Washington (CNSNews.com) – A White House spokesman did not know if President Barack Obama has a target date for sealing the southern border from the influx of illegal drugs, but he did say that border security would be part of any immigration reform bill.
Obama expressed support for comprehensive immigration reform during a Cinco de Mayo event in the Rose Garden, and he also stressed the need for bipartisanship to pass such legislation. But neither the president nor other advocates have addressed the issue of drugs coming into the country in the context of immigration reform.
Almost one-in-five teens ages 12 through 17 have used illegal drugs in the past year, according to the National Drug Threat Assessment for 2010, published by the National Drug Intelligence Center, a division of the U.S. Justice Department.
The assessment also said that Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) are the predominant supplier of illegal drugs in the United States. “Law enforcement reporting and case initiation data show that Mexican DTOs control most of the wholesale cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine distribution in the United States, as well as much of the marijuana distribution,” it said.
CNSNews.com asked, “The National Drug Threat Assessment said one in five teens has used illicit drugs, predominantly brought across the border by Mexican DTOs. Would sealing the border from illicit from drugs be part of any comprehensive immigration reform?
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration’s plan for dealing with drugs would be released soon.
“Well, I think increased border security is a component of any immigration reform,” Gibbs told CNSNews.com. “I think – if I’m not mistaken in the not too distant future– the president will be presented with – will be presented with our yearly national drug control strategy. There will probably be more to say about it.”
CNSNews.com followed, “Is there going to be a target date for sealing the border from drugs?”
Gibbs answered, “I don’t know if that’s in the legislation or not.”
The strategy Gibbs was referring to has been delayed by two months, according to Newsweek, which reported that White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske was having trouble getting a meeting with either President Obama or Vice President Joe Biden.
The strategy is supposed to drop the phrase “war on drugs,” according to Newsweek. The magazine, which obtained a draft copy, reports the draft calls for reducing youth drug use by 15 percent in the next five years and puts more emphasis on treatment and prevention.
On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said it would be cheaper to treat drug use than to stop the transportation of drugs at the border.
“Well if your question is about drugs, I’m for reducing demand in the United States,” Pelosi said. “That is what our responsibility is on this subject. The RAND Corporation a few years ago did a report that said it would be much less expensive for us to, through prevention first and foremost, but through treatment on demand to reduce demand in our country, is the cheapest way to solve this problem.”
“Incarceration is the next cheapest,” Pelosi continued.
She went on to say, “Controlling our border is our responsibility,” she said. “So, whether you’re talking about stopping drugs from coming in or having a well-managed migration policy, we have a responsibility to secure our border.”
Last week, Obama stressed the need for comprehensive immigration reform at a Cinco de Mayo gathering Wednesday. Obama supports what proponents call a “pathway to citizenship” but what opponents call “amnesty.”
“The way to fix our broken immigration system is through common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform,” the president said. “That means responsibility from government to secure our borders, something we have done and will continue to do.
“It means responsibility from businesses that break the law by undermining American workers and exploiting undocumented workers – they’ve got to be held accountable. It means responsibility from people who are living here illegally. They’ve got to admit that they broke the law, and pay taxes, and pay a penalty, and learn English, and get right before the law – and then get in line and earn their citizenship,” Obama added.
He stressed an immigration bill would need to be bipartisan.
“And I know there’s been some commentary over the last week since I talked about this difficult issue: Well, is this politically smart to do? Can you get Republican votes?” Obama said. “Look, of course, it’s going to be tough. That’s the truth. Anybody who tells you it’s going to be easy or I can wave a magic wand and make it happen hasn’t been paying attention how this town works.
We need bipartisan support. But it can be done.”
However, many Republican lawmakers who supported the “pathway to citizenship” approach during the Bush administration are not supportive now. Thus, Gibbs told reporters Thursday it would be numerically impossible to pass without significant Republican support.
“We all know there are some that aren’t going to support this on our side,” Gibbs said. “But the truth of this is, there’s not the support that there was in 2007 on the Republican side. That’s a math – well, maybe it’s a political thing, but it’s definitely a math thing.”