Sheriff Margaret Mims visits White House, joins push for immigration reform

June 11, 2013

​WASHINGTON — With a visit to the White House complex and a session for national reporters, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims on Tuesday enlisted in the campaign for a comprehensive immigration bill.

The bill’s long-term fate remains uncertain, as the Senate Judiciary Committee continued wading through myriad amendments Tuesday and the Republican-controlled House appears skeptical.

But by recruiting and showcasing law enforcement officers like Mims, immigration bill supporters hope to overcome at least some of the political resistance that has centered on questions about border security.

“Without the border being secure, none of this is going to work,” Mims said in an interview Tuesday. “The reform is great, and I support it, so long as there’s a focus on controlling and securing the border.”

Mims joined about 90 other law enforcement officers at the afternoon program, held at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House. For about an hour and 45 minutes, the officers listened to and questioned Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske and Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

“We’ve been talking about immigration reform for decades,” Mims said, “and this bill gets something done.”

Amplifying her message, Mims also contributed to a pro-immigration bill telephone conference call with reporters, organized by the National Immigration Forum as part of what the group calls the “Bible, Badges and Business” coalition for immigration reform.

“When it comes to border security, there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said on the same conference call, adding that “this bill says we’re going to do even more.”

Senate Judiciary Committee members have already stiffened some border security elements to the bill that started out at 844 pages, and more changes are certain.

“There is no remaining dispute that the … proposal represents a staggering increase in the future flow of immigration, even as polling shows a majority of Americans believe current levels should be reduced,” Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the panel adopted an amendment by California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein that prohibits the Border Patrol from using unmanned drone aircraft in the San Diego and El Centro sectors of Southern California, except for within three miles of the Mexican border.

Other Feinstein amendments adopted by the committee include a requirement that detained migrant children be confined in “humane” conditions and a provision adding new federal district judge positions in California, Texas and Arizona.

In general, the Senate bill offers about $3 billion for border control and requires establishment of comprehensive strategies for border security as well as fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Interior enforcement is also boosted, through measures like mandating all employers use the electronic employee verification program called E-Verify within five years.

“I think the community at large will be better protected” as a result of the bill, Mims said.