August 15, 2008
Staying on the offensive in his challenge to incumbent Republican John Cornyn, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rick Noriega today unveiled his plan to deal with illegal immigration. (Just last month, Noriega released an energy plan.) The immigration plan focuses on three central planks: Secure the border with manpower and electronics rather than a wall, crack down on those who hire illegal immigrants, and "turn the immigrants into taxpayers."
Noriega jabbed at Cornyn for first rejecting and then later tepidly embracing a border wall. Noriega is no doubt banking on anger over the wall among border residents as a source of votes from that region. Calling the wall "impractical," Noriega's plan says: "Gimmicks don't count on the border. Hard work does." That hard work would be carried out by 18,000 new Border Patrol agents, what Noriega calls Operation Jump Start II (Noriega, a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard, served as the Laredo sector commander in the original Operation Jump Start, which sent 6,000 Guard troops to the border in 2006).
Noriega has clearly chosen to embrace whatever voters there may be out there who are reasonable about the 12 million undocumented immigrants in this nation and decided not to worry about the more hysterical anti-immigrant faction – the plan explicitly rejects calls for mass deportations as "not realistic and ... financially unsound," and cites a study showing "that removing undocumented immigrants from Texas would cost the state gross product over $17 billion and that this population puts $420 million more into [the] Texas state economy than they use in services."
A request for a reply from Cornyn was not returned as of press time, but last year, in a speech to the Border Trade Alliance, he was squishy on the wall issue. Similar to Noriega's policy, Cornyn told the alliance: "I believe that the primary solution with border security has to be more Border Patrol agents, because right now we only have about 10,000 Border Patrol agents. ... And then, I believe that technology remains the primary answer beyond the human component. ... Now fencing, which I do believe is one component of the solution, has to be done in a cost-effective and an intelligent and reasonable sort of way. I have long said that I do not support a fence or, as some said, a wall between the United States and Mexico. That's irrational and just doesn't make sense, because we know that people can come over fences or walls; they can go under them; they can go through them, given sufficient opportunity."
Noriega's entire plan may be downloaded at www.ricknoriega.com