King then began blaming President Obama and the Democrats for ignoring the crisis at the nation's wide open borders.
His colleague Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) later drove the point home. "Third world countries protect their workers better than we do," he said. He later said the Obama administration "refuses to take real measures" to stop illegal aliens from infiltrating the economy.
The chair of the hearing, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), said he had waited until the "end of fiscal year 2009" to finally let out all he's wanted to say about the Immigration and Customs Enforcement administration under President Obama. "Worksite enforcement is in free fall," he said before unveiling a chart that pretty much said the same thing.
King patted his fellow Republicans on the back for having the fortitude to face down the opposition and hold the hearing. "The last time the Democrats held a hearing on this was May, 2007," he said proudly.
One topic absent from the hearing, at least the early parts: how the economy and stepped up enforcement at the borders has fundamentally altered the immigration debate. The morning of the hearing, New Republic published a story on the ways the continuing recession has effectively reversed every illegal immigration statistic.
From the list of facts about immigration today that the magazine said prove the debate has changed:
Mexicans are sending money to relatives in the United States.
Apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border are down.
More Americans are looking for jobs overseas.
The biggest change, tough, came from a recent census report. From the New Republic:
When the Census Bureau released data from its 2008 American Community Survey this September, immigrant numbers made headlines, as they often do, but this time the stories were about the numbers' leveling off rather than climbing up. After years of fast-paced growth, the size of the foreign-born population in the U.S. was statistically unchanged from the year before. While some of the reduction could be due to stepped-up enforcement actions - at the border, worksites, and by local law enforcement - fewer jobs, especially in immigrant-heavy industries like construction, technology, and manufacturing, make for a weaker pull on migrants.
Despite what King said at the hearing, Democrats are talking about immigration -- but they're not holding the out-dated debate on the topic the Republicans want. Last week, Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano told an audience in Washington that the Obama administration is planning to move ahead with immigration reform early next year. But she said that it was time to move the debate away from the partisan battles of the past.
From the Los Angles Times' report of her speech:
"I've been dealing hands-on with immigration issues since 1993, so trust me, I know a major shift when I see one. And what I have seen makes reform far more attainable," Napolitano told the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington.