in Venezuela with 42 million visits per month, and the second is editor of the daily La Verdad, a regional affiliate also with significant reach. These leaders of two of only a dozen opposition media outlets left in Venezuela were in Washington last week to drum up international support for democracy in their home country.

“The Obama administration lost a golden opportunity when it decided not to sanction government officials involved in human rights abuses,” said Moran. The time to act was in February when thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators were taking to the streets daily in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities.

“It was a golden opportunity to deliver a moral blow to the government” of President Nicolas Maduro, he said.

Instead, “the Obama administration handed the baton to Brazil,” said Moran, referring to the Obama administration’s lead-from-behind policy of asking Brazil to be the regional lead on Venezuela.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, a socialist herself, always has been easy on other socialists from Caracas to Havana. But this is not just a question of Marxist solidarity: Brazil’s construction giant, Odebrecht, has $20 billion in projects in Venezuela and an estimated $1.2 billion invested in Cuba, which explains why Rousseff’s administration is deeply committed to the survival of the two dictatorial regimes.

“The Obama administration asked Rousseff for permission to stand up for freedom in Venezuela, and when Brazil did not give its permission it did not wave the flag of freedom,” said Moran. Ocando rolls his eyes, too, when discussing the administration’s decision to follow Brazil’s lead. “The administration has lost its touch. It is very timid with Venezuela,” said Ocando.

Instead, the State Department counseled the leaders of the demonstrators and the political opposition to sit down and have a dialogue with Maduro, while opposing the sanctions that would have kept pressure on the Maduro government—talks he used to buy time and deflate the street pressure.

Now that the streets are quiet, Maduro once again has the upper hand and has called off the talks. So much for the State Department’s advice.

“The Obama administration has done little or nothing to prevent the repression against political and social actors, including the few independent news outlets that still exist,” Ocando said.

A Venezuela run by Maduro and other chavista henchmen is not in the U.S. national interest. As much as 25 percent of Colombia’s cocaine runs through Venezuela, with which Colombia has a porous 1,375-mile border. Ocando’s paper last year reported how remote indigenous villages near the border have been taken over by drug traffickers, turning the jungle into a scene from a Jack Ryan movie.

Today, said Moran sadly, Venezuela “is a country run by narco-traffickers” and Caracas has 162 murders a year per 100,000 inhabitants.

Previous administrations have dealt with bad actors in our hemisphere by supporting those who share our values, as President Reagan did with President Jose Napoleon Duarte in El Salvador and President George W. Bush with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Outsourcing policy to a socialist in Brasilia is not how a superpower behaves.

The Administration should send Venezuela’s opposition a clear message of solidarity, and get serious with Maduro by enacting targeted sanctions against key Venezuelan government officials, including revoking their visas and freezing their assets within the United States.

The post The Deep Roots of the Border Crisis appeared first on Daily Signal.

EPA Proposes to Choke Alaskan Mine Development

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 16:22

Alaska’s open-pit Pebble Mine sits on 55 billion pounds of copper, 67 million ounces of gold, and 3.3 billion pounds of molybdenum—$500 billion in value. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to keep it there.

The EPA is proposing significant limitations on extraction—before the Pebble Limited Partnership, the developers of the mine, have even filed a permit. The reasoning behind the EPA’s stringent limitations, as well as previous threats to preemptively veto the mine’s permit, is that the agency believes the mine development would endanger the salmon habitat in the Bristol Bay watershed.

The EPA’s concerns regarding the fish habitat appear to be reasonable—Alaskans do not want the salmon population decimated—but the EPA’s assertions and warnings come with almost no credibility.

The EPA’s case rests on an environmental analysis of a theoretical mine that would not come close to meeting state and federal standards for mining activities. The scientists and experts serving on the peer review panel of the EPA’s assessment on the Bristol Bay watershed called parts of the report “hogwash.” Geologist Steve Buckley said the assessment had “no detailed discussion of engineering practices” and “a lack of any detailed research into applicable engineering and mitigation methods” to protect the environment and the salmon habitat.

Alaska is a state blessed with both abundant natural resources and beautiful wildlife. State and local leaders in the Last Frontier understand that resource development and environmental protection successfully coexist. Pebble Mine should be no different.

The EPA’s process, or lack thereof, for proposing conditions on Pebble should be cause for concern for every project in the United States. Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier remarked:

We believe that EPA does not have the statutory authority to impose conditions on development at Pebble, or any development project anywhere in Alaska or the US, prior to the submission of a detailed development plan and its thorough review by federal and state agencies, including review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Moreover, EPA’s attempt to preemptively impose conditions on future development at Pebble, in the absence of completing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), as is required of every major development project in the United States, is causing significant and even critical harm to our business interests and our abilities to fairly advance our project.

President Obama preached the need for sound science and transparency when making policy decisions and implementing regulations. Perhaps he should re-send that memo to the EPA.

The post EPA Proposes to Choke Alaskan Mine Development appeared first on Daily Signal.

Texas Sending National Guard to Border Is Good First Step, But a Long-Term Solution Still Needed

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 15:39

Gov. Rick Perry, R-Tex., will send around 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas border under his gubernatorial authorities to help the Texas Department of Public Safety deal with the illegal immigration crisis. Before anyone screams that this is unprecedented or the radical militarization of the border, be assured it is not.

In 2006–2008, all four of the southwest border states had contingents of National Guard troops deployed to augment Customs and Border Protection’s Border Patrol assets. This was done without “militarizing” the border, and it was done with great effect. It was called Operation Jump Start.

The troops came as volunteers from National Guard units from across America. Each state organized its assets a little differently but did so in complete cooperation with federal agencies. The units provided surveillance, did logistics, and relieved Border Patrol agents from administrative jobs. This freed up every available officer for real law enforcement duties.

The enforcement of America’s laws was materially enhanced. No soldiers arrested anyone. The troops reveled in a “good” mission that directly helped their country, the Border Patrol was able to do its job, and the flood of illegal activity (immigration and others) was driven down.

Governor Perry would do well to use Jump Start as a model. It worked.

The major difference is that Operation Jump Start was directed from the presidential level. It was a result of national-level planning that included the state governments and allowed for flexibility and mutual cooperation. In the absence of national leadership, Texas must go it alone this time.

Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents most Border Patrol agents, testified this past June that “nearly 40 percent of our manpower is being pulled from the field to perform duties such as processing and caring for those in our custody.” In the face of the present crisis, it is clear that Governor Perry needed to act to protect his state.

It is also important to note that this is not a long-term solution but just a stop gap. The military is not a cost-effective solution for long-term needs at the border. Even more critically, putting the National Guard on the border does nothing to deal with the root causes of illegal immigration: lax enforcement of immigration laws that encourage more illegal immigration and flawed foreign policies that have left willing partners in Central America twisting in the wind.

It will be interesting to see if the feds will attempt to interfere with an action that is well within Perry’s authority. The nation—especially other border states—will be watching.

The post Texas Sending National Guard to Border Is Good First Step, But a Long-Term Solution Still Needed appeared first on Daily Signal.

You Call This Progress, Secretary Kerry?

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 15:38

During an interview Sunday with Meet the Press, Secretary of State John Kerry claimed credit for North Korea being more “quiet” than last year. Kerry, however, misinterprets the regime’s characteristic alternating between provocations and charm offensives as the U.S. having achieved “progress.”

When North Korea ratcheted up tensions last year, it was to intimidate the UN Security Council into adopting a weaker response to Pyongyang’s nuclear test than was being considered. The regime followed the same script in 2009 and in both cases was largely successful.

Despite Kerry’s claims, North Korea has again recently defied the world by launching several ballistic missiles in violation of UN resolutions. Earlier this year, Pyongyang appeared to be preparing its fourth nuclear test which may occur after additional excavation at its nuclear test site.

Obama has seemingly plummeted from the “audacity of hope” to becoming Bunter-in-Chief.

Kerry also asserts that the Obama Administration is “moving forward” on North Korean denuclearization, despite having achieved no progress at all since it entered office. Kerry cites his meetings with China regarding North Korea, yet Beijing continues to resist U.S. entreaties to increase pressure on Pyongyang by more fully implementing UN resolution sanctions.

In the meantime, Pyongyang continues to refine and augment its nuclear arsenal while Washington remains reluctant to impose the same unilateral US sanctions that it has already imposed on Iran, Burma, and Syria. Nor has the Obama administration yet addressed the UN Commission of Inquiry report on North Korea’s human rights violations which reached a level to be considered “crimes against humanity.” Obama’s Strategic Patience policy does indeed require patience, since there is no strategy.

On a broader note, Kerry proclaims “The United States of America has never been more engaged in helping to lead in more places than we are now.” But in recent interviews Obama has abandoned the sweeping idealistic rhetoric of his first campaign to now defining his foreign policy as “don’t do stupid stuff” and being satisfied with hitting singles and doubles rather than homeruns. He has seemingly plummeted from the “audacity of hope” to becoming Bunter-in-Chief.

In May 2014, Obama gave what was advertised by aides as the foreign policy speech of the president’s second term. Rather than soaring to rhetorical heights, the president’s home field advantage, the commencement speech at West Point was universally panned, both across the political spectrum in the United States and amongst allies across the world.

Obama provided an unconvincing litany of what his policy wasn’t rather than articulating a principled vision or overarching strategy. Also notably absent were bold, inspirational declarations such as John F. Kennedy’s pledge that, “We will support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to ensure the survival and success of liberty.”

Despite strong U.S. pledges of support, America’s allies around the world have begun to question Washington’s capabilities and resolve. The Obama administration’s slashed defense budgets and unfilled ‘red-lines’ risk emboldening opponents toward coercive diplomacy or military action. It appears Obama is bringing soft power to a knife fight.

The post You Call This Progress, Secretary Kerry? appeared first on Daily Signal.

Report: White House Ignored Warnings of Border Crisis Until It Was Too Late

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 15:36

The Obama administration knew of the impending crisis on the U.S.–Mexico border as early as 2012 but chose to ignore the warning signs in light of political considerations, sources told The Washington Post in a story published days before President Obama meets with the leaders of three Central American countries.

A former senior federal law enforcement official told the Post that numerous government agencies were “ringing alarm bells” within the Obama administration—warnings that went continually unanswered.

“There were warning signs, operational folks raising red flags to high levels in terms of this being a potential issue,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

>>> This Is Exactly How Central Americans Illegally Cross the Mexico-Texas Border

The looming immigration crisis was developing as Obama campaigned for a second term. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-CA, recalls that lawmakers understood the gravity of the situation but feared the political blowback.

“That was always a concern of mine: How to address the issue in a way that did not detract from the need for comprehensive immigration reform,” Roybal-Allard said.

Another anonymous source, this one with access to White House internal deliberations, told the Post that the Obama administration wanted to focus on overarching reform rather than an immediate solution.

“Was the White House told there were huge flows of Central Americans coming? Of course they were told. A lot of times. Was there a general lack of interest and a focus on the legislation? Yes, that’s where the focus was.’’

>>> Commentary: Throwing Money at Border Crisis Won’t Solve Problems

Meanwhile, a host of politicians, advocacy groups, and faith initiatives continued to decry federal inaction. In April 2012, Texas Gov. Rick Perry urged Obama “to take immediate action” and return unaccompanied minors to their home countries.

In an open letter to Obama, the Republican governor warned that “every child allowed to remain encourages hundreds more to attempt the journey.”

The Washington Post reports that Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement budget ballooned from $149 million in 2011 to $376 million in 2013, as the number of unaccompanied minors spiked from 3,933 to 20,805 in the same time.

Earlier this month, Obama asked Congress to approve an emergency funding package to address the issue. Republicans contend the president’s proposal lacks border security measures.

>>> Full Washington Post infographic (read related article)

Infographic by Richard Johnson and Christina Rivero/The Washington Post

The post Report: White House Ignored Warnings of Border Crisis Until It Was Too Late appeared first on Daily Signal.

Mark Pryor Challenges Obamacare Critics: ‘Give Me Something Better’

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 15:34

Sen. Mark Pryor dismissed Arkansans’ grievances of losing health insurance because of Obamacare as “anecdotal,” accusing Republicans of solely wanting to complain about the law as opposed to offering a solution. The Arkansas Democrat told a local TV reporter Sunday that Republicans need to back their criticisms up with action. “Give me something better,” Pryor said. “Put your money where your mouth is.”

>>> Related: The Heritage Foundation proposed an alternative to Obamacare last fall, suggesting health care reform should be patient-centered.

The post Mark Pryor Challenges Obamacare Critics: ‘Give Me Something Better’ appeared first on Daily Signal.

Chris Christie Criticizes White House for ‘Awful’ Response to Border Crisis

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 15:21

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joined the growing chorus of critics blaming the Obama administration for its failure to secure the U.S.–Mexico border. Christie, a potential Republican presidential candidate who toured Iowa last week, said the administration had done an “awful” job handling the current influx of illegal immigrants. He said the United States should take requests for help and assistance, but shouldn’t “play a role of encouraging this.”

The post Chris Christie Criticizes White House for ‘Awful’ Response to Border Crisis appeared first on Daily Signal.

Another Anchor Quits Russian TV Network, Citing ‘Lies’ About Malaysian Plane Crash

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 14:48

RT anchor Sara Firth resigned Friday in protest of the TV network’s coverage of the Malaysian plane crash that left 298 dead.

Taking to Twitter, she said:

I resigned from RT today. I have huge respect for many in the team, but I'm for the truth. pic.twitter.com/mZ1g0R7N0D

— Sara Firth (@Sara__Firth) July 18, 2014

Firth was a London-based correspondent of the Kremlin-funded TV channel. She worked there for five years and quit after RT suggested Ukraine was responsible for the downing of flight MH17. The network ran a story that implied the crash was an attempt to shoot down a plane in which Vladimir Putin was flying.

“When this story broke that was the moment I knew I had to go,” she told The Guardian.

RT has been criticized for being a propaganda mouthpiece of the Russian government. On Twitter, Firth charged the network of spreading “lies” and working for Putin.

@Polly_Boiko @ukTanos Lies hun. We do work for Putin. We are asked on a daily basis if not to totally ignore then to obscure the truth

— Sara Firth (@Sara__Firth) July 18, 2014

In a prepared statement, RT responded to Firth’s accusations, defending its editorial judgment and claiming the network “show all sides of the story”:

Sara has declared that she chooses the truth; apparently we have different definitions of truth…RT, unlike the rest of the media, did not draw conclusions before the official investigation has even begun. We show all sides of the story, even if everyone else has already decided which side is to blame.

Firth shot back, telling The Guardian:

There is bias against Russia but you don’t counter wrong by doing even more wrong. They are putting all this money into making it look like the truth and it’s not, it’s just so sad. It’s so close sometimes to be being great.

When asked by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour if she feels a sense of responsibility in promoting Russia’s state-led propaganda, Firth said, “Absolutely … that’s something that you have to wear every day working for RT.”

Over the weekend, Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed on CNN’s “State of the Union” that pro-Russian separatists were involved in Thursday’s attack and said it is “pretty clear” Russia also had a role in the event:

It’s pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia into the hands of separatists. We know with confidence, with confidence, that the Ukrainians did not have such a system anywhere near the vicinity at that point and time, so it obviously points a very clear finger at the separatists.

Firth is the second RT reporter to resign in protest of the network’s news coverage. Earlier this year, RT America anchor Liz Wahl, who worked at the American cable network funded by Russia’s government, quit on air:

“Personally I cannot be part of a network that whitewashes the actions of Putin. I am proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth and that is why after this newscast I’m resigning.”

The post Another Anchor Quits Russian TV Network, Citing ‘Lies’ About Malaysian Plane Crash appeared first on Daily Signal.

Obama’s LGBT Executive Order Undermines Pluralism and Religious Liberty

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 14:31

Today President Barack Obama issued an executive order barring federal contractors from what it describes as “discrimination” on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Employers should respect the intrinsic dignity of all of their employees, but today’s executive order undermines our nation’s commitment to pluralism and religious liberty.

Today’s executive order does not contain any religious liberty protections—though it does retain an older federal regulation that permits religious organizations that favor employment of co-religionists to continue such practices. But there is no protection for organizations that hire based on mission—not on affiliation—to continue to do so. This in effect excludes taxpayers who hold conscientious beliefs about sexuality that run counter to Obama’s from being eligible for federal contracts funded with their own tax dollars.

Today’s order disregards the consciences and liberties of people of goodwill who happen not to share the government’s opinions about issues of sexuality. All Americans should be free to contract with the government without penalty because of their reasonable beliefs about morally contentious issues.

Federal policy on government contracts should not seek to enforce monolithic liberal secularism. Today’s order undermines our nation’s commitment to reasonable pluralism and reasonable diversity. All citizens and the groups they form should be free to exist and participate in relevant government programs according to their reasonable beliefs. The federal government should not use the tax-code and government contracting to reshape civil society on controversial moral issues that have nothing to do with the federal contract at stake. All educational institutes, for example, that meet bona fide requirements about education (not sexuality) should be eligible for federal contracts if they fulfill the federal purpose of the program—education.

Today’s order disregards the consciences and liberties of people of goodwill who happen not to share the government’s opinions about issues of sexuality.

Previous guidelines for federal contractors prohibited discrimination on race, color, national origin, sex, and religious affiliation. These protections make sense, because race, color, national origin and sex are rarely—if ever—relevant to job performance, while religious affiliation is relevant for some religious organizations (and, as noted above, there were religious hiring exemptions). But sexual orientation and gender identity are not like race.

Indeed, sexual orientation and gender identity are unclear, ambiguous terms. They can refer to voluntary behaviors as well as thoughts and inclinations, and it is reasonable for employers to make distinctions based on actions. By contrast, “race” and “sex” clearly refer to traits, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, these traits (unlike voluntary behaviors) do not affect fitness for any job.

Today’s executive order bans decisions based on moral views common to the Abrahamic faith traditions and to great thinkers from Plato to Kant as unjust discrimination. Whether by religion, reason, or experience, many people of goodwill believe that our bodies are an essential part of who we are. On this view, maleness and femaleness are not arbitrary constructs but objective ways of being human to be valued and affirmed, not rejected or altered. Thus, our sexual embodiment as male and female goes to the heart of what marriage is: a union of sexually complementary spouses. Today’s order deems such judgments irrational and unlawful.

Today’s executive order also does not contain a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ) exemption. BFOQs, which other employment laws contain, allow employers to make employment decisions so long as those decisions are honestly related to job qualifications. For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act contains a BFOQ that allows employers to take sex into account: hiring a female camp counselor at an all-girls sleep-away summer camp, for example, which might otherwise seem to be “sex discrimination.” Today’s executive order has no provision that protects organizations with jobs where one’s sexual orientation or gender identity is a bona fide occupational qualification that is reasonably connected to the mission of the organization and the responsibilities of the job.

Worst of all, today’s executive order is unnecessary. Voluntary market forces are already eliminating true discrimination, as making employment decisions based on non-relevant factors hurts one’s ability to compete. Indeed, the liberal Williams Institute at UCLA, which conducts research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, reports that most federal contractors do not consider sexuality:

• As of May 2014, 86 percent of the top 50 federal contractors prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 61 percent prohibited discrimination based on gender identity.

• All but two (96 percent) of the top 50 Fortune 500 companies prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation as of May 2014, and 70 percent prohibited discrimination based on gender identity.

But the federal government should not penalize those contractors that do conscientiously judge sexual orientation or gender identity to be relevant to their mission and purpose.

In response to this executive order, Congress has an opportunity to protect religious liberty and the rights of conscience. Policy should prohibit the government from discriminating against any individual or group, whether nonprofit or for-profit, based on their beliefs that marriage is the union of a man and woman or that sexual relations are reserved for marriage. The government should be prohibited from discriminating against such groups or individuals in tax policy, employment, licensing, accreditation, or contracting.

The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act—sponsored by Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, in the House (H.R. 3133) with more than 100 co-sponsors of both parties and sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee, R – Utah, in the Senate (S. 1808) with 17 co-sponsors—would prevent the federal government from taking such adverse actions. Protecting religious liberty and the rights of conscience fosters a more diverse civil sphere. Indeed, tolerance is essential to promoting peaceful coexistence even amid disagreement.

For more on this see:

The post Obama’s LGBT Executive Order Undermines Pluralism and Religious Liberty appeared first on Daily Signal.

Let’s Avoid Policies That Encourage Universities to Hike Tuition

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 14:06

Senators Marco Rubio, R-Fla.,and Mark Warner. D-Va., have introduced the Dynamic Repayment Act of 2014. The proposal would establish an income-contingent based repayment system that would require every borrower of a federal student loan to pay 10 percent of his monthly income upon graduation, and would garner those payments through paycheck withholding.

Student debt is a serious issue. Approximately 60 percent of students who earned a bachelor’s degree during the 2011-12 academic year left school more than $26,000 in debt. Total cumulative student loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion, which, as is often noted, is more than cumulative credit card debt.

But the Dynamic Repayment proposal would fail to drive down college costs over time, instead inviting inflation of tuition and fees. Universities would be able to continue increasing costs, and borrowers would be more likely to consider the payments a 10 percent tax on earnings upon graduation. And because borrowers wouldn’t be cutting the checks for their loan repayments themselves, they would be unlikely to internalize the cost of borrowing. The withholding provision also enshrines the federal role in lending. Moreover, individuals not filing a tax return would have an income-based repayment of zero, potentially disincentivizing work after graduation. Other potential unintended consequences of a 10 percent withholding might include an individual choosing not to take a promotion if it means higher pay, and hence, an increase in the amount they pay per month.

Rather than trying to figure out ways the federal government can manipulate debt repayment, policymakers should be pursuing policies that don’t lead to increasing college costs and don’t encourage even more borrowing.

One way they can do that is to limit the open spigot of federal student aid and pursue the types of structural reforms to the accreditation system that would allow innovation to flourish. Federal policymakers should end government sanctioning of accrediting agencies and allow any institution to accredit courses, decouple accreditation and federal funding, as proposals by Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Ron DeSantis would do. Their proposals would allow states to establish flexible accreditation models that would infuse a level of customization in higher education that is currently impossible under the existing accreditation system. The Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act—or HERO Act—would empower states to allow any entity to credential courses and pave the way for a more flexible college experience for students and make possible a dramatic reduction in college costs.

The post Let’s Avoid Policies That Encourage Universities to Hike Tuition appeared first on Daily Signal.

These Bills Could Affect American Higher Education. Here’s How.

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 13:13

Several bills have advanced in Congress as part of a piecemeal approach that signifies the beginning of a process to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, which covers federal student aid and accreditation among other areas.

One bill, the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act introduced by Reps. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.,, Susan Brooks, R-Ind.,, and Jared Polis, D-Colo., would enable the Department of Education to grant flexibility to educational options that focus on skills achieved and subjects mastered, rather than time spent in a classroom.

This legislation directs the Department of Education to create competency-based education demonstration projects, and enables the secretary of education to waive existing regulations that impede the growth of competency-based education. Moving away from “seat time” and toward competency-based education is a worthwhile goal, but the proposal maintains the role of the federal government by enabling the Secretary of Education to select various entities to participate in competency-based education demonstration projects.

Another bill, The Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act, introduced by Reps. Virginia Foxx R-N.C. and Luke Messer R-Ind., is designed to streamline the information required on the existing College Navigator website operated by the U.S. Department of Education. The existing College Navigator site requires colleges to provide a litany of data, with the hope of helping students make informed decisions about college and student loan debt. But it’s questionable whether the existing site accomplishes that mission.

The federal government requires colleges to provide information on the cost of attendance, the net price of attendance, and includes on the website the 5 percent of colleges with the highest tuition and fees, and the 5 percent of colleges that have the largest increase in tuition and fees over the most recent past 3 academic years, among a multitude of other data.

The Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act proposal would rename the site the College Dashboard, and attempts to streamline the information made available. It would, however, require more than three dozen pieces of information, including, among other metrics, specific data such as “the ratio of the number of course sections taught by part-time instructors to the number of course sections taught by full-time faculty, disaggregated by course sections intended primarily for undergraduate students and course sections intended primarily for graduate students,” and “the mean and median years of employment for part-time instructors.”

Although the transparency act is an effort to make the existing U.D. Department of Education website more user-friendly and transparent, the problem with any such site is that it inevitably reflects inputs delineated by Congress and federal agencies, rather than parents, students, and scholarly communities, to determine what is or is not important in education.

A more promising approach might be for the Department of Education to act simply as a clearinghouse for information, not the arbiter of what information is valuable to students. Being a clearinghouse for non-governmental ranking entities such as U.S. News and World Report, Kiplinger’s, and Princeton Review, could prove useful, while not putting a federal imprimatur on what designates quality. The Center for World University Rankings, for example, recentlyanalyzed the top 1,000 universities throughout the world, using metrics such as alumni employment, patents, publications, and the quality of education, among other measures.

A third proposal out of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act, introduced by Reps. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., and Richard Hudson, R_N.C., would provide enhanced counseling for students receiving federal financial aid. Among other things, the bill directs the secretary of education to “maintain and disseminate a consumer-tested, online counseling tool institutions can use to provide annual loan counseling, exit counseling, and annual Pell Grant counseling.”

The House Education and the Workforce Committee is pursuing a piecemeal approach to reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. But the HEA needs a major overhaul. A guiding principal for reauthorization should be to streamline the HEA in a way that more closely mirrors its primary purpose of allocating federal student loans and grants to ease the cost of college. That goal requires eliminating duplicative, unnecessary, or ineffective programs and titles that have accrued over the decades, and considering reforms that would ensure the HEA best serves students.Better targeting Pell Grant funding to serve the needs of low-income students and creating a more flexible and affordable higher education experience by decoupling federal financing from accreditation are two such reforms.

The post These Bills Could Affect American Higher Education. Here’s How. appeared first on Daily Signal.

Dianne Feinstein: Putin Needs to ‘Man Up,’ Address Malaysia Airlines Attack

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 14:01

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., issued a stern warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin today, saying he should “man up” and address last week’s tragic attack on a Malaysian jetliner.

Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, discussed Russia’s role in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 during an interview with Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“The issue is where is Putin?” Feinstein told Crowley. “I would say, ‘Putin, you have to man up. You should talk to the world. You should say, if this is a mistake, which I hope it was, say it.’”

The senator’s comments come after Secretary of State John Kerry said it is “pretty clear” Russia was involved in the attack on the Malaysia Airlines jetliner. A surface-to-air missile struck the jet Thursday, and the plane crashed in Eastern Ukraine. All 298 passengers on board were killed.

The post Dianne Feinstein: Putin Needs to ‘Man Up,’ Address Malaysia Airlines Attack appeared first on Daily Signal.

John Kerry: ‘Pretty Clear’ Russia Involved in Malaysian Plane Crash

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 12:56

Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed today that pro-Russian separatists were involved in Thursday’s attack on a Malaysia Airlines plane which left 298 dead and said it is “pretty clear” Russia also had a role in the tragic event.

He told host Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union”:

It’s pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia into the hands of separatists. We know with confidence, with confidence, that the Ukrainians did not have such a system anywhere near the vicinity at that point and time, so it obviously points a very clear finger at the separatists.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over Eastern Ukraine, and it was originally unclear who was responsible for the attack.

During his CNN appearance, Kerry said he knows “for certain” that armed personnel carriers, rockets launchers, tanks and artillery were brought into Eastern Ukraine from Russia and given to separatists. He also said Russians trained the separatist militiamen. Kerry said:

Now we have a video showing a launcher moving back through a particular area out into Russia with at least one missing missile on it, so we have enormous input about this, which points fingers.

Since the attack, there have been multiple reports that separatists have taken the bodies of approximately 200 victims who were on board the Malaysia Airlines jet. According to The New York Times, the pro-Russian separatists are limiting access to the crash site.

On Friday, Heritage Foundation’s Peter Brookes appeared on Fox News to discuss what should be done if Russia was involved with the plane crash:

The post John Kerry: ‘Pretty Clear’ Russia Involved in Malaysian Plane Crash appeared first on Daily Signal.

Ted Cruz: Obama, Harry Reid Are Holding Unaccompanied Minors for ‘Ransom’

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 12:38

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, criticized President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., today for their support of amnesty and said they were holding the unaccompanied minors coming cross the southern border for “ransom.” Cruz, interviewed on “Fox News Sunday,” said the promise of amnesty is what has driven more than 50,000 young illegal immigrants into the United States.

“I’ll tell you who is holding these kids ransom: It’s Harry Reid and the president,” Cruz said. “Because their view is: Don’t do anything to fix the problem.”

During a speech on the Senate floor Thursday, Reid criticized Republicans for failing to consider a “thoughtful, compassionate solution” to the border crisis. “Radical Republicans,” he continued, “would rather hold these kids ransom.”

Lawmakers are working to devise a solution on how to deal with the flood of unaccompanied minors who have crossed the border in Texas since October.

The post Ted Cruz: Obama, Harry Reid Are Holding Unaccompanied Minors for ‘Ransom’ appeared first on Daily Signal.

That One Time the Obama Administration Used Diplomacy Well

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 00:01

File it under “things you don’t see very often.” A press release from Republican Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, declaring, “I appreciate the efforts of Secretary Kerry….”

Accolades from across the aisle have been few and far between for an administration that has suffered an almost endless string of foreign-policy reversals since 2008. Indeed, Secretary of State John Kerry had been the front runner on many pundits’ short lists of “most likely to be the first official to be ousted from the second-term team.”

Yet Kerry appears to have averted a catastrophic crisis in Afghanistan—one that might have brought down the whole American project. There is much that Kerry could learn from this triumph about what realistic diplomacy looks like.

Part of the plan for getting the United States out of Afghanistan once and for all, without turning the country back over to the Taliban, called for creating a stable, durable political process. The blossoming of democracy, however, seemed to be imploding last month, when a run-off election between presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani became mired in widespread election fraud. Both candidates suggested they might form their own government. If that happened, the country might just fall apart.

Last week, Kerry jetted in to talk both sides back from the brink. News circulated that if the two presidential candidates went their separate ways, Obama might well pull the plug on all U.S. support. It’s no secret that influential voices in the White House have long advocated the “zero option,” so the threat certainly seemed credible.

But, Kerry did the deal. He brokered an agreement from both candidates that they would hold off. Instead, they will stand down while all the votes in the election are audited.

Crisis averted—for now.

From the outset of his presidency, Obama has long trumpeted the practice of substituting “soft” power for hard options. That predisposition is a core tenet of the Obama Doctrine. But for all its efforts, the White House has never had much to show. Putin revoked the Russian “reset.” The administration hasn’t come close to closing any major trade deals. Secretary Kerry’s optimism that he could broker peace between Hamas and Israel has been shattered by sharply escalated violence.

The president’s deal on Syria’s chemical weapons has failed to slow the spiraling death count in that country. Indeed, violence there has now spilled over and overwhelmed Iraq. And while the president’s focus may have shifted to Asia, none of our major Asian allies seem much reassured. The major concerns in the region—from the resurgence of transnational terrorism, to the instability of North Korea, to China’s burgeoning and increasingly bellicose territorial claims—have not lessened. And few believe the White House can close a credible nuclear deal with Iran and P+5 before the July 20 deadline.

Kerry’s success in Kabul stands in sharp contrast to rest of the Obama foreign-policy muddle. Diplomacy worked on this occasion largely because it was the rare occasion when the White House allowed for the proper use of the instrument.

The very first rule of good diplomacy is that it must be realistic—that what the diplomats are asked to accomplish is suitable, feasible and acceptable. This administration has too often tried to use diplomacy to solve every problem—rather than only the problems statecraft can solve.

Diplomacy’s second law is that soft and hard power work best hand in hand. Henry Kissinger once declared, “Power without legitimacy tempts tests of strength; legitimacy without power tempts empty posturing.” That’s dictum Obama seems not to have heard. Instead, the White House tends to preface all diplomatic initiatives with acts of deliberate self-weakening, leaving itself negotiating from a position of weakness.

In Kabul, Kerry avoided both the pitfalls of poor diplomacy. A deal was certainly doable. Both Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani are Western educated. They want to keep the United States and other allies engaged in the country. The last thing either man wants is to be left standing alone, between the warlords and the Taliban.

Furthermore, they still need the United States. The Afghan military is performing better and more consistently than expected. Compared to the Iraqi military, they look like the Army of the Potomac at Appomattox. But there is little chance that progress could be sustained without coalition support.

Yes, Washington’s influence over Kabul has declined since Obama announced the timeline for the drawdown and began to pull back U.S. troops. On the other hand, the United States still has enough presence and the Afghans have enough needs that our diplomats can play “let’s make a deal” with a straight face.

After all, neither presidential aspirant could really relish the thought of trying to set up their own government and think they would ever spend an easy night holding the presidential title.

The problem for President Obama is that virtually none of the other major foreign-policy conundrums he faces will yield as easily to a diplomatic sit-down as the crisis in Kabul. When it comes to dealing with Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and the mayhem in Syria and Iraq, Mr. Obama should accept that, for the foreseeable future, there are no good outcomes that can be readily won at the negotiating table.

There is, however, an important role for diplomacy in the sunset of the Obama presidency. The president and his secretary could profitably spend their waning days reassuring friends and allies that America will be a capable, responsive and consistent power.

Obama could start by showing real leadership at the NATO summit. He could then present a focused, proactive agenda at the upcoming U.S.-Africa Leadership Summit. He could press to reestablish the “quad” talks (India, China, Japan and the United States) in Asia. He could take an active interest in promoting a major free-trade agreement—the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Unfortunately, right now none of those possibilities seem to be in the offing. Instead, Mr. Obama continues to send Mr. Kerry out like forlorn hope on what looks mostly like “show,” rather than “show me” diplomatic missions.

Originally posted on National Interest.

The post That One Time the Obama Administration Used Diplomacy Well appeared first on Daily Signal.

How Do We Save Baseball From Extinction?

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 00:01

Let me begin by saying I love baseball. I grew up playing whiffle ball nearly every summer afternoon in a vacant lot in suburban Chicago, and I played seven years of Little League. I regularly ditched high school, dodged the truancy officers, hopped on the El and spent my afternoons in Wrigley Field – this was pre-lights in the Friendly Confines.

As the immortal Garrett Morris put it so memorably on “Saturday Night Live:” “Baseball been berry, berry good to me.”

If you asked me any statistic of any star player in the late 1960s and 1970s, I could recite it for you. Bob Gibson, 1968: 22-9, 1.12 ERA. I still remember these numbers. I couldn’t wait for the All-Star week, when you could watch Roberto Clemente square off against Vida Blue. Those were the days.

Baseball is a dying sport. The trend is unmistakable and undeniable.

Today I couldn’t name more than a dozen players. Worse, nor could my three sons. Baseball is a dying sport. The trend is unmistakable and undeniable.

The baseball diamonds across the country are increasingly empty, with weeds growing in the infield.

If you drive by a neighborhood park on a Saturday afternoon, few boys or girls are playing baseball or softball. Most are playing basketball, or even, ugghh, kicking a soccer ball.

These days, skateboarding seems to be more popular with young teens than baseball.

Having coached softball in recent years, I’m increasingly amazed at how many 20-somethings are clueless on the field (you have to tag up on a fly ball, moron!) and seem to swing a baseball bat with less skill than my 11-year-old sister used to. How do you strike out in slow-pitch softball?

Really?

Major League Baseball’s TV audiences are shrinking. It used to be that watching the World Series was must-see TV. For the past 20 years, viewership of the World Series is down, down, down. People would rather watch “Dancing with the Stars.”

A big part of the decline is that since fewer American kids are playing baseball, fewer Major League stars are Americans. The teams are increasingly dominated by Central American or Caribbean stars. A related problem: Few great black athletes play baseball anymore.

The sport is also too slow-paced. Way too slow. And there’s way too much standing around. You practically get more exercise texting. Sorry, but this is an instant gratification generation coming of age. For Millennials, waiting two minutes between pitches is tantamount to serving a life sentence. We have speed chess, why not speed baseball?

So I am going to recommend six ways to save America’s pastime. Baseball purists won’t be happy at all, but the sport has got to change or die.

1. Three balls and take your base, two strikes and you’re out. This is a fundamental and dramatic rule change. It would force pitchers to throw strikes and speed up the game. This may not work for professional baseball, but it would be a huge improvement for youth leagues.

2. For Little League: Rotate the pitcher every inning so every kid has a chance to take the mound and be the center of the action. Also, rotate all positions, so that the least talented kids don’t get stuck out in right field watching the clouds pass by for an hour and a half while maybe one ball gets hit to them. The game is now too tailored for the star athletes, not the average kids.

3. Get rid of practice between innings. The players should rush on to the field and be ready to go. The pitcher should be ready to pitch. He can warm up on the sidelines when his team is at bat. Play ball. No warm-ups for relief pitchers unless the pitcher gets injured.

4. Also for Little League: Every kid bats. If there are 12 kids on the bench, you have a lineup with 12 batters (but you still put nine on the field).

5. Give the pitcher a maximum of 45 seconds between pitches or else the umpire calls an automatic ball.

6. Get rid of all domed stadiums and retractable roofs. This is obvious. Baseball (and football) should be played outdoors, always and everywhere. I’m biased; I grew up in Wrigley Field.

Whether these reforms will rescue baseball before it becomes about as popular as cricket or badminton is an open question. But it’s time for an intervention to save America’s pastime.

Originally posted on Fox News.

The post How Do We Save Baseball From Extinction? appeared first on Daily Signal.

Obama Must Enforce Current Laws to Solve Border Crisis

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 00:01

It became her mantra. The U.S. border with Mexico, Janet Napolitano would say, “has never been more secure.” First uttered in 2010 during Congressional testimony, she repeated it often for the remainder of her tenure as Homeland Security Secretary.

Even four years ago, not everyone agreed. True, illegal border crossings had dried up in some sectors. But elsewhere new transit corridors had opened. And cartel activity had never receded. Smugglers used everything from tunnels to ultralight aircraft to funnel people and drugs north, and money and guns south.

Still, there was no question that, in 2010, border interdictions were rising, and the total number of people unlawfully present in the United States was declining. The drop started even before Napolitano got on the job. A 2008 report by the Washington-based Center for immigration Studies estimated the number had fallen 1.3 million since 2007, an 11 percent decline.

The report cited “strong indications” that stepped-up enforcement played a major role. Others pegged the decline to disappearing jobs–a result of the recession. Doubtless both factors were at play. Nevertheless, Napolitano trumpeted the numbers, largely to argue that a general amnesty for illegal immigrants was now perfectly appropriate. After all, with the border secure, more illegal immigrants could not possibly follow!

Today, the flood of unaccompanied minors illegally crossing the border makes Napolitano’s declaration look foolish. Last year, the Department of Health and Human Services reported it had custody of about 2,000 minors who had entered illegally, without a parent. This year more than 52,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended at the South Texas border alone.

Why the dramatic upsurge? It comes following the president’s 2012 declaration that his administration would defer, virtually automatically, deportation of minors unlawfully present in the U.S. Over the last year, “coyotes” have been using that promise as a marketing tool for their people smuggling business. Coupling this announcement with disastrous policies towards El Salvador,Honduras, and Guatemala — the three countries from which most of these children come — Obama has done much to undermine all the enforcement measures that had stemmed the tide of illegal migration.

Now Washington has stepped in with three proposals to solve the problem.

First, the president has asked for $3.8 billion in “emergency” spending. That’s a laughable request intended mostly as a sound bite for the White House to claim it is doing something. Little of the money would go toward making the border more secure. A lot would go to hiring immigration judges — a two-year process that hardly qualifies as emergency spending. If there are legitimate additional needs Congress should just address them in the annual appropriations bill.

Second, some want to cut foreign aid to punish El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. But, Congress has to be careful not to gut programs that help those nations battle the gangs and cartels that have made life there so difficult. Indeed, by withholding security assistance funds over the last few years, Washington has inadvertently fueled the problems many Central Americans seek to flee.

Third, there is a move to amend current law to allow for expedited removal of minors from countries that are noncontiguous with the United States. If done right, that policy change would actually help over the long-term. Even under expedited removal, U.S. officials must fully consider a child’s safety in their decision-making. After all, once the U.S. takes custody of a minor, it’s responsible for that child.

Today’s border crisis offers an important lesson: When an administration ignores the law or only pretends to enforce it, no one pretends to obey it. The consequences are self-evident.

Originally posted on the Washington Examiner.

The post Obama Must Enforce Current Laws to Solve Border Crisis appeared first on Daily Signal.

Pages