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The Failure of Border Security

Published on Mon, Feb 28, 2011

With Democrats condemning House Republicans for slashing funding for border security in their budget, the American Independent reports on two new policy briefs that argue that increased U.S. funding and personnel for enforcement of the border with Mexico are proving totally ineffective at actually securing the border.

The National Immigration Forum’s report observes that despite hyperbolic political rhetoric to the contrary, Border Patrol funding has been increasing dramatically since 2005, rising at an average of $300 million per year. Under the combined efforts of the Bush and Obama administrations, the Border Patrol now has over 21,000 personnel, twice the amount they had in 2000, with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) providing an additional 3,000 agents at the border. The reallocation of National Guard troops to prevent the feared “spillover effects” from Mexican drug violence costs $300 million every year. This in spite of the fact that “crime rates were already down in the border region” before the National Guard was deployed, with border cities like El Paso, Texas and San Diego, Calif. boasting some of the lowest crime rates in the country. Absurdly, the Obama administration’s unprecedented campaign to deport as many law-abiding immigrants as possible is costing the taxpayer $23,000 per immigrant.

Meanwhile, the Immigration Policy Center’s report argues that “no specific policy decision to beef up border security in the last 20 to 30 years has significantly reduced the flow of illicit drugs and people into the United States.” As the report points out, there haven’t been as many U.S. security forces guarding the border with Mexico since the militarization of the border during the Mexican Revolution in 1910, and yet there appears to be no real effect on inflows of illegal immigration.

The Center’s report points that “the one thing that has any substantial impact on illicit cross—border flows is demand,” a conclusion that seems pretty obvious if you consider that illegal immigration has dropped to only 200,000 a year since the start of the recession, significantly less than the “the boom times of the late-1990s and mid-2000s.” The report also estimates that over one million immigrants have actually returned home, a pretty rational thing to do considering that the U.S. unemployment rate is hovering at 9%.

Despite these facts, the politicization of border security continues to be embraced by both parties. Last year’s $600 million border enforcement bill had broad bipartisan support from Congress. It was paid for by hiking the fees on visas for high-skilled immigrants, an egregiously counterproductive decision championed by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY). When the bill passed, Schumer bragged about how the bill did not affect the federal deficit, ignoring the fact that increasing high-skilled immigration would be one of the most effective ways to fix the shortfall in Social Security.

Indeed, the Immigration Policy Center’s report argues that “more elastic quotas for work visas”—in other words, fewer deportations and more legal immigration—are necessary for U.S.-Mexico border security to actually prioritize stopping guns from entering Mexico and drugs from entering the United States. With the Border Patrol and ICE focusing too much of their attention on deporting people without criminal records and not enough of their attention on stopping the smuggling operations of the drug cartels, it’s clear that a concerted effort from policymakers in Washington to liberalize immigration policy is needed for the situation to improve. Simply fighting over how much money and personnel to allocate to enforcing broken policies won’t be enough.


Published in the Campus Progress | Read Article