August 7, 2008

Border policy blasted

August 7, 2008

Senate hopeful stumps in city
By Chris Ramirez

U.S. Senate hopeful Rick Noriega said he thinks redeploying more National Guard troops to the border will help reform the nation's immigration policy.

Speaking in Republican-strong Amarillo and Lubbock on Wednesday, Noriega accused incumbent Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, of political "gimmickry" instead of hammering out solutions to the nation's immigration crisis.

Noriega, a Democrat, called for enacting Operation Jump Start II, a proposed second wave of troop deployments along the Texas-Mexico border. He also wants soldiers to be equipped with more sophisticated border-surveillance technology and for employers to face stiffer penalties if they knowingly hire undocumented immigrants.

"Washington has failed in their immigration policies and have put an enormous burden on all Texans in state and local governments," Noriega said. "State and local governments have had to pick up the ball ... and have had to pay for a failed immigration policy."

Noriega was the National Guard's Laredo Border Sector commander during Operation Jump Start, the 2006 troop deployment that sent an estimated 18,000 guardsmen to the border to provide security until federal lawmakers could mete out an immigration-reform package.

Controlling the border is key to crime that stems from human smuggling and the flow of illegal drugs into the United States, said Noriega, a state representative from Houston.

Officials for Cornyn's campaign said Noriega's pledge for more troops at the border smacked of doublespeak. Noriega once described the deployment as "political fluff," a sentiment his campaign was quick to say was meant to convey that troops were not a substitute for meaningful immigration reform.

"Two years ago, deploying National Guardsmen to the border was wasteful fluff. Now, it's central to his immigration policy," said Kevin McLaughlin, spokesman for the Cornyn campaign. "This plan reeks of Washington, D.C., and leaves more unanswered questions than it answers."

Jimmy Healy, chairman of the Hutchinson County Democratic Party, said that although Noriega is trailing in the polls, the Democrat is chipping away at Cornyn's pre-election poll lead without spending as much as the incumbent.

"People are sick of the Bush administration's hold on government," said Healy, a Borger resident. "We need a new direction and better use of taxpayers' money."

A July 30 Rasmussen Reports telephone survey showed Cornyn held a 10-point advantage over Noriega, 47 percent to 37 percent. The survey had a 4.5 percent error rate.

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