Border security has become a phony issue
It appears that a goodly number of Republicans -- at least in the Senate -- will support historic path-to-citzenship immigration reform as long as they believe that our border with Mexico will be made more secure.
But the thing is, our border with Mexico is already secure.
The statistics prove it, as we shall soon see. This means that "secure the border!" is actually a phony issue. On the other hand, if spending hundreds of billions more on new extra extra security is what it takes to bring the reform-averse Republicans on board, then fine.
To cajole those Republicans, Senate dealmakers agreed yesterday to hire 20,000 new border patrol agents (for $30 billion over 10 years), and build 350 miles of new fence (at a cost of $6.5 million a mile). And how ironic it is that so many Republicans who normally decry "wasteful federal spending" are now happy to waste hundreds of billions on a border problem that doesn't exist.
As reform activist Frank Sharry reportedly said yesterday, "The deal is ridiculous from a policy point of view - it's excessive and wasteful - but from a political point of view, if it brings in 10 or 11 Senate Republican votes, we'll probably be able to live with it." Reformers are aiming for 70 Yes votes in the Senate, in the hopes that a big bipartisan turnout will prompt the Republican House to say Yes, too. (Will the House be so inspired? We'll see about that).
All that new border security spending would apparently give reluctant Senate Republicans some valuable political cover back home; this way, they can presumably say, "OK, we're giving the 11 million illegals a path to citizenship, but first we're gonna do something about that porous Mexican border."
Well, guess what. The border isn't porous anymore. As a right-wing rallying cry, "secure the border!" is so 10 years ago.
I'm borrowing these stats from a smart newspaper editorial that was published yesterday: Federal border enforcement spending has increased by 50 percent during the past decade - for fencing, surveillance aircraft, marine vessels, drones, infrared cameras, and much more - and illegal immigration is down by roughly 60 percent. Illegal entries from Mexico are currently at a 40-year low, in part because a doubling in the number of border agents since 2005 has ratcheted up the apprehension rate.
In other words, as the newspaper editorial duly observed, "All the talk-show shouting about America under siege from immigrants streaming across the Rio Grande is fiction."
The editorial also pointed out: "Many of those on the right who claim to favor legal immigration also oppose guest-worker programs and other visa expansions. This betrays that really want no new immigration...At some point, (their border security rhetoric) becomes offensive to U.S. values of freedom and human dignity."
And that rhetoric is much stronger in the House. Voters in ruby-red districts are still yelling "secure the border," and the Republican majority will be tempted to heed that. But there's no such thing as perfect border security, says the newspaper editorial, "as the restrictionist right wants as the price for reform....For some Republicans, border security has become a ruse to kill reform. The border could be defended by the 10th Mountain Division and Claymore antipersonnel mines, and it still wouldn't be secure enough."
That's quite an indictment of "the restrictionist right." Care to guess where that editorial appeared?
The Wall Street Journal.
On any given day, The Journal editorial page is ground zero for right-wing commentary, a reliable haven for Obama haters. But even these editorialists are fed up with the right; they recognize that border security is a phony issue. Yeah, The Journal probably reflects the views of the business community, and the business community thinks that path-to-citizenship reform would be good for business, but what's wrong with that? Isn't that what we want? The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in a report this week that reform would "boost economic output."
But reform could still die this summer in the restrictionist House, which prompted the Journal editorial to sigh in exasperation: "If the right succeeds in blowing all this up, one wonders what comes next?"
What comes next? I can answer that one. Burdened by the restrictionist right's reflexive bigotry, the GOP would suffer fresh humiliations at the hands of the burgeoning Hispanic electorate, and lose yet another presidential election in 2016.
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