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Babeu tells House panel there’s ‘no law’ on immigration under Obama
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Babeu tells House panel there’s ‘no law’ on immigration under Obama

  • Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, where he said the federal government’s failure to protect U.S. borders has led to increased crime.
    Kristen Hwang/Cronkite NewsPinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, where he said the federal government’s failure to protect U.S. borders has led to increased crime.
  • Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu with a photo of Grant Ronnebeck, 21, a Mesa store clerk who Babeu said was killed by an undocumented immigrant with a criminal record. Babeu was testifying to a House panel on immigration enforcement.
    Kristen Hwang/Cronkite NewsPinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu with a photo of Grant Ronnebeck, 21, a Mesa store clerk who Babeu said was killed by an undocumented immigrant with a criminal record. Babeu was testifying to a House panel on immigration enforcement.

WASHINGTON – Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu cited the arrest of an undocumented immigrant in connection with the recent killing of a Mesa store clerk as evidence Tuesday that the federal government has failed to secure U.S. borders.

“When it comes to immigration, there is no law because there are no consequences,” Babeu said in testimony at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the enforcement of immigration laws – what many conservatives call the administration’s “catch and release” policy.

The hearing came as Congress continued to grapple with funding the Department of Homeland Security, which is scheduled to run out of money at the end of this month. Senate Democrats Tuesday blocked a vote on a House-passed bill that would fund the department but strip out any money for President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

“The irony is not lost on me that the majority will spend the next several hours attacking the administration for not taking enforcement seriously, and yet they are threatening to defund the Department of Homeland Security,” said Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., at the outset of Tuesday’s committee hearing.

Conyers said it was “obvious” the hearing would not address opportunities to help those immigrants who are already in the U.S. but live in fear of deportation.

Under Obama’s executive actions on immigration, federal agencies prioritize which undocumented immigrants should be deported, focusing on those with significant criminal records and those who pose a threat to national security, among other targeted groups.

Department of Homeland Security numbers show that deportations of undocumented immigrants fell from 973,396 in 2009, Obama’s first year in office, to 438,421 in 2013.

Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the U.S. Immigration Program at the Migration Policy Institute, testified that there has been a “quality versus quantity” trade-off in deportations as a result of the administration’s new immigration policies.

But critics on the committee said the policies resulted in the release of thousands of “known criminals” into American communities.

“I can’t imagine releasing somebody if both sides agree the defendant had a 50 percent chance of committing another crime. That is just unconscionable,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas.

The hearing devolved into partisan squabbling, with Democratic committee members attacking Babeu’s credibility and Republican members attacking the administration’s use of executive action on immigration.

“A sovereign country should never apologize for having a secure border any more than this Capitol should apologize for having metal detectors at every single entrance,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.

But Democrats pointed to the crime-ridden areas of Central America from which many child migrants travel, noting that those children should not be lumped into the same category as others crossing the border illegally.

“Today we treat most of those seeking asylum as criminals,” said Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla. “When we treat refugees as criminals we don’t sound like the United States of America, the country that is supposed to lead the world in values for human rights, for justice and for fairness.”

But Babeu said reform must start with securing the border. He said those representatives who are not from border states often do not understand the crime and violence associated with across-the-border drug cartels.

“Some of the Democrats were shocked by the presentation of information about drug cartel spotters – lookouts on mountain tops. We’ve arrested about a dozen of them,” Babeu said during a break in the hearing. “How on Earth have we gotten to this point in the country that it’s the job of the local sheriff to fight these foreign criminal syndicates?”

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