The president says those who asked for a lower crime rate and more agents on patrol got what they wanted
President Obama delivered his opening argument Tuesday in the debate over immigration reform, a debate he opened by bringing it up. The political point he made, before a friendly crowd in El Paso, Texas, was this: Border-security isn't such a big problem.
"We've answered those concerns," Obama said, pointing out that violent crime in border towns has "dropped by a third."
"We now have more boots on the ground on the Southwest border than at any point in our history," Obama said. "Border patrol has 20,000 agents, more than twice as many as there were in 2004."
Obama posed this as a response to Republicans who have said that border security should be the first and foremost priority of immigration policy. Just last week, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner told Roll Call that discussion of comprehensive reform can't begin until the border is made more secure.
It's a novel approach, politically. In recent attempts at reform, added border-security measures have been offered in exchange for a deal on citizenship. In 2007, before the last big immigration-reform push fell apart, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tried to appease skeptics of the bill, proposed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), by throwing in an addition $4.4 billion for border-security funding.