President Clinton promised Saturday to expedite deportations of illegal immigrants who are charged with breaking U.S. laws, even if they have not been convicted.
“It simply doesn’t make any sense for us to have illegal aliens in our custody in our courts and then let them go back to living here illegally,” Clinton said in his weekly radio address. “That’s wrong and we should stop it.”
The president, noting that the United States is deporting about 40,000 illegal immigrants a year, also pledged, through streamlining the deportation process, to clean out a backlog of 100,000 aliens awaiting proceedings. He also said he has asked the Justice Department to prepare a plan to identify what he estimated are hundreds of thousands of people ordered to leave the country who “then disappear back into the population.”
“We cannot justify continuing to have this large number of illegal aliens in our country simply because our court system won’t process them,” Clinton said.
The president’s remarks on illegal immigration, an issue that could be a focal point of the 1996 presidential campaign, came at the end of a week in which the White House sent Congress a package of legislation to bolster U.S. border-protection efforts. If passed, the proposed legislation would add 1,500 Border Patrol agents, authorize border-crossing fees if local communities approve, establish a pilot worker-identification system, boost sanctions on employers who hire illegal workers and streamline the deportation process.
The package is similar to proposals introduced by Republican lawmakers, although Clinton’s proposal for border-crossing fees is opposed vigorously by border-state lawmakers.
In his speech Saturday - just a few hours after he had celebrated the Hispanic holiday Cinco de Mayo at a gala fund-raiser and showing of the film “My Family,” which celebrates a Mexican immigrant family - Clinton paid tribute to the contributions made by immigrants over many decades. But he emphasized the United States “must be able to control our borders.”