In recent weeks, a wave of immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador have flooded the Texas border in order to escape political turmoil and extreme poverty in their home countries. The would-be immigrants include more than 48,000 children traveling on their own. With its Texas facilities overwhelmed, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) transported thousands to facilities in Arizona. Of course, that led our finger-wagging governor and her Teapublican allies to blame President Obama. They claim that the Obama administration has ignored border security.
That makes for a sensational story, but it’s simply not true.
The budget for border security has grown from $7.9 billion in 2008 to nearly $13 billion in 2013. We spent $2.4 billion to build 670 miles of border fence and there are plans to build another 700 miles. Including lifetime maintenance, the total cost of the fence is likely to soar to more than $500 billion! In addition, a Republican amendment to the Senate immigration bill calls for an additional 20,000 Border Patrol agents at a cost of $3.4 billion per year. The Obama administration has intercepted record numbers of immigrants – 414,397 in 2013. In fact, the enforcement measures and lack of job opportunities in the US resulted in zero net immigration in 2012.
It’s easy to complain if you’re a Teapublican trying to score political points, but you have to ask what more can we do to seal our borders? Shall we build a dome over the entire nation? Should we set up minefields and machine gun emplacements then deploy Sheriff Joe and his posse to mow down hopeful 12-year-olds? How much more money should we spend? How many more Border Patrol agents should we employ? Should we redeploy troops returning from Afghanistan to the wilds of Texas and Arizona? At what cost?
And what about the 40 percent of undocumented immigrants who enter the country legally and overstay their visas?
The most effective (and perhaps only) way to increase border security is to help end the political and financial insecurity in Central America. That’s certainly within our power. After all, much of the insecurity has been caused by our corporations and our meddling beginning with the Monroe Doctrine. We could also decrease the demand for illegal drugs in the US. Without the resources of drug cartels, there would be less drug trafficking and less human trafficking. Unfortunately, that’s not within the realm of possibility. We have waged a war on drugs for more than 30 years by locking up drug users and drug dealers. What next? Shall we execute them?
If Teapublicans are so critical of the situation, perhaps the President should assign responsibility for border security to the critics. Let Jan Brewer figure out how to stop the immigration without international incident; without lethal measures; without committing human rights violations; without imprisoning desperate people merely seeking a way to protect and feed their families. Or have the Teapublicans become so angry and mean that they simply don’t care about the consequences of such actions? Are they entirely lacking a conscience?
If so, we have bigger problems than illegal immigration.