WASHINGTON — If President Obama were serious about reforming America’s immigration policy, he would secure the Texas border immediately, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told the Tribune-Review.
"We have got the technology to do it; it is a lack of will and lack of execution," Jindal said. "Until the American people have the confidence and trust he will do that, we are only putting Band-Aids on this situation."
The rush of illegal immigrants across the border with Mexico — tens of thousands of them children — is the result of lax security and immigration policies that do not meet the needs of America’s labor force, said Jindal, 43, the son of Indian immigrants who came to the country legally.
"We’re in an enviable position where the hardest-working people — the best and brightest in the world — they still want to come here," Jindal said. "They know this is an incredible country, that the American Dream is a wonderful thing."
In a wide-ranging interview, the former Republican congressman faulted Obama for his handling of crises in Ukraine and Gaza and his lack of a "meaningful" energy policy.
The White House could not respond to general criticism, Keith Maley, a regional communications director, wrote in an email.
As the midterm elections approach, Jindal is touring the country to raise money for GOP candidates for governor and U.S. Senate. He visited fast-growing Loudoun County, considered one of Virginia’s bellwethers, last week to stump for Senate hopeful Ed Gillespie, who is seeking to unseat Democrat Mark Warner.
Jindal, the former chairman of the Republican Governors Association, also is raising money for his new think tank, America Next, which has issued policy papers about replacing Obama’s signature health care law and reforming the public education system. Jindal will release an energy policy on Sept. 16 in Washington.
Jindal has said he’s weighing whether to run for president in 2016. He talks about issues a president would address: wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, immigration, energy and the economy, the growing anti-Washington populist movement, and the Republican Party’s internal strife.
Gone is the rapid-fire, wonkish governor who gave an often-criticized 2009 response to Obama’s first State of the Union address. Still intellectual, Jindal has relaxed since his introduction to the national stage five years ago.
"We conservatives like to say these are dangerous times for our country," he said. "If we really believe that, let’s show folks our ideas are better. Let’s show people we are not just the party of ‘no.’ "
Jindal, who in his second term as the first Indian-American governor, recently met with Texas officials on a tour of the Rio Grande Valley.
Louisiana is one of several states housing unaccompanied immigrant children from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Nearly 60,000 minors have crossed the border since October; many are in detention centers in border states or living with relatives in the United States while awaiting deportation hearings.
"Our immigration policy is exactly backwards. Right now, again, we’ve got a low wall and a narrow gate, and we need to change that," Jindal said, noting that it’s easier to enter the United States illegally than legally.
High walls and a broad gate are one thing, he said, but Congress needs to dramatically improve the process for people to immigrate legally.
Jindal said Obama has demonstrated incompetence in handling foreign relations with Russia and Israel during the crises in Ukraine and Gaza.
Domestically, his administration has not put forth an energy policy that would "secure our economy and security" for future generations, Jindal said.
"Energy could have the biggest impact on our economy," he said. "When people think of energy jobs, they think of exploration and production jobs … like the ones that are found in Louisiana, Texas, North Dakota and Pennsylvania. But I think that is only the tip of the iceberg."
The right energy policy — one that embraces affordable energy — would bring tremendous opportunity for growth and manufacturing jobs, the governor said.
"One estimate shows that you could bring over 1 million good-paying manufacturing jobs, but it all depends on what policies we adopt," he said. "The administration says they are for an ‘all of the above’ strategy. The reality is, I think, they are for an expensive energy strategy."
He pointed to the closings of coal-fired power plants because of stricter Environmental Protection Agency regulations on emissions, and the failure to act on the Keystone XL pipeline.
The White House "wants energy to be expensive and scarce, because that involves the government being involved in telling us what kinds of cars to drive, how big your houses can be, and how we lead our lives," Jindal said.
He proposes building the Keystone pipeline, repealing EPA regulations on coal power plants, promoting natural gas and renewables, and investing in nuclear power plants.
His criticisms, however, are not limited to the president and Democrats.
Two years after warning the GOP to "stop being the stupid party," Jindal said he thinks Republicans are beginning to better articulate their messages.
"I think we are getting better, but I think we have more work to do," Jindal said. "We have got to be the party of solutions. Everyone in this town (Washington) says they are against Obamacare, but we need to show folks what we are for instead."
Salena Zito is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review editorial page columnist. E-mail her at [email protected]eb.com