Texas official: Obama playing politics with U.S. border

Brendan Thomas Contributor
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Mexican drug cartels are running rampant across the Texas border, and the federal government is doing little to impede their smuggling and violence, says the Lone Star State’s Agriculture Commissioner, Todd Staples.

Staples, who addressed the House Immigration Reform Caucus on border security and immigration issues last week, is one of a cavalcade of local officials and interested parties making their way to Washington, DC as the Senate considers the “Gang of Eight” omnibus immigration bill.

But his advocacy for farmers and ranchers in Texas, he told The Daily Caller, gives Staples a special perspective on the immigration issue. Texans along the southern border, he said, feel like they’re living in a no-man’s land and must fend for themselves in the absence of federal enforcement.

“The Constitution says it’s the federal government’s duty to protect against incursion from foreign invasion. I can’t think of a better way to describe this,” says Staples, who is running for lieutenant governor of Texas in 2014, largely on an immigration-reform platform.  The state gets short shrift compared to California and Arizona, Staples said. “People have a right to defend themselves.”

He’s not referring to groups like the Minutemen but to ranchers and farmers defending themselves against armed marauders. “What the federal government has done is create a situation in which it’s impossible for good men and women to tell the difference between thugs who want to do harm and illegal immigrants just looking for work.”

In his book “Broken Border, Broken Promises,” Staples describes constituents who have gun battles with cartels, others who have fled hostile intruders and some who narrowly avoided kidnapping.

Staples, whose department in 2011 ordered a “Strategic Military Assessment” of immigration from retired Army general and former drug czar Barry McCaffrey, says Washington needs to pay closer attention to links among South and Central American regimes, criminal networks and fanatical foreign powers. He advocates naming Mexican cartels as terrorist groups and adopting some of the military hardware now at play on the Afghan-Pakistan border along America’s southern border.

“Military mobilization is not what I’m suggesting,” Staples said. “Just a commitment to security, but we have to have the will. Unfortunately, it’s not evident in this administration.”

Rather than militarizing the border, the Obama Administration is doing  the opposite, politicizing it, said Staples. He pointed to President Barack Obama’s battle with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer over SB 1070 [pdf], a state law that required state and local police to check immigration status during traffic stops and other lawful contact, provided they have reasonable suspicion that the person is an illegal.

Obama’s Justice Department contended to the Supreme Court that immigration responsibilities fall solely within the purview of the Feds, but Staples argues, “It just doesn’t make any sense for the government under this administration to say it has absolute authority over border and immigration policy and then assume little of it.”

Staples, a former state representative and senator from the Palestine area between Houston and Dallas, believes the Obama administration wants to ease up on immigration enforcement for political reasons. “It’s called ‘Battleground Texas.’ That’s the Democrats’ plan to turn Texas into a Democrat stronghold, so Republicans will never win another national election,” he said.

“Democrats are interested in voters, not workers,” Staples said. “The labor unions calling the shots don’t want that kind of competition. What we get instead is neither security, nor a workforce, but government dependency for a whole new swath of people Democrats will muster at election time.”

Staples supports a guest worker program as an immigration solution but does not want it to come with an automatic path to citizenship either. He said the GOP on Capitol Hill is falling into a political trap by talking simply of security and amnesty.