How much border security is enough?
By O. RICARDO PIMENTEL
New York Times News Service
Forgive the skepticism.
It’s unbecoming in this great coming together that is comprehensive immigration reform.
One day candidates are lashing one another over who hired undocumented immigrants and who was being unreasonably kind to them — allowing as how their children might stay to join the Marines or go to college — and then throwing in for good measure how they should all self-deport to save us the bother of rounding them up and loading them into rail cars.
The next day, we’re, like, all bipartisan BFFs and stuff. Well, all except House Republicans who yammer about “amnesty” and see no path to citizenship.
But I know; immigrant advocates are supposed to just hitch up their compromise boots and link arms with the perpetually grinchy Charles Krauthammer in this quest for middle ground on immigration reform.
But when folks talk about making the border secure before green cards start flowing, I can’t help but be reminded of Charlie Brown, Lucy and that darn football.
You see, soon after the Bipartisan Eight, that group of U.S. senators that includes him, issued their blueprint for reform, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was telling Sean Hannity how lack of border security would be a “deal killer.”
Huh? If the border gets any more secure, mosquitoes will need passports to cross.
Earlier this month, this is what a report by the Migration Policy Center had to say:
“The U.S. government spends more on its immigration enforcement agencies than on all its other principal criminal federal law enforcement agencies combined,” the report found.
In fact, 24 percent more than the total spending for the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That translates to $18 billion in fiscal year 2012.
That’s a lot of law enforcement, even if all of it isn’t expended on catching migrants at the border or in the workplace. There are cargo holds to check and such.
But here’s what we get for this effort.
“No net new illegal immigration from Mexico for the first time in 40 years,” according to the report. And Border Patrol apprehensions from 2000 to 2011 have dropped from 1.6 million to 340,252. The number of deportations in President Barack Obama’s four years approached all that occurred in George W. Bush’s eight years.
A lot of folks believe this points to too much enforcement. But no way does it say not enough, even if the economy had something to do with that net zero migration.
It’s as if, fearing erosion in the military-industrial complex, we have to gin up a migrant-industrial complex.
Someone is going to have to tell me just how much border security is enough.
Herman Cain’s alligator moats and electrified fences? Some formula concocted by a commission on which Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Texas’ Rick Perry sit? Not until all the money we were spending on Iraq and Afghanistan is being spent in Brownsville and Eagle Pass? Until no drugs get across? (Hint: That won’t happen as long as there are so many buyers on this side ).
Now, if they’re really talking about internal enforcement — cracking down on employers — there’s the makings of compromise there.
But, c’mon, the border is as secure as it gets, short of a dividing line that mimics the one between South and North Korea, complete with our own DMZ.
Deal killer? Get real. If that’s the deal, the folks on that side should have the good grace to declare victory.
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